Belly fat can pose a risk to your health by leading to serious complications, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and liver and kidney problems, according to research. Your genetics play a role in where your body stores fat, and your eating habits can influence fat storage as well. The types of food you choose, the portions, and the timing can all play a role in body fat. In particular, certain foods may be more likely to cause belly fat. Today we’re calling out eight inflammatory foods that cause belly fat so you can cut them out of your diet ASAP.
The fat around your abdomen can be of two types: subcutaneous or visceral. While too much of either can be harmful to your health, visceral fat is the most concerning type. Visceral fat surrounds your abdominal organs and is associated with an increased risk of chronic disease. Subcutaneous fat sits just below your skin, allowing it to be less harmful to your health. In fact, this form of body fat offers some protection to the organs and helps your body regulate temperature. This makes a good amount of subcutaneous fat beneficial for your body.
Although genetics, gender, age, and hormones can influence body fat distribution, your lifestyle can have a significant impact on your belly fat. If you’ve noticed an increase in your belly fat, there are a few dietary practices that can help. Try increasing your fiber intake, reducing your alcohol intake, eating more lean protein, and skipping foods and drinks with added sugar. To take it a step further, avoid these eight inflammatory foods that cause belly fat.
While a homemade muffin or bread may be easier on your waistline, commercially prepared pastries often contain excess sugar and are high in calories. Muffins, croissants, and quick breads are also a source of trans fat, another inflammatory nutrient that could be giving you belly fat. Trans fats are naturally present in small amounts; however, the majority of trans fats in our food supply are of human origin. These fats are often used as a cheaper and more stable alternative to butter and have been shown to increase inflammation and cardiovascular disease (CVD), among other illnesses.
If you’re craving a pastry, try making them at home with higher quality fats, like olive oil, and limit the commercially prepared treats that you enjoy.
A staple in many households, white bread is not known to be a nutrient dense food. Some options contain small amounts of added sugar, but the biggest culprit here is low fiber. Fiber can increase satiety and stabilize hunger, which could lead to better food choices and proper energy intake. Additionally, fiber intake is associated with reduced belly fat. Many refined carbohydrates, including white bread, cereals, crackers, and other common snacks, are low in fiber.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that women consume 22 to 28 grams of fiber per day, depending on their age, while men should consume 28 to 34 grams. Beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, oatmeal, whole grain products, fruits and vegetables are notable sources of dietary fiber.
You might be surprised to see such a popular breakfast staple on this list of inflammatory foods that can cause belly fat. Known for making an easy breakfast or a quick on-the-go snack, some cereals do your waistline a disservice, especially those that contain sugar. Options that contain added sugar and zero fiber are the worst offenders. Not only can sugar lead to inflammation and belly fat, but it can also disrupt your gut microbiome. Research shows that imbalances in your gut bacteria can increase your risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and gut disorders, and can also promote weight gain. Additionally, microbiota imbalances could lead to an increase in visceral fat.
There are many cereals that are low in sugar, so choose options with less than five grams per serving and stick to a single serving as your serving size.
Just one can of regular soda contains about 40 grams of added sugar, an amount that exceeds the American Heart Association’s daily recommendation. Research shows that excess dietary sugar can increase body inflammation and lead to insulin resistance and chronic inflammation.
Sodas contribute empty calories, potentially leading to weight gain, and can overwhelm the liver, encouraging the conversion of those excess calories into fat. Although soda is one of the most popular sugary drinks, other sugary drinks, such as juices, energy drinks, coffee drinks and sugary tea can also be responsible for your belly fat.
If you’re looking for carbonation, try unsweetened carbonated water or low-sugar soda alternatives, like OLIPOP. Not only does this option have less than five grams of sugar per can, but it also contains fiber, a nutrient that can support healthy bacteria in your gut.
Another drink that likely destroys your abs, sugary alcoholic drinks cause double abdominal inflammation. A single margarita can easily contain over 30 grams of added sugar, which contributes to inflammation and belly fat. Additionally, alcohol alone can cause inflammation and potentially lead to liver and intestinal problems. Research shows that alcohol is also associated with higher amounts of visceral fat, leading to another set of potential health complications.
To reduce the negative impact of your drinks, choose drinks with no added sugar and avoid heavy alcohol consumption defined as more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
Another of the worst inflammatory foods that can cause belly fat is microwave popcorn. This common snack has one benefit: fiber. Popcorn is a source of essential fiber, but it often comes with a lot of sodium and trans fats. Highly buttered and flavored options are likely the varieties with the highest amounts of these worrisome nutrients. We know that trans fats can lead to inflammation and belly fat, but excessive sodium intake can also lead to inflammation and increased body fat.
Popcorn on its own can be a nutritious snack, so instead of flavored options, try air-popped kernels topped with grated Parmesan cheese for a slightly salty flavor that’s far less sodium and no trans fats.
While these options make it easy to get calories when you’re busy or on the go, they often don’t have the best ingredients. Many have added sugar, a known inflammatory ingredient that could lead to belly fat, and may also contain trans fats and little to no fiber. A triple whammy for your belly fat, it’s better to choose whole foods for your meal.
If the bars are too easy to pass up, look for options with less than five grams of added sugar, zero trans fats and at least three grams of fiber. You can also consider easy meals at home. For example, consider making a deli turkey wrapped around a part-skim cheese stick with an apple and peanut butter on the side.
The last of these inflammatory foods that cause belly fat is potato chips. Another salty and crunchy snack that could lead to inflammation and belly fat, potato chips are notorious for their sodium content. This salt can lead to inflammation and adiposity, and the trans fats often found in chips can do the same. Although there is no need for trans fats in your diet, sodium is actually an essential nutrient. Lightly salted potato chips can provide the balance of salt you may be craving while avoiding excess, and options cooked in non-hydrogenated oils will help you avoid trans fats. As a rule of thumb, if you see “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list, there is likely some amount of trans fat in the potato chips.
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