Think of your ab muscles as the meat in the middle of a fat sandwich. On top of them is subcutaneous fat, the stuff you pinch as you look in the mirror. Below them is visceral fat, which is the type that takes up residence next to your internal organs — in excessive amounts if you continually overdo it on calories and experience too much pent-up stress. "When you fill up those subcutaneous areas, fat winds up getting stored where it shouldn't, in your deep abdomen or your liver," explains Arthur Weltman, PhD, exercise physiology professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Visceral fat has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, he notes.
The diet to lose belly fat focuses on healthy carbs, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean sources of protein such as seafood, poultry, lean red meat and beans. It needs to be low in saturated fat, trans fat and refined carbs such as white bread, soda and sweets. Eat three meals a day, with each meal being about the same size, plus one snack. Eating regularly controls hunger and keeps energy levels up.
Munching on the right snacks throughout the day is one of the best ways to shrink your waistline. Need proof? According to a recent study, researchers found participants lost significantly more body weight when they incorporated low-sugar, high-protein snacks into their daily food routine. Fitting in healthy, high protein snacks (such as a handful of unsalted almonds) helps to maintain blood-sugar levels—which keeps your brain from triggering hunger pangs—and stops your body from indulging in unhealthy foods after what feels like a long day of starvation.
It’s not just about weight loss. Having great gut health is linked to good health throughout your body. Scientists in this rapidly growing field are finding connections between gut microbes and the immune system, weight loss, gastrointestinal health, , allergies, asthma, and even cancer. With every study that’s published, scientists become more convinced that having a healthy gut leads to having a healthy body.