Too much visceral fat can result to insulin resistance, the benchmark of type 2 diabetes, but switching your diet can help fix this problem area to help prevent or control the disease.
Why Reducing Belly Fat Is Key for Preventing and Managing Diabetes
Did you know that belly fat can put you at risk for diabetes and other health problems? “Belly fat, the fat deep within our abdomen, appears to be some of the most active — and therefore, most harmful — type of fat,” says Diane Norwood, RD, CDE, who is in private practice in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“It disrupts hormones and contributes to insulin resistance and inflammation.” Insulin resistance is the benchmark of type 2 diabetes and refers to the body’s inability to use the hormone insulin to ferry glucose, or blood sugar, to our cells and muscles for energy.
Glucose is the body’s main source of energy.Sylvia White, RD, CDE, who is in private practice in Memphis, Tennessee, says that subcutaneous fat is the type we can pinch under the skin, while visceral fat resides around the organs.
Too much visceral fat is dangerous and can cause inflammation in the body, which can heighten the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. A lot of your body’s vital organs are in the abdominal area, so it makes sense that padding this area with extra fat could compromise the normal functioning of these organs, including the liver, pancreas, digestive tract, and kidneys.
And if you think belly fat is just a risk to overweight or obese people, think again. “Contrary to popular belief, even people who are not overweight can have excess body fat as belly fat, which may result in insulin resistance,” Norwood says.
“Over time, insulin resistance may lead to type 2 diabetes and its many chronic complications.”Certain foods, such as sugary drinks, may contribute to belly fat, according to a January 2016 study in Circulation.
When we drink beverages sweetened with sucrose, fructose, or high fructose corn syrup, the liver stores this extra sugar as fat, increasing belly fat, Norwood says. The hormones produced by this extra belly fat play a role in insulin resistance, possibly leading to type 2 diabetes.
One thing to know is that heredity and hormones play a role in the location of your body’s fat accumulation, says Lori Zanini, RD, CDE, the creator of For the Love of Diabetes in Manhattan Beach, California.
So belly fat accumulation is not entirely within your control. But you can take steps to tweak your diet to include foods that might help control belly fat, as well as foods that may help control blood sugar. So give these seven foods a try
Water Can Hydrate and Help Curb Unhealthy Food Cravings
“Although not necessarily thought of as a food, water is very important,” says White, who suggests swapping all sugary drinks for water to help reduce sugar in the diet. This approach can also promote hydration. “Good hydration helps control hunger, resulting in eating less,” she explains. In fact, in a study published in August 2015 in the journal Obesity, obese adults who drank about 2 cups of water before chowing down on their daily meals lost significantly more weightcompared with the people who imagined feeling full before eating.
Beans Offer a Filling Source of Vegetarian Protein for Meals
Add chickpeas, black beans, or white beans to a salad, or puree them to mix in when making smoothies or baked goods. “Beans are a perfect combination of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and soluble fiber, which help stabilize blood sugar levels and keep hunger in check to help prevent overeating,” says Zanini, who recommends a portion of ½ cup cooked beans.
Eggs Make for a Filling and Healthy Breakfast That Fights Belly Fat
“A diet with adequate protein is beneficial for reducing belly fat,” says Norwood. “Studies have shown that people who eat more protein have less belly fat.” Protein is an important nutrient for satiety, and a January 2012 study in Nutrition & Metabolism shows that eating high-quality protein, like the type found in eggs, is linked with lower belly fat.
“Eating enough protein while following a lower-carbohydrate diet can be an effective way to feel full, control blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity, and ultimately, reduce or prevent belly fat,” Norwood says.
But don’t eat just protein: Meals should contain a combination of protein, fat, and high-fiber carbohydrates, says Zanini, who suggests an example meal of two scrambled eggs with sautéed asparagus and mushrooms paired with ¼ avocado, sliced, and 1 cup berries.
Also important to note is that, while beneficial, eating too much protein can contribute to weight gain and affect glucose control, according to a review published in November 2014 in Nutrition & Metabolism.
Therefore, be sure to consult your registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator to figure out how much protein to factor into your overall daily calorie count.
Avocado has Healthy Fat That May Improve Insulin Sensitivity
This cream like fruit is rich in monounsaturated fat. “These fats help keep us full for three-plus hours after eating them,” says Zanini, who suggests eating ¼ avocado at a time.
“Avocados are a good source of magnesium, which studies have shown play an important role in improving insulin sensitivity.”Bonus: Fueling up with monosaturated fats rather than carbs may improve insulin sensitivity, suggests a study published in May 2013 in Diabetes Care.
Colorful Vegetables Low in Carbs May Help Fight Belly Fat
Consuming dark green, bright orange, and yellow veggies may help reduce belly fat. In a study published in November 2014 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, excess weight Latino youth who ate veggies in these colors had increased insulin sensitivity and less belly fat.
“Green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, are low in carbohydrates and do not affect insulin or blood sugar,” White says. “They provide fiber, which promotes weight loss.” There’s no need to limit portions on greens, she says.
Nuts Eaten in Moderation May Promote Weight Loss
“Walnuts, Almonds, and some other nuts high in healthy monounsaturated fat are shown in some studies to promote belly fat loss,” says White, who advises limiting your intake to ¼ cup per day. “Nuts are high in calories, so be mindful of portions.” Nosh on a small handful, or use them as a topping for cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
Fatty Fish May Reduce Inflammation and Boost Your Heart Health
This lean protein is linked with reduced inflammation and a reduced risk of heart disease, all thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. And study shows that protein consumption may be linked to lower waist circumference.
Consume 3 to 4 ounces of salmon and other fatty fish, such as tuna and sardines, several times a week. “Lean proteins help promote fullness and help with weight loss while not affecting insulin levels,” says White. Some fatty fish have a high mercury content and should be limited, so make sure to check out the mercury level of your favorites before chowing down.