Whether you call it a muffin top or a spare tire, that ring of fat that collects around our lower belly can be one of the more sigh-worthy things we look at on a daily basis. We sometimes give it the power to ruin a good dress, or make us feel a tad lumpy.
However unflattering it may be, it's essential to know it's also one of the more dangerous fats that hides a bigger, more serious health issue. As nutritionist Mari-Chris Savage, MS, RD, LD, ACE-CPT explains, the excess weight carried at the midline of our waist comes in two forms — subcutaneous and visceral fat.
"The subcutaneous fat is located directly under the skin layer and lies on top of the abdominal muscles, [whereas] visceral fat lies deeper in the core and surrounds the body's vital organs," she says. Meaning, that visceral fat is what pushes our gut outward over the waistline.
As Savage reveals, this type of fat is also responsible for increasing certain health risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. And for women, the risk can climb if their waist circumstance is larger than 35 inches.
"The general rule of thumb is that if your waist is larger than your hips, you are at an increased risk of certain diseases," she warns.
Whenever we consume a meal high in carbohydrates or sugar, Savage says our hormonal response becomes drastic and results in exaggerated efforts to deal with the food recently consumed.
"This process is not effective and pushes fat molecules into storage rather than being burned," she says. "Foods that are high in refined sugars or highly processed are not waist friendly."
While love handles might appear difficult to get rid of and 1,000 crunches a la Britney Spears is out of question for the majority of us, it's actually not that hard to bid farewell to these lady lumps. In addition to finding a balance between protein and carbohydrates to help you stop the development belly fat, Savage says we need to maximize our fiber intake with vegetables and fruits.
"When we eat a balanced diet, our hormones are stabilized, encouraging our meals to be digested appropriately without storing any fat around our tummies," Savage says.
If you love oatmeal, give yourself one of the more adult upgrades by starting the day off with oat bran. Made from the outer husks of the oat as opposed to the inner portions, oat bran is loaded with high fiber and protein so you feel full and melt love handles quickly. If oat bran is not for you, try the next best breakfast in adulthood — shredded wheat, which can do the same thing except with zero sugar.
It might not look appetizing but the American Chemical Society reports black rice is a superfood that boasts more antioxidants than a cup of blueberries as it's packed with more fiber, less sugar and vitamin E. Not only does it protect your immune system, but more antioxidants also help reduce inflammation, which means less fat storage.
We know certain fats are good for us, but did you know pumpkin seeds help us achieve flat-belly status? Rich in fiber, zinc and potassium, pepitas are high in poly and monounsaturated fats which keep our metabolic engines running smoothly, while keeping you full for longer periods of time. The best part is, you can eat them baked, roasted, salted or even sprinkled on top of a big salad.
For years, dark berries have been taking the spotlight as superfruits for wellness but it's time raspberries reclaim their glory. The National Institute of Health reports raspberries as the best source of insoluble fiber since it feeds healthy bacteria in your gut, prompting the production of fatty acids that reduce fat-causing inflammation around the waistline. Not to mention, consumption of insoluble fibers like raspberries increases levels of "ghrelin," which is a hormone that controls appetite.
We absolutely love tea, so when we heard white tea was just another word for "magical health potion" — count us in! From breaking down fat to blocking the formation of fat cells, the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism reports white tea helps strip away fat from our body in very distinctive ways. Moreover, as a tea is rich in antioxidants and low in caffeine, it helps curb false cravings and accelerates our metabolism to burn fat faster. Perfect as a diuretic or cleanser, white tea aids in bloating too.