Millions of people across America (not to mention worldwide) struggle with stubborn abdominal fat, which can be difficult to shed even when a healthy lifestyle is adopted. Not only is abdominal fat, also called visceral fat or ‘belly fat,’ unsightly, it can can lead to an increased risk of a number of health conditions.
Some of the risks associated with carrying excess fat around your middle are a greater susceptibility to type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, as this fat tends to coat vital organs, it can cause system-wide inflammation that can trigger an array of other chronic illnesses.
One thing that many people in this situation erroneously try is to cut fat out of their diets in hopes of shedding the weight around their middles. However, this is actually quite counterproductive. While some fats are indeed unhealthy, it has been found that natural saturated fats, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, can greatly boost weight loss, and especially aid in reducing belly fat.
Contrary to what you may have been told, fats are not the enemy. Fatty acids are absolutely vital to the the proper functioning of the body. They allow the body to absorb nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, provide energy, support cellular function and are key to hair and skin health. Fats also work to absorb toxins to minimize their harmful effects on the body.
Saturated fats have received a particularly nasty reputation in the past several decades. However, as we explored in more detail in a previous article, the link between saturated fats and heart disease was based on faulty, skewed science, and subsequent studies have found quite the opposite: that a diet rich in natural saturated fats can actually lower heart disease risk, and even aid in weight loss.
These types of fats also help to support skin health, optimal sleep and immune system function. They satisfy the appetite and keep you feeling full, which equates to a reduction in between-meal cravings.
While the saturated fats found in grass-fed meat and dairy, as well as avocadoes, are very beneficial to health, the winner when it comes to reducing belly fat is raw, organic coconut oil. The medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) found in this incredible oil actually help to boost metabolism, allowing the body to burn more fat. They also increase energy levels, helping you to remain active throughout the day.
A 2009 study published in the journal Lipids consisted of testing the effects of either 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or 2 tablespoons of soybean on on a group of 40 women over the span of 28 days.
Results showed that the group that ate the coconut oil had a decrease in belly fat, while the soybean oil group actually showed a slight increase in belly fat. Additionally, the group that ate the coconut oil showed increased HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels, while the soybean oil group had decreased HDL cholesterol and increased LDL ‘ bad’ cholesterol.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, as well as plant sources like flax seeds, can also help shrink your waist size. According to Dr. Oz, flax seeds can work wonders in reducing belly fat.
A 2012 study published in the journal Fitoterapia found that rats fed a diet enriched with flax seed powder showed “notably reduced” visceral fat content. Researchers also noted that the flax seed may have played a role in reducing the rats’ blood pressure.
Along with belly fat-shrinking benefits, omega-3s are linked to heart health, improved cognitive function and potential alleviation of depression. Most people do not get enough of these important fats, which are very important for optimal well-being.
While saturated fats from natural sources and omega-3s are highly beneficial, there are certain fats to stay away from. Trans fats are linked to many forms of disease, and should be avoided at all costs.
Monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive, peanut and sesame oils, are healthy in their natural form, but can cause free radical damage if they are heated to high temperatures.
Polyunsaturated fats, which are found in soybeans, peanuts and corn (to name a few sources) are often hydrogenated, and not able to be metabolized by the body. They can also lead to free radical damage if heated to high temperatures. Any type of fat, if it goes through high-heat processing or hydrogenation, can be very damaging.
So, if it’s not saturated fats, what’s the real culprit behind weight gain? One strong contender is grain, which is comprised of complex carbohydrates. The body is able to use carbohydrates for energy more easily than fats, and if it becomes accustomed to drawing its energy from these sources, it becomes less able to efficiently metabolize fats. Also, excess carbohydrates that the body cannot readily use are stored as fat.
In order to ditch the belly fat, cut out processed foods, scale down or eliminate the grains, especially processed, glutinous grains, and instead enjoy a diet of whole, nutritious foods, including a variety of veggies, proteins and healthy fats such as coconut oil and flax seeds.
Plenty of water and sleep, along with moderate exercise, are also essential. In time, you may just find your belly fat melting away.
-The Alternative Daily