Belly fat — the type of visceral fat that builds up in your midsection — can accumulate for a variety of reasons, some beyond your control and some preventable. And, while you might not like the way it looks, its impact on your health is certainly concerning.
Elyse Homan, Dt.P., a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Human Nutrition, explains that belly fat is influenced by factors such as age, genetics, sleep, exercise and diet. “Eating more calories than you burn can lead to fat gain,” she explains. Where fat is stored can be determined by factors such as genetics and certain health conditions as well as lifestyle, including the types of foods we eat and activity level.
“Since visceral fat in the abdominal region is not something you can pinch, but is deeper in your body, it can have a significant impact on your health, including increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDNforward-thinking culinary nutritionist and author of The herbal diabetes cookbook.
Fortunately, simply omitting certain foods and incorporating others can help keep belly fat at bay.
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What foods contribute to belly fat?
There are many foods that contribute to the development of belly fat, but the worst culprits are ultra-processed foods and those high in refined carbohydrates, says Newgent. She cites a March 2023 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, which found that adults who ate ultra-processed foods were more likely to have excess fat all over their bodies, but primarily in the chest area. belly. This includes sugary drinks, packaged snacks, candies, and sugary cereals.
Homan adds that foods high in saturated fat are also common culprits. Like refined carbs, these types of foods are also calorie-dense, “meaning a small serving is very high in calories. It is easier to overeat these foods because they are not very filling.
How can nuts help you lose belly fat?
Unlike processed foods and those high in saturated fat, nuts are nutrient-dense foods that include a combination of healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, Homan says. “Getting enough protein and fiber is very important to achieve a healthy weight because it takes longer to digest and helps you feel full. Replacing saturated fat in your diet with unsaturated fat sources such as that nuts also promote healthy weight and cardiovascular health,” she says.
“In general, eating about an ounce of nuts at least three times a week may be helpful in reducing the occurrence of excess belly fat (abdominal obesity),” Newgent adds, citing a 2022 study.
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What is the best nut for belly fat?
The number one nut for blasting belly fat, according to Newgent? “Almonds are a top choice because they’re one of the most protein-rich snacks out there,” she says. Additionally, almond-specific research supports that eating 1 1/2 ounces of almonds daily in place of a high-carb snack may be associated with reduced belly fat.
However, Homan recommends a variety of nuts, “since each offers varying nutritional benefits,” she points out. While she agrees that almonds are a great choice, she also recommends hazelnuts and walnuts, which contain monounsaturated fatty acids similar to almonds.
Related: Eating These 10 Foods Can Help Prevent Visceral Fat, Nutritionists Say
Three nuts to eat with caution? “Cashews, Brazil nuts, and macadamia nuts are higher in saturated fat,” Homan warns. “That doesn’t mean you should avoid them, but rather limit consumption and pair them with other nuts that are high in mono and polyunsaturated fats.”
She also suggests pairing nuts with other foods so you’re more likely to feel full. For example, top Greek yogurt or oatmeal with nuts and berries, mix almond butter with crushed almonds and spread over an apple or banana, add pecans to a mixed green salad with strawberries, try a trail mix with several nuts like Brazil, hazelnuts, and pistachios, or make your own pesto with roasted pine nuts, basil, and olive oil.
Next step: Here are 13 reasons you’re not losing weight