Excess fat is responsible for a host of health problems, and belly fat is one of the most dangerous kinds.
Well, some foods go right to your gut and cause nearly instant fat gain, right where you don’t want it.
They call this type of weight gain “deep fat tissue,” and it leads to deeply felt embarrassment when it comes time to strip down for the neighborhood pool party. It also leads to some more serious issues—heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s among them.
Where your body stores calories depends on your hormones, and some foods trigger just the exact right hormonal reaction—they hit you in the gut like a Dear John letter. Fortunately, new research in Zero Belly Diet, the New York Times bestseller from Abs Diet author David Zinczenko, reveals the six most common “insta-belly” foods, and offers some ingenious alternatives to help you indulge without the bulge.
1. Whole Milk or 2% Milk
People concerned about their health often avoid drinking whole milk due to its high fat content.
Cutting out all milk consumption is not a good idea, since milk has definite health advantages, but all that fat is not one of them.
Once people become aware of this, they often switch to 2% milk as a compromise to get the familiar flavor and health benefits of milk with less fat.
However, few of these dieters are aware that 2% milk still has a fairly large calorie and fat content, so it may promote an increase in belly fat if regularly consumed.
Those who drink it for fitness may not see a weight loss, and they may even gain weight because they think they can drink more milk if it has reduced fat. Drinking a large amount of low-fat milk is no better than drinking a moderate serving of whole milk.
If you want to cultivate a trim belly, choosing fat-free milk or 1% milk is the best plan. These types of milk are still high in calcium and other valuable nutrients, but are lower in calories and certainly lower in fat. With these products, you can indulge in large servings and still keep your fat intake down.
2. Potato Chips
In the contest to find the very worst possible food for your belly, Harvard researchers believe they have a winner. It’s not just that they’re saturated with saturated fat, causing abdominal fat gain. It’s not just that they’re crusted with salt, causing mid-level bloat. It’s not even a pure calorie play—there are plenty of more caloric snacks out there. What makes potato chips so epically bad for your belly is not what they have, but what they lack: the ability to make you feel satisfied. A handful of chips can turn into a big empty bag in no time simply because our bodies expect us to make them happy when we eat food. Daily chip consumption alone was responsible for adding nearly two pounds of flab to study participants’ frame every four years. That means if you cut out chips, you would lose more than half a pound of fat directly from your belly, even if you changed nothing else about your diet.
Eat This Instead: Nip your salty cravings in the bud with Beanitos, a chip made from navy beans, brown rice, oils and spices. This snacktime favorite has a texture and flavor reminiscent of traditional nachos, but far less saturated fat.
Whether you opt for traditional soda or one of the diet alternatives, belly fat is an unfortunate but common result.
Habitual soda drinkers who go “cold turkey” often see a significant weight loss that remains as long as they do not return to drinking sodas.
Regular soda contains vast amounts of empty calories in the form of sugars, spiking your blood sugar and promoting weight gain, especially around your abdomen.
Caffeine adds a feeling of stimulation that some interpret as an appetite for food. In addition, studies suggest that the artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas can inhibit your body’s ability to detect fullness, leading to a lack of satisfaction and increased likelihood of over-eating.
This is why a person with a soft drink in one hand will often have a burger or a candy bar in the other. These foods do not just “go together.” They actually combine in the body to increase your appetite for both food and drink. The more you consume, the more you want.
Drink This Instead: White Tea. This brew blocks the formation of new fat cells and helps the body break down stored fat, according a Nutrition and Metabolism study. That means that even when you overindulge, it’s harder for your body to store the excess calories in your body.
A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips? How about this: A night at the Hut, a lifetime in the gut. In fact, pizza is the second biggest contributor of saturated fat to the American diet (just below cheese itself), and most slices serve up half a day’s worth of the artery clogger. Researchers have found that unlike other fats, the saturated variety is the most likely to be stored in the stomach.
While trying to make their pizzas tasty, the mass producers of pizzas have ignored the nutritional balance of this much desired food. Today, most of the pizzas you eat are high in salt, fat and calories, much more than what you should intake. In fact, research conducted on some brand names of pizzas have shown that they contain nearly twice the amount of salt than that recommended for an adult. Two slices of pizzas typically contains 600 calories besides the high fat content.
Eat This Instead: Bruschetta. All the crusty, tomatoey flavor, not of the broken zippers. Discover the recipe, and the game-changing “75/25” rule that shows How Maria Menounos dropped 40 pounds—and kept it off!
5. French Fries
Any fat-laden carb fest will make you gain weight, but there’s something almost magical about the effects of fried spuds on your body’s fat-storage system–and by magical, we mean Voldemort, not Potter. One 20-year Harvard study found that people who ate fries regularly gained more than three pounds of body weight every four years; over the course of the study, the french fry eaters gained 15 pounds of belly flab from fries alone!
Deep frying french fries makes them very high in fat, and a high-fat diet increases your risk of becoming overweight. Also, a study by the Diabetes and Obesity Center of Excellence at the University of Washington in Seattle found that a high fat diet may injure nerve cells in the brain that control body weight. French fries are particularly rich in trans fats and saturated fats. According to the American Heart Association, saturated and trans fats raise the level of cholesterol in your blood, which increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. A single serving of deep-fried, restaurant style French fries contain 24 grams of fat. According to Health.gov, your total fat intake based on a 2000 calorie daily diet should be no more than 65 grams.
Eat This Instead: Homemade sweet potato fries. Slice a sweet potato lengthwise into strips, top with a few spritzes of coconut-oil cooking spray (a fat less apt to be stored as flab than butter or lard), salt, pepper and garlic powder, and pop them into the oven on 350 degrees F until they’re crispy. When dining out, ask for a side salad and a vinegar-based dressing in lieu of the fries that comes with your meal.
Although cheese is a good source of calcium and promotes bone health, it is unfortunately also a source of high levels of saturated fat.
Everything we have said about milk goes double for cheese, since it is really just a concentrated, solidified form of milk.
Acetates created by high doses of saturated fats cause the body to create extra cholesterol. This clumps in organs and veins, a problem aggravated by the clumping of the saturated fats and proteins.
The result is a thick accumulation that slowly reduces the width of the blood vessels, cutting the amount of blood they can carry and increasing the chances of heart problems.
You may think you are eating it in moderation, but the truth is that even a very small serving of a rich cheese may contain around half of your recommended daily intake of fat.
Cheese also appears in many processed foods and restaurant dishes where its presence may not be obvious. When possible, ask the waiter or check the ingredients list on packaging to find out what you’re really eating.
Cheese is so ubiquitous and delightful, it really is not practical to cut it out completely. The next time you want to add some cheese to a baked potato or sandwich, try using a small amount of reduced fat cheese instead. While these substitutes were once rubbery, you will find that their quality has markedly improved.