Belly fat, the dreaded fat around the abdomen that is so lovingly referred to as a “spare tire” and “muffin top”. Although belly fat’s nick names may be cute, belly fat is not, and many people struggle throughout their lives with belly fat and will do almost anything to get rid of the excess fat tissue around their midsection.
Dangers of Belly Fat
Even though belly fat may not be visually appealing, it’s effects on your health can be even more concerning. Think of belly fat as an iceberg, you can see it above the water but most of the dangers lie below the surface.
Excess fat tissue around the midsection has been proven to be a risk factor for:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Insulin Resistance
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Increased Heart Disease
- Increased Pre-mature Mortality
- Sleep Apnea
Does Your Waist Size Put You At Risk?
There are many ways to calculate and quantify increased risk of health problems due to your weight including: BMI, body fat percentage, and various ratio calculations.
However, the easiest method is a technique developed by Dr Margaret Ashwell. Ashwell’s method is to measure you height with a piece of string, fold the string in half, and then measure you waist, if the string still fits around your waist when folded it in half you are not at risk, and if the string does not fit around your waist, you are at risk. Pretty simple right?
Based on the string method by Margaret Ashwell, the golden rule as it pertains to your waist size is: your waist circumference should be less than half your height.
So if you are worried that the size of your belly may be too big, there is no need to buy any fancy devices to measure your body composition, all you need is a piece of string.
If you want an even more in depth measurement to find out if the size of your belly can put you at risk you can check out the Margaret Ashwell’s Shape Chart here. You will be able to determine your body shape (ex. apple, pear etc.) based on your height and waist measurement.
Best Foods to Eat to Get Rid of Belly Fat
So now that you have determined if you are at risk due to a large belly, find out the foods that you should eat that will help shrink your belly fat.
1. Low Glycemic Foods
The glycemic index is a way to rate the way foods effect your blood sugar. A low glycemic index (GI) means that the food does not cause a large spike in your blood sugar, and a high index means that a particular food does cause a large spike in your blood sugar.
It is ideal to keep your blood glucose as level as possible all day. When your blood sugar spikes too high or too often throughout the day it can cause fatigue and can cause added stress to your body and negatively effect your hormones. Specifically, the hormone cortisol is most negatively effected when your blood sugar is uncontrolled. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can predispose you to having added fat around your midsection.
Harvard University has put together a list of 100+ common foods and their respective GI rankings, which you can find here.
The general rule of thumb with the glycemic index is:
- Foods with a ranking of 55 or less on the glycemic index is good.
- Foods with a ranking of 56- 69 on the glycemic index is OK.
- Foods with a ranking of 70 or higher on the glycemic index is bad.
One of the most powerful appetite suppressants around is protein. Protein is great for suppressing appetite because it
stabilizes blood sugar and it takes longer for your body to digest compared to carbohydrates. Keeping your appetite suppressed by controlling
your blood sugar is vital because you are less likely to snack on sugary high calorie snacks which are one of the major causes of belly fat.
Also, your body does not as effectively break down protein, compared to carbohydrates or fats, which causes calories to be lost in the digestion process, and therefor your body registers that you ate less calories, which over time can lead to weight loss. So if you find that you are counting calories and you are still not losing weight on a reduced calorie diet, don’t reduce your calories any further, instead trying increasing your protein consumption and decreasing your consumption of carbohydrates.
The best proteins to consume are meat based because they contain all the essential amino acids, which are not found in plant based foods alone. However there are some non animal based proteins that can suffice if you are a vegan/ vegetarian.
3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are an incredible source of nutrients and have many health properties, but one of the best things about foods that contain omega 3 is that they can help get rid of belly fat.
Omega 3 is a powerful anti-inflammatory that fights chronic inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been found to be an underlying risk factor in a plethora of diseases including: obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, heart diseases, and cancers. If you increase your intake of foods that contain omega 3 and decrease hidden inflammation in your body you will have an easier time losing belly fat.
The best sources of omega 3, similar to protein, are animal based products. Animal based omega 3 sources are a slightly different type of omega 3, called EPA and DHA, which are more effective and efficient in our bodies compared to the omega 3 found in non animal sources, called ALA.
Mr and Mrs Nutritionist’s Final Words of Advice
If you are wondering if the size of your belly is something to be concerned about, measure your belly with the string technique mentioned above.
If after measuring your belly you realize that you may be at risk due to a large belly try incorporating into your diet our advice about eating low glycemic foods, increased protein, and foods containing omega 3.
If you struggle with belly fat or have finally learned to defeat your belly fat please leave a comment or question below.
As always, if you enjoyed this post please feel free to share it with your social media friends and family.
Ashwell, M. (2015). The importance of using waist to height ratio for primary screening; a piece of string is the simplest even public health tool.. 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: http://www.ashwell.uk.com/images/2015%20A%20piece%20of%20string%20is%20the%20simplest%20public%20health%20tool.pdf [Accessed 17 Apr. 2016].
WebMD. (2016). How to Use the Glycemic Index. [online] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/glycemic-index-good-versus-bad-carbs [Accessed 20 Apr. 2016].