To have realistic expectations about any type of belly fat diet, it’s important to understand whether or not certain foods really can target your belly fat. Such claims have been fairly common in recent years, but are they really genuine, or just more of the usual inflated hype?
Well, before answering that question I should point out to you that you’ll find quite a lot of tips and information around about what foods are important in a belly fat diet. But when you dig deeper, you’ll find that what’s being presented is often actually just general weight loss diet information.
Because so many people are so eager to get rid of belly fat, it’s a favorite tactic of marketers to tout any diet information as belly fat diet information.
More often than not though, there’s really nothing there that relates specifically to belly fat.
So you need to be careful therefore when considering any belly fat diet information that that’s what it in fact is, and not just labeled that way.
Key Belly Fat Diet Ingredient #1
Among all belly fat diet variants that have sprung up over recent times, one key active ingredient that’s common to practically all of them is monounsaturated fat. In other words, they pretty much all promote eating monounsaturated fat as part of every meal, at the exclusion of all saturated fat (or at least as much as possible).
Now, as far as dietary fats go, there are 3 major types:
- Unsaturated Fats
- Saturated Fats
- Trans Fats
Unsaturated fats are the healthiest of all fats. They’re almost always from plant sources, and there are 2 varieties – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Both of these are very healthy and important in your diet, but of the two, monounsaturated fats are healthier.
Saturated fats are almost always from animal sources and are unhealthy fats. They’ve been linked with a whole variety of health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary disease, and even some forms of cancer.
Trans fats are artificial fats and are the unhealthiest and most dangerous of all fats.
According to proponents of belly fat diets, monounsaturated fats target the fat found in your abdominal area, and by including some as part of each of your meals, your belly fat diet will basically cause your belly fat to diminish.
Simple as that.
Of course, diets will usually also include a collection of other requirements as well, such as a daily calorie limit, perhaps eating 4 to 5 small meals a day rather than the usual 3, and so on. But it’s the monounsaturated fat that supposedly does the work in reducing your belly fat.
Do Monounsaturated Fats Really Reduce Belly Fat?
Well, the evidence that’s generally quoted to back up claims that monounsaturated fats in a belly fat diet actually do reduce your abdominal fat comes from a study that was published in the July 2007 issue of Diabetes Care (Diabetes Care July 2007, Vol. 30, No. 7, Pages 1717-1723).
This study involved a group of 11 subjects, all of whom were insulin resistant and all of whom were offspring of obese, type 2 diabetic patients with abdominal fat.
These 11 subjects were each placed on 3 special diets, with each diet lasting for a period of 28 days. The 3 diets were as follows:
- A diet enriched in saturated fat.
- A diet rich in monounsaturated fat.
- A diet rich in carbohydrates.
None of the test subjects underwent any additional exercise, and none of them reduced their calorie intake in any way. So as a result, none of them experienced any significant change in their body weight or fat percentage over the period of the study, as you would expect.
Now, the interesting thing is that nowhere in the Diabetes Care report does it mention that the study found that monounsaturated fats decrease belly fat. If you’d like to take a look at the report yourself, you can see a PDF version by clicking here.
The report uses a lot of pretty technical jargon, so let me summarize its findings for you in plain, simple English:
- A high carbohydrate diet was found to increase belly fat and decrease peripheral fat in insulin-resistant people. In other words, it was found to shift their body fat storage from their arms and legs to their trunk, to some degree. (This finding is very interesting, but not shocking, since the connection between insulin-resistance and excessive carb consumption has long been recognized.)
- A diet that’s high in monounsaturated fats was found to help prevent this shift in body fat storage to the central area in insulin-resistant people.
- A diet that’s high in monounsaturated fats was also found to help improve insulin sensitivity (reduce insulin resistance).
So in other words, the study found that a high carb diet increases belly fat in insulin-resistant people, and monounsaturated fats help decrease this effect. I think you’ll agree, that’s not exactly the same thing as actually reducing belly fat, which is what people claim.
It’s unfortunate, but not uncommon in the weight loss industry for organizations and individuals to spin the findings of studies and reports in this way for their own benefit. That’s why it’s important to always keep informed about what’s behind the claims that anyone makes.
The Real Deal on Monounsaturated Fats
OK then, so regardless of whether or not you choose to believe that a belly fat diet rich in monounsaturated fat can help you with your abdominal fat issues, there are a few important points to keep in mind.
First of all, it’s recommended that 20-30% of your daily calorie intake should come from fats. Secondly, you should be focusing most of your fat intake on unsaturated fats, since these are the only healthy dietary fats there are.
What this means is that whether or not losing belly fat is your specific goal, you should ideally be including unsaturated fats in each of your meals anyhow.
So from that point of view, a monounsaturated fat belly fat diet is actually redundant if you’re already eating healthy, balanced meals.
With regards to what type of unsaturated fats you choose, while monounsaturated fats are the more healthy type, it’s very important not to ignore polyunsaturated fats, since these are also beneficial.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids for example, are a very important and necessary part of your diet, and both of these are actually polyunsaturated fats.
Key Belly Fat Diet Ingredient #2
A study done in 2007 involving postmenopausal women found that soy-based shakes can actually help reduce the increase in belly fat experienced as a result of menopause. The results of this study were published in the December 2007 issue of Fertility and Sterility (Fertility and Sterility December 2007, Vol. 88, Issue 6, Pages 1609-1617).
As part of the study, 15 women of average age 55.6, who had been menopausal for between 1 and 5 years, received either a daily soy shake containing 20 grams of soy protein and 160mg of isoflavones, or a placebo shake, for three months.
Isoflavones are compounds that are structurally similar to estrogen. When during menopause your body’s natural level of estrogen drops, isoflavones can compensate by binding to the same receptors, therefore reducing menopause symptoms as a result.
The best way to consume isoflavones is in the form of soy or soy foods, so you can benefit from the other healthy components of soy as well. Soy products have many health benefits, including protection against breast cancer, prostate cancer, menopausal symptoms, heart disease and osteoporosis.
Soy contains many types of isoflavones, but the most beneficial are genistein and daidzein.
At the end of the soy shake study, researchers found that there was no difference in the changes in weight and total body fat of women in the two groups. The women in the soy group however, experienced an average reduction of 14.7 sq. cm in subcutaneous abdominal fat, whereas the women in the placebo group experienced an average increase of 22.9 sq. cm.
The study concluded that soy protein containing isoflavones may prevent the accumulation of total belly fat due to menopause.
According to the lead author of the report, Dr. Cynthia Sites, this is the first report of an effect of soy isoflavones on abdominal body fat distribution in humans.
While this study doesn’t put forward a case for a genuine belly fat diet for menopausal and postmenopausal women, it certainly does suggest that soy can be a very beneficial addition to a diet for helping to minimize belly fat gain.