Visceral fat can present serious health risks because it sits within the abdominal cavity, which houses vital organs such as the liver and intestines. It has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, improving your diet can deal a decisive blow to the belly fat.
There are some general dietary principles to heed.
“Make sure every meal is packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, alongside plenty of lean protein and healthy fats,” advises Holland and Barrett.
Why these elements are important
Eating lean protein is an effective intervention because protein makes you feel fuller for longer, notes Bupa.
“So if you include a lean source of protein, such as skinless white chicken, in your meals you may find that you’re not as hungry, and so eat less.”
Good sources include chicken breast, tuna, mackerel, salmon, eggs, milk, red lentils, chickpeas, brown bread, nuts and soya.
“And remember that a portion of protein is about as big as the palm of your hand,” adds Bupa.
According to Harvard Health, replacing saturated fats and trans fats with polyunsaturated fats can also help.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.
According to the Mayo Clinic, trans fat is considered the worst type of fat you can eat.
Why? “Unlike other dietary fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — raises your ‘bad’ cholesterol and also lowers your ‘good’ cholesterol.”
“Bad” cholesterol, also known as LDL cholesterol clings to the inside of your arteries, thereby raising your risk of heart disease.
HDL cholesterol counters the harmful effects of bad cholesterol so it is vital that you reduce the former and increase the latter.
The other key component to visceral fat reduction is to engage in regular physical activity.
Studies have shown that you can help trim visceral fat or prevent its growth with both aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) and strength training (exercising with weights).
According to Harvard Health, spot exercises, such as sit-ups, can tighten abdominal muscles but won’t get at visceral fat.
“Exercise can also help keep fat from coming back,” adds the health body.
There are also surprising causes of visceral fat gain that you could be overlooking.
A five-year study found that adults under age 40 who slept five hours or less a night accumulated significantly more visceral fat.
But too much isn’t good, either — young adults who slept more than eight hours also added visceral fat.