FOR many people, belly fat is the hardest stuff to shift.
Our guts are where we store stress, hormones, insulin resistance – making it probably the toughest place to tone.
According to MYA, one in three of us say that our stomachs are the part of our body we feel the most uncomfortable about, with 27 per cent of men and 35 per cent of women saying that it’s their problem area.
It’s not just a vanity issue, either.
Carrying lots of excess belly fat can actually be dangerous because it increases your risk of type 2 diabetes (there’s that pesky insulin resistance again!).
If you do notice that you’re carrying more weight around your middle, the first thing worth looking at is how much sugar you’re consuming.
Zana Morris, author of The High Fat Diet: How to lose 10lb in 14 days, told us that belly fat is largely caused by sugar.
“Sugar causes the release of insulin, which in turn encourages the body to store fat particularly around the middle,” she told The Sun.
“Cutting sugar and foods that break down quickly into sugars (e.g. fruit/bread/pasta/wine), will reduce and stabilise levels of insulin as well as help your body to look to fat for fuel.”
But going keto doesn’t suit everyone – and not everyone loves doing HIIT (although you definitely do need to be doing exercise both for health and toning).
So, what food swaps can we make that don’t require ditching carbs completely?
1. Fruit juice for fresh fruit dipped in nut butter
There’s nothing like a glass of freshly squeezed OJ in the morning.
But how often do you have juice that you’ve made yourself, rather than stuff from a bottle?
Fruit comes with heaps of health benefits but by juicing it, you’re stripping out the fibre and just leaving sugar behind. And if you buy juice, you’re almost guaranteed to be drinking added sugar.
In fact, a glass of apple juice can contain as much sugar as a can of fizzy pop – even if they’re different types of sugar.
Dr Sarah Brewer previously told The Sun: “Some people believe that juices are the best way to consume vitamin C, however, juicing a fruit, strips it of its fibre content.
“Eating the whole fruit will ensure you get the nutrients as well as the fibre which has been linked to helping maintain a healthy gut microbiome.”
For a really healthy, filling snack, why not have an apple dipped in protein-rich nut butter?
Or make a fruit salad of orange and grapefruit at home and take it with you as a mid-morning palette cleanser.
2. Ice cream for Greek yoghurt with grated apple and cinnamon
Nutritionist Lily Soutter told us that you don’t have to ditch sugar completely to reduce your muffin top – you just have to be mindful of free sugars.
“We don’t usually crave bags of white sugar. What we crave is a combination of fat and sugar, which comes with the hyper-palatable qualities we’re searching for,” said Lily.
“If you’re looking for healthier sugar alternatives, focus on healthy options such as Greek yoghurt with grated apple and a pinch of cinnamon.”
Why not swap your regular tub of Ben & Jerrys for a bowl of frozen yog mixed with cinnamon and berries?
Yoghurt is also protein-rich, and a 2014 study found that eating high-protein yoghurt can help to keep hunger at bay for longer.
3. Crisps for nuts
Crisps are obviously heavenly and a little of what you fancy is fine. But if you can’t say no to eating a whole family bag, then it’s probably best that you give them a rest.
They’re often packed with salt – which can increase the risk of bloating – and they contain high levels of saturated fats.
Nuts, on the other hand, are full of protein and good fats and keep you fuller for longer.
One study found that people who included nuts in their diet for 12 weeks improved the quality of their diet without putting on any extra weight.
Another study looked at the diets of 8,865 men and women over 28 months.
It found that those who ate two or more portions of nuts a week had a 31 per cent lower risk of weight gain, compared to those who never or rarely ate them.
They are pretty high in calories, however, so just be mindful about how many you eat at one go.
4. Processed meats for oily fish
No one really believes that bacon and burgers are any good for our waistlines or our health.
But processed meats can also be inflammatory.
Inflammation in the body can cause all kinds of havoc – one of them being that they cause you to layer on fat around the gut.
Trans fats, in particular, can cause inflammation. They’re found in many foods, including fast food and baked goods.
Go instead for oily fish like salmon which contain high levels of heart-healthy omega 3s.
5. Swap granola for eggs
Back in 2017, a study by the New York Times found that nutritionists and the American public couldn’t agree on whether granola and cereal bars were healthy or not.
Around 70 per cent of Americans thought that granola bars were healthy compared to just 30 per cent of experts.
As for granola itself, less than half of the nutritionists surveyed thought it was healthy.
While it can be nutritious, many granolas contain lots of sugars and not much fat or protein – meaning that you could sink a big bowl of the stuff at 8am and be pining for a snack a few hours later thanks to a dip in blood sugar.
Nutrition consultant Ian Marber told us: “A very high-carb breakfast with little fibre and protein to slow the digestive process can lead to short-term energy as well as hunger, often within a couple of hours.”
He recommended having an egg with avocado and a small piece of toast for the perfect breakfast.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein and can help to keep us feeling satisfied – with studies confirming them as great appetite-regulators.
6. Lattes for green tea
Not everyone is lactose intolerant but many people do have a hard time digesting dairy.
Undigested lactose isn’t great for the gut and that can lead to an imbalance of gut bacteria which in turn, results in belly fat.
Green tea, on the other hand, is packed with antioxidants.
And some claim that green tea can help with weight loss.
A 2012 paper review found that supping the stuff could lead to small but consistent weight loss in overweight adults.
7. Booze for kombucha
If you want to shed belly fat, then it’s time to stop reaching for that post-work glass of vino.
Just two glasses of wine an evening can clock up an extra 72,000 calories over the course of a year – which translates as 20lbs of fat.
Empty calories like the ones in booze are really easy to store because our bodies have no nutrition to use.
So what you drink goes straight onto your belly if you’re a guy, or hips, thighs and arms if you’re a woman.
While you don’t have to go totally teetotal, why not try to swap out your weekly drinks for something healthier?
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Kombucha is a gut-loving fermented tea, which is both sparkling and refreshing.
Full of lots of good bacteria, it’ll be a lot better for your belly.
Try Equinox Kombucha, £1.80 from Waitrose
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