When adhering to a healthy diet and exercise regime, it can be super frustrating when the fat from your lower belly or love handles refuse to go away. If you’re like most of us, you probably feel that the majority of your excess weight is carried around your midsection and hip area.
This problem plagues both genders. As a guy, you may have what’s known as ‘Dad Bod,’ which means you may be in shape everywhere else, but you have a pot belly from drinking beer or cheating on your diet occasionally.
When it comes to women, you may notice the excess weight stored in your lower belly where it might even wrap around your hip area, creating unwanted ‘love handles.’
If you ask me, Dad Bods and love handles are not flattering or healthy. Despite their cute euphemisms, they hide a bigger, more serious health issue.
I know firsthand that it can be difficult trying to get rid of this stubborn weight. It almost seems impossible.
But it’s not.
In this article, I’ll show you the best ways to combat that lower belly region by using nutritious foods.
But before we get to menu planning, it’s important to understand the different types of fat in our bodies.
Types of body fat
When you’re combating belly fat, you’re actually fighting off two types of fat. One type of fat, subcutaneous, lies directly under the skin, while visceral, or active fat, is stored around vital organs like the pancreas, liver, and intestines.
You can think of subcutaneous fat as the fat on the surface. This is the kind of fat that liposuction removes.
Aesthetically, you want to reduce your subcutaneous fat so you have the appearance of a nice, lean stomach. Most of us are fighting subcutaneous fat when we focus on losing weight in the stomach area.
However, visceral fat is a bigger health concern that should not be overlooked. As I mentioned above, visceral fat is active fat, meaning it doesn’t just sit there doing nothing. Lots of studies now show that visceral fat produces various hormones and inflammatory molecules, so it’s now considered an active endocrine organ.
- Breast cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Colorectal cancer
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
I firmly believe that in order to get rid of lower belly fat and love handles, you have to fight off both types of fat, the fat surrounding your vital organs and the superficial fat that drives you nuts.
I know you’re eager to learn my secrets, but I don’t think they’ll be as effective if you don’t learn why fat accumulates in our midsections in the first place.
Why does fat accumulate in the low belly?
Several factors contribute to our ongoing battle against belly fat. Some factors such as a poor diet, certain hormones, and stress, are within our powers to change. However, other factors like age, gender, and genetics may be out of our hands.
You may be just as surprised as I was to learn that stress plays a huge role in the appearance of fat around our midsection.
According to a study done at Yale: “Non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat, and have higher levels of stress hormone cortisol.”
The study elaborated that cortisol can be responsible for fat storage around our vital organs.
So the more stressed out you are, the more cortisol builds and fat accumulates.
When you’re able to manage your stress level, you may be able to reduce your cortisol levels. This will get you one step closer to the flat stomach you’re working so hard to achieve.
However, stress is not the only way fat accumulates around our midsection.
Often a poor diet can be the obvious thing to blame.
If you’re consuming foods high in fat or packed with excess sugar, you could be unknowingly sabotaging your flat belly efforts.
According to Dr. Klein, Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Science at Washington University School of Medicine: “When people slim down through exercise and diet, visceral fat disappears twice as fast as subcutaneous fat.”
So here’s my recommendation for losing fat around your belly and love handles:
- Reduce your stress levels
- Get your hormones in check
- And work on exercising and eating healthy as often as possible
Luckily, I have some great food recommendations for you to add to your fat blasting menu.
Foods to fight lower belly fat
It may be hard to believe, but there really are foods you can incorporate into your diet that target the midsection. When you combine these foods with exercise, you’ll see the pounds almost falling off.
We talked about eggs in regards to cholesterol, but we didn’t touch on how eggs can also combat belly fat.
Thanks to their high protein content and mix of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, eggs give you energy, keep you feeling full for longer, and speed up your metabolism.
This combination helps you stave off those early morning cravings for sugar-laced coffee drinks and sweet smelling pastries.
Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson, a professor of appetite regulation at Sweden’s Lund University, found that a key compound found in spinach called thylakoid makes spinach digest slower and alleviate hunger pangs.
Erlanson-Albertsson explored the effects of spinach extract on 15 participants. The extract was given each morning and participants reported that it became easier to fight off those between-meal temptations as the study progressed.
With spinach, you’ll have less hunger pangs and cravings so you don’t fill up on other foods that cause tummy bloat.
Like eggs, people often misconstrue avocados as being unhealthy. I hear people say, “I don’t eat avocados. They’re too high in fat.”
Yes, avocados are high in fats, but it’s the good kinds of fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.
Avocados are also loaded with fiber and over 20 vitamins and minerals. The fiber in avocados keeps your digestive system moving and also prevents constipation.
On top of that, avocados help combat blood sugar spikes. As a result, this prevents your body from storing excess fat in places like your stomach.
Of course, you’ll want to eat avocados in moderation. I try to eat no more than half an avocado with my meals and as many as two full avocados per week.
Most of us are used to consuming overly processed grains found in things like white bread, pasta, and pastries, mainly because we’ve grown up with it.
It’s time to change that.
According to Experience Life, these types of grains “act like sugar in the body, triggering weight gain, inflammation and blood-sugar imbalances.”
Make the switch to eating whole grains instead.
An article in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health stresses that whole grains are rich in fiber and essential minerals. They leave you feeling full for longer, can help lower cholesterol levels, and protect against some cancers.
On top of that, whole grains can help:
- Aid digestion
- Regulate blood sugar
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower blood pressure
- Redistribute fat
That last bullet is my favorite – whole grains can actually help redistribute fat so it’s not stuck on your midsection.
Why would we want to redistribute fat?
To get rid of the fat surrounding our vital organs.
Remember that scary visceral fat I mentioned earlier? That needs to go before any subcutaneous fat can be removed.
Before you go running off to the store, you’ll want to keep in mind that just because the packaging on a product touts “whole grains”, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy for you.
Your only want to buy items that are 100% whole grains. Anything less could potentially have almost no grains at all. Long ingredient lists are often a mix of chemical preservatives and additives that can lead to weight gain.
The best whole grains to consume are:
- Whole wheat
- Brown or wild rice
- Whole oats
One of my favorite, most satisfying breakfasts includes the first four ingredients on my gut-busting list (eggs, spinach, avocado, and whole grains). I cook three eggs, add in three egg whites, and have a side of sliced avocado, sauteed spinach, and some rye toast.
It’s delicious and starts my day right.
The next three ingredients on my list also make for a delicious and slimming breakfast.
In a study from the Experimental Biology convention in New Orleans, researchers explored the effects of adding freeze-dried blueberry powder to the diets of lab rats. These specific rats were chosen due to the fact that their breed was more prone to being overweight.
When the trial ended after 90 days, the rats who consumed the extract had less fat in the abdominal region, lower cholesterol levels, lower triglycerides, and improved glucose levels.
What makes blueberries so powerful at fighting fat?
They’re full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Plus, they’re also low in calories since they’re about 83% water. Blueberries are the perfect topping for oatmeal, yogurt, or as a snack on their own.
How do those tiny oats do this?
According to an article in LiveStrong, one ingredient found in oatmeal, beta-glucagon, has the effect of absorbing water and swelling up like a sponge in your stomach. When oatmeal is in your tummy, you’re left feeling full instead of hungry.
In addition to helping you lose weight, oatmeal also helps lower cholesterol levels, reduces high blood pressure, and lowers your risk for type 2 diabetes.
However, you have to be very careful when choosing the kind of oatmeal to include in your diet. You’ll want to avoid sugar filled varieties like the type found in instant oatmeal options and include more unprocessed oats in your repertoire instead.
I love the portability and satisfying crunch of snacks like nuts.
But which nuts are the best at slimming your belly?
Almonds are one of my favorite snacks to keep on hand at all time. I buy a package of roasted, unsalted almonds every week without fail.
Why do I do this?
I personally notice a difference in my stomach area when I include more almonds in my diet. No, the scale doesn’t drop 10 pounds overnight, but the difference is enough for me to notice that my jeans fit more comfortably.
A study published in Harvard’s School of Public Health found that “eating nuts at least twice a week reduced the risk of heart disease by 35% compared with women who rarely eat nuts.”
The protein, fiber, and high amounts of vitamins and antioxidants found in almonds are what give it this magically slimming boost.
By now you’ve probably figured out that foods high in fiber and protein are your best options to reduce lower belly fat. A list like this would be incomplete without mentioning beans.
I find that beans are often overlooked when we think about reducing stubborn belly fat.
However, beans, just like almonds, eggs, and oatmeal, are loaded with fiber and protein, and are amazingly low in calories for the amount of nutritious benefits they provide us with.
My favorite way to include beans in my diet is to add them to salads or have them as a side dish with my lunch. When I have beans for lunch, I’m less likely to crave snacks before dinner time.
Even though lemons have a wealth of health benefits like we talked about in this article, my favorite way to use lemons are as a weight loss booster.
Lemon water literally kick starts your metabolism.
By starting your day off with warm water and a squeeze of fresh lemon, you’ll have an early morning metabolism boost that will give you energy and wake up your digestive system.
I try to drink this mix every morning, but I especially like to drink it when I’m feeling a little more bloated than usual.
It’s no surprise that green tea made our list, and while it may be the last on our list, it’s certainly not the least effective. I’m a huge fan of drinking green tea to aid in weight loss. Remember when I showed you my favorite fat-melting drink that’s made using green tea?
The benefits of green tea, which can be found in our fat-melting drink article, are pretty clear.
Drinking green tea can increase your:
- Energy expenditure
- Fat oxidation
A consistent exercise program is the best way to reduce overall fat and get your heart pumping. But by combining lemon water and green tea with a healthy diet that incorporates my top eight belly slimming foods, I’ve found that belly fat is not nearly as stubborn and hard to get rid of as using exercise alone.
Sure, it will take some time to see results, but it’s not impossible and that’s the best news. Plus, you already have two meal options – my tasty avocado and spinach breakfast, and my blueberry almond oatmeal. Both of these incorporate 3-4 items from my list in just one meal.
Which food from our list is your favorite?