This article was written by Hallie Levine and provided by our partners atPrevention.
Belly fat can make your jeans feel extra snug, but really there’s something way worse about the stuff: When white fat expands in your abdomen nestling deep among your organs, it sets you up for some serious health trouble.
(Looking for a program that will help you get a flat tummy—and keep it that way? With our Lose Belly Fat—For Good routines, you can see results in as little as two weeks.)
We know that this type of fat—called visceral fat—churns out stress hormones like cortisol and inflammatory substances called cytokines that affect the body’s production of insulin. The result: Besides obesity, you’re also looking at increased risks of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. No thanks. Check out these nine tips to finally rid your body of that excess stomach.
There’s one thing to like about visceral fat: It yields fairly easily to aerobic exercise. Running, biking, or swimming—basically anything that gets your heart rate up—wins over resistance training when it comes to getting rid of the stuff. A recent study from Duke University found that jogging the equivalent of 12 miles a week is enough to melt belly fat.
You know that protein’s essential for a slimmer you. But here’s why protein really needs to play a prime roll on your plate: “Your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren’t responding to it properly,” explains Louis Aronne, M.D., director of the obesity clinic at Cornell University. Insulin promotes fat storage—especially around your belly—and a diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance, says Aronne. In one study, obese women who followed a diet for eight weeks that was roughly 30 perecent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat lost significantly more fat—including visceral pudge—than women who stuck to a plan that was 16 percent protein, 55 percent carbs, and 26 percent fat.
This just in: Saturated fat packs on more visceral fat than polyunsaturated ones, according to a recent Swedish study. When subjects ate 750 more calories daily for seven weeks—either in the form of palm oil (saturated) or sunflower oil (polyunsaturated)—the former gained more visceral fat while the latter gained more muscle mass and less body fat. Polyunsaturated fats can be found in nuts, seeds, and fish.
Head spinning? Check out this handy chart on good fats vs bad fats.
Obese people who consumed a tablespoon or two of vinegar daily for eight weeks showed significant decreases in body fat—particularly visceral fat—according to a 2009 Japanese study. “One theory is that the acetic acid in the vinegar produces proteins that burn up fat,” explains Pamela Peeke, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, author of Fight Fat After 40.
Postmenopausal women who tried yoga for 16 weeks reported significant reductions in visceral fat in one 2012 study. If you’re just not that into downward dog, any sort of relaxation exercise (even simple deep breathing) can help. The key is to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to belly fat. (Try these two-minute stress solutions to calm down fast.)
Routinely squeaking by on five hours or less per night increases visceral fat levels, according to a 2010 Wake Forest University study. As you likely already know, eight hours is ideal. These 20 ways to sleep better every night can help.
Women who wake up and go to bed at the same time each evening have lower levels of body fat, according to a recent Brigham Young University study. Chaotic sleep habits cause your internal clock to go haywire, which in turn causes your body to secrete fat-storing hormones like cortisol. (Avoid these 10 more unhealthy weekend habits that set you up for a less-than-stellar week.)
Moderate exercisers who stocked up on the antioxidants found in green tea—called catechins—were more likely to lose abdominal fat while exercising than those who didn’t take them. One study put the daily dose at 625 mg—the equivalent of two or three eight-ounce cups of green tea. (Follow these steps to make the perfect cup of tea.)
In a 2011 trial, subjects who increased their soluble fiber intake by 10 grams a day—the equivalent of two small apples, one cup of green peas, and one half-cup of pinto beans—reduced visceral fat by 3.7 percent after five years