Nutrition Belly Fat Busters
Do your clothes feel tight? Especially around your waist when you pull on jeans – you know – So what might have started like a little muffin top seems to keep growing into a full-fledged muffin in your belly. No one likes stubborn belly fat!
Let’s start by learning a little bit about belly fat. Now, not all belly fat is created equal. There are two kinds of belly fat – the kind that’s close to the surface and gives a little jiggle when you move around. That’s subcutaneous fat—just under the skin. It’s not going to increase your risk of disease nearly as much as the deep-down belly fat that we want to focus on. This second kind of belly fat is called visceral fat, and it’s a major risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and colon cancer. Oh, and if you’re of normal weight, you can still have an increased health risk if you have deep fat smothering your organs. (Ann Int Med, 2015)
This deep belly fat is really harmful and it’s not just because it’s deeply layered. It’s metabolically active, so it produces hormones and creates systemic inflammation.
Men tend to have more visceral fat than women, so we tend to store fat in our hips and thighs, but as we get older, our body composition changes, and lower estrogen levels from menopause contributes to an increase in visceral fat. That’s why we start to see belly fat issues in our 50s and 60s.
But rest easy, though, because you can do something about it.
So, perhaps you eat healthy and exercise every week, but you still aren’t losing belly fat. Why is that?
As we get older, our metabolism slows. This means you can’t eat as much. In fact, the USDA estimated calorie needs per day for a woman in her 50s is 200 calories less than a woman in her 30s. And if you don’t reduce your intake or increase your movement, those 200 extra calories per day could yield up to a 20-pound weight gain in a year! If you flip too far the other way and severely limit your calories in attempt to lose belly fat, well, that just tells the body to conserve fat. So, eat sensibly, but know you can’t eat as much with every year that goes by.
Your sleep habits can impact your ability to lose weight, even if you are dieting properly and getting in regular workouts. If you sleep less than 7 hours a day, there is a greater risk for obesity, increased belly fat, and other health issues. (Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, 2013) Sleep problems are common in about 60% of menopausal women. (National Sleep Foundation) When you don’t get quality sleep, the impact of all the other things you are doing right becomes less. Try adjusting your blue light exposure late at night and get your melatonin levels checked.
If you have a high level of stress, that can make you gain belly fat by triggering the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, this is a stress hormone that increases your appetite and drives tummy fat storage. (Mol Cell Endocrin, Mar 2009) By the way, there is no research to support the use of essential oils for weight loss but lavender oil can reduce cortisol levels by almost 70% when inhaled for 20 minutes. (Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res, Jul Aug 2016) and since stress levels are impacted indirectly by your cortisol levels, lavender oil may help you blast that belly fat.
If you aren’t working out properly, you won’t lose belly fat. Research indicates that to make a dent in belly fat, you need to stop doing situps (spot-reducing doesn’t work). When a group of healthy adults was given abdominal strengthening exercises for 6 weeks, there was no difference in body weight, body fat, tummy circumference, or organ fat percentage. Now, belly muscle endurance did improve to be fair, so I guess doing sit-ups and planks became easier. (J Strength Cond Res, Sep 2011)
It turns out, aerobic exercises like Walking, running or anything that keeps your heart rate up preferentially lowers visceral fat. (Europ Rev Med Pharm Sci, 2015)
And exercise longer too. Postmenopausal women lost more fat from all areas when they did aerobic exercise for 300 minutes per week, compared with those who exercised 150 minutes per week. (JAMA Oncol, 2015)
If you are consuming too many of the wrong foods, it could hurt your ability to burn belly fat quite a bit. Some of the advice out there insists that you need to cut out ALL the processed foods in your diet, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats in order to maximize your fat burn in the belly area. I disagree how that’s framed.
First, that is nearly possible, so you’d just be setting yourself up for failure. And second, I find psychologically if you focus less on completely avoiding foods, and make it more about easy food swaps, you will end up eating more of those foods that can create metabolic changes so your body effectively burns belly fat. That’s why a personalized nutrition plan is so helpful—it takes the guesswork out of what you need to eat to say goodbye to belly fat forever. There are so many tips to blast away that dangerous belly fat fast in your plan!
So let’s talk about some food swap suggestions:
When you change from white rice to brown rice, you’ll get more fiber and b vitamins and researchers tell us that those who eat mainly white rice tend to accumulate more visceral fat compared to those who eat a high fat, high protein Western Diet. (Obese Res Clin Pract, 2014)
So this means refined grains are very, very bad for belly fat. A study in Japan revealed that people who substituted refined grains with whole grains for 12 weeks had a significant reduction in deep belly fat. (Plant Foods Human Nutr, Sep 2018)
When you Change from drinking a sugary soda to a fruit sparkling water like Spindrift, you avoid all those extra calories and fructose and high fructose corn syrup which are linked to obesity and inflammation. Kids who consumed sugary drinks had seven percent higher visceral fat.
And researchers saw the same thing in adults. (Physiol Behav, Dec 2016) (Circulation, Jan 2016)
In place of flax seed (which to be fair, is very healthy for you) use chia seeds. Among all seeds, chia is THE richest vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids, One study did find that chia seeds reduced weight circumference (a possible indicator of visceral fat) and increased levels of adiponectin, the fat-burning hormone. (Nutr Hosp, Dec 2014) Chia seeds are great to add to smoothies and salad dressings.
Ok those are 3 swaps you can make, and now some interesting facts you might not know about:
Recently, there has been news of a different kind of Mediterranean diet – called The Green Mediterranean Diet – that has been found to reduce belly fat. In a large-scale clinical interventional trial- called the DIRECT PLUS, researchers found that the green Mediterranean diet reduced visceral fat by 14%, the regular Mediterranean diet by 7% and the general healthy diet by 4.5%. So twice as much belly fat is gone with the Green Mediterranean diet! So what makes a Mediterranean diet green? The modification is less red meat, more green tea, walnuts, and duckweed which is a sea plant, and it’s high in bioavailable protein and omega-3 fatty acids. (BMC Med, 2022)It’s a bit challenging to find duckweed supplements, and maybe not necessary if you are consuming low-saturated fat animal proteins and foods high in omega-3s like salmon, sardines, and plant-based omegas.
Eating a cup of berries every day can melt visceral belly fat. In one study, participants were given ellagic acid daily for 12 weeks and had significant changes in their belly fat. (Funct Foods Health Dis, Apr 2020)
So, 1 ¼ cup of raspberries, for example, contributes 40 mg of ellagic acid which should be enough. If you don’t eat berries consistently, whole food berry plant powder is ideal because most of the ellagic acid is found in the raspberry seeds – and whole food powders include the seeds, not just the fruit. Visit our website SHOP tab to see the plant powders we recommend. I will also include a link in the comments sections.
Finally, get your vitamin D levels checked. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increases in belly fat. When healthy, overweight adults supplemented with vitamin D for 12 weeks they experienced significant body fat reduction. (Nutr J, Sep 2012)
Patients in another study who underwent gastric bypass took 1,800 IU of Vitamin D and they experienced a significant improvement in visceral fat. (Obese Surg, Oct 2022) So make sure you are getting enough vitamin D, ask your doctor for a test, or do a self-test.
Employ these and other belly-blasting tips, so you can stop being frustrated about your belly! I hope these ideas will get you started in the right direction!