by David Zinczenko
If I were a wise, grizzled guru sitting on the top of some Himalayan mountain, and you traveled halfway around the globe to seek my wisdom, you’d probably be surprised by what I told you. My one secret for a better life—a healthier, wealthier, happier life—isn’t “Spend more time with your friends,” “Do what you love,” or “Find your higher power.” It’s this: “Lose your belly.” Because when it comes to physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, belly fat is more damaging to you than you would ever think.
Belly fat—what scientists call “visceral fat”— is the most dangerous fat there is. This deadly fat wraps around the organs deep in your abdomen, spiking your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and metabolic syndrome. If you let that fat stay there, nestled on your lap, growing and making you sicker, there is no doubt about the consequences.
The amazing news is, you can start blasting belly fat today with these 8 healthy habits, inspired by my new book, Zero Belly Diet. Start now for your best 2015 ever.
And set yourself up for success with my indispensable list of 13 Foods to Toss Out of Your Kitchen for Good!.
ZERO BELLY SECRET #1
Have a Smarter Starter
A study printed in the journal Metabolism found that eating half a grapefruit before meals may help reduce visceral fat and lower cholesterol levels. Participants in the six-week study who ate a Rio Red grapefruit 15 minutes before breakfast, lunch and dinner saw their waists shrink by up to an inch, and LDL levels drop by 18 points. Researchers attribute the effects to a combination of phytochemicals and vitamin C in the grapefruit. Consider having half of one before your morning oatmeal, slicing a few segments for a starter salad, or eat one for a snack shortly before a meal. (P.S. A good snack is in the 100-250 calorie range. Indulge guilt-free in any of these 50 Best Snack Foods For Weight Loss.)
ZERO BELLY SECRET #2
Can the Canned Goods
What separates a healthy green bean from a not-so healthy one? About three aisles in the grocery store. Canned vegetables are typically loaded with excess salt and “flavor enhancers” like monosodium glutamate (MSG), which studies suggest may increase cholesterol levels and visceral fat accumulation. Just a half cup of canned cut green beans contains 380-390 mg of sodium—that’s more salt than you’ll find in a snack-size bag of Doritos! Go with fresh veggies instead—or you can find some of the cheapest and most nutritious produce just a few aisles along, in the freezer. In fact, a study by the University of Georgia found that amounts of vitamin A, C and folate in frozen vegetables are sometimes even greater than their fresh counterparts.
ZERO BELLY SECRET #3
Swap Your Cup O’ Joe for Green Tea
Sipping on green tea throughout the morning has proven to shrink your gut. Thank the compounds called catechins, belly-fat crusaders that blast adipose tissue by revving the metabolism, increasing the release of fat from fat cells (particularly in the belly), and then speeding up the liver’s fat burning capacity. In a recent study, participants who combined a daily habit of 4-5 cups of green tea with a 25-minute workout lost 2 more pounds than the non tea-drinking exercisers. Meanwhile, a research team in Washington found that the same amount of coffee (5+ cups/day) doubled visceral belly fat. For more soothing, calorie-free elixirs, click here for the 5 Best Teas for Weight Loss.
ZERO BELLY SECRET #4
Eat More Carbs—the Right Ones
It’s not carbs, per se, that lead to belly fat; but the type, researchers say. In fact, whole grains are a dietary staple of people with the littlest middles. A Tufts University study found that participants who ate three or more servings of whole grains per day (oats, quinoa, brown rice, wheat) had 10% less belly fat than people who ate the same amount of calories from refined carbs (white stuff: bread, rice, pasta). When it comes to diet, being unrefined is a good thing—the fiber fills you up. Make sure you’re eating them and not any of from our Eat This, Not That! special report: Foods That Make You Hungrier.
ZERO BELLY SECRET #5
Dietary fats are kind of like lovers. Some of them make you a better person, and others—as you often discover too late—are catastrophically bad for your health. The absolutely worst match for your apple-shaped figure? Saturated fats. Saturated fats, like the kind you’ll find in baked goods and red meat, “turn on” certain genes that increase the storage of fat in the belly, researchers say. Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, activate genes that reduce fat storage and improve insulin metabolism. Try walnuts, one of the best sources of polyunsaturated fats, with about 13 grams per one ounce serving. Sprinkle a handful on your morning oats or entree salad for belly-busting benefits.
And to discover how healthy fats can make you thin, check out the 8 Fatty Foods That Make You Skinny.
ZERO BELLY SECRET #6
Make Room for Musical Fruit
There are diet pills on the market that actually work. They’re called beans. Researchers suggest beans, as they’re particularly rich in soluble fiber, can lessen the accumulation of abdominal fat deposits. A study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. Fill up, without filling out, with just 1/2 a cup of beans. If the musical fruits tend to leave you bloated, soak them overnight—that breaks down the gas-causing oligosaccharides.
ZERO BELLY SECRET #7
Sprinkle Pepper on Your Meals
Meet piperine, the fat blasting ninja! A powerful compound found in black pepper, piperine has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine to treat multiple health conditions including inflammation and tummy troubles. But recent animal studies have found that piperine may also have the profound ability to decrease inflammation and interfere with the formation of new fat cells—a reaction known as adipogenesis, resulting in a decrease in waist size, body fat, and cholesterol levels. More pepper, please! And for a slim tummy, stay away from its evil sister, salt. Stop nasty bloat now by avoiding one of the 10 Saltiest Foods in America.
ZERO BELLY SECRET #8
Swap Cooking Oils for Coconut Oil
What smells like an exotic vacation and can shrink your waist faster than your favorite Zumba class? You got it: coconut oil. A study of 30 men in the journal Pharmacology found that just 2 tablespoons per day reduced waist circumference by an average of 1.1 inches over the course of a month. What makes coconut oil superior to other fats is its medium chain triglycerides. Unlike the long-chain fatty acids found in animal sources of saturated fat, coconut oil doesn’t seem to raise your cholesterol and is more likely to be burned as energy than stored as blubber. At roughly 117 calories per tablespoon, it’s a near identical caloric swap for olive oil. Plus, its high smoke point makes coconut oil great for just about every dish, from eggs to stir-frys.