by Lindsay Martin, MS, RD Hilton Head Health
Belly fat. I don’t know a single person that enjoys hearing those two words in combination. Stepping on the scale means nothing to the person trying to lose inches and body fat around their waist—simply put, the number on the scale doesn’t give the whole picture. So why is it important to eat foods that can prevent the belly fat accumulation? For one, the visceral fat lining on the internal organs is more metabolically damaging compared to subcutaneous fat underlying the skin. Visceral fat is necessary to have, but too much is linked to Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and more. And yes, even thin individuals can go head-to-head with this battle of the bulge. Thin doesn’t translate into healthy. With that being said, most individuals want to see that subcutaneous fat disappear because it is what is seen in the mirror, but the foods below are going to help prevent the accumulation of both the visceral AND subcutaneous fat. Eat up!
Whole grains. Oats, quinoa, barley, wheat berries, farro, wild rice, and more are the grains everyone should have in their grocery cart. In multiple long term studies, the incorporation of whole grains and foods high in dietary fiber have shown to prevent weight gain. For those trying to lose weight, including whole grains may actually show favor in losing more belly fat compared to dieters who exclude whole grains. However, avoid the grains high in added sugar. For example, instead of the brown sugar flavored oatmeal choose plain and add ground cinnamon and nutmeg.
Leafy greens. Spinach, arugula, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, romaine, watercress, and more. These fibrous leafy greens are loaded with water, lutein, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin E, and the ever-so-important dietary fiber. Leafy greens are especially high in insoluble fiber—the type of fiber that can help move things along your digestive track. Adding some “roughage” to your diet, on a consistent basis, can help alleviate irregular GI issues, bloating, constipation, and more if consumed with plenty of water.
Beans and Legumes. These plant based protein sources are very high in soluble fiber. Once cooked, a half-cup portion will actually provide just as much soluble fiber as two cups of cooked oatmeal. Those who increase fiber intake can reduce the risk of added weight gain over time.
Nuts and Seeds. Even though nuts and seeds are calorically high and rich in dietary fats, avoiding them because of those reasons is not what you want to do. Consuming 1-2 oz. per day provides a solid source of dietary fiber, unsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, and small amounts of protein, all beneficial for heart, brain,and muscle health. This combination of nutrients will leave you feeling very satisfied. If you are looking for the mid-afternoon snack then nuts are the perfect thing to satisfy your hunger.
Avocado. In a recent 2013 Nutrition Journal study, researchers found that those who added half of one avocado at lunch (~112-125 calories) felt more satisfied and had less desire to eat over the next three to five hours among overweight individuals. This healthy fruit also showed to help stabilize blood sugars—another reason to include this food in the diet. Use avocado as a creamy sandwich spread or dice and top onto a chicken salad.
To sum this up, it is extremely important to stay on a regular eating cycle by eating every three to four hours no matter what time you wake up. In order to get these foods into your regular day, sit down on a Sunday and plan your weekly meals. Break it down by breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Getting sick of brown rice pilaf? Change up the grain and use wheat berries instead of rice. Can’t think of various ways to use an avocado? Make a salsa and top over a poached egg or grilled salmon filet. Think outside the box and your belly will appreciate it.