Belly Be Gone

New research has discovered that ab flab is unlike the fat in other parts of our bodies. Here’s how to lose it, for good. Don’t avoid avocados because they’re high in fat. They have monosaturated fats, which are the healthy kind.

As much as we wish it were possible to magically melt inches from our stomach, as much infomercials insist their products can whittle our waists, as much as we don’t’ want to hear the truth, here it is: You can crunch until the cows come home, but unless you’re taking in fewer calories than you’re expending, the most hard-won six-pack will be hidden under fat.

The key to blasting away that belly fat has always been, and still is, exercise combined with the right diet. But new research is showing that abdominal fat is different from the other fat in our body, and that reducing it is as important for your health as it is for aesthetics. Fortunately, the latest findings also shows that adding specific habits to a smart eating plan can increase the percentage of belly fat we lose as we slim down.

Abdominal fat mainly consists of visceral fat, fat around the organs, and to a lesser amount subcutaneous fat – fat right beneath the skin. The first type of fat is the dangerous one because it’s biologically active tissue that secrets hormones and chemicals that interfere with our sensation of fullness and appetite. This causes an imbalance in normal hormones such as insulin, and it promotes inflammation. Plus, visceral fat near the liver stimulates the production of bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides and lowers good cholesterol (HDL).

As a result, experts say, abdominal fat leads to higher risks for heart disease, diabetes, and even certain types of cancers.

Eat more healthful fats and grains

Adding omega-3 fatty acids to each meal has also been shown to reduce output of stress hormones. Hard-working omega-3s abound in avocados, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats.

A diet high in monounsaturated fat, such as olive oil, can help you lose more belly fat even without reducing calories or doing additional exercise. Almonds, avocados, flaxseed oil, macadamia nut, natural peanut butter, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and pistachios are also excellent sources of monounsaturated fats.

Expert also advises eating more whole grains, such as 100 percent whole-wheat bread, lentils, and brown rice. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a calorie-controlled diet rich in whole grains trimmed extra fat from the waistline. The study compared the weight loss of two groups. Both are 5 servings of low-fat dairy and 2 servings of lean protein. The only difference between the two was the one ate all whole grains and the other ate all refined grains. The whole-grain group lost the most belly fat. This may be due to the decreased insulin response to whole grains versus refined carbohydrates, making it easier to mobilize fat storage.

The good news about abdominal fat – and yes, there is such a thing – is that it’s usually the first to come off when you start shedding pounds. Most people will lose weight from the abdominal area before any other area of the body. That’s because visceral fat is more metabolically active and easier to lose than subcutaneous fat under the skin. People who are significantly overweight may see quicker results in their ab flab than someone who has less to lose in that area.

Dairy is good – Don’t avoid yogurt, skim milk, and low-fat cheese. A diet high in calcium has been associated with weight loss. Plus, you need it for your bones and teeth.

The right fat – A diet high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, can help you lose more belly fat without reducing calorie intake or adding more exercise.

Produce power – Eating 5 to 9 servings of fruits and veggies is crucial to any weight loss effort, as it is to good health in general. So fill up on the good stuff!

The perfect nut – Almonds are high in protein, vitamin E, fiber, and healthy fat. Plus they have a satisfying crunch. One study found that they may even promote weight loss.

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