Having a certain amount of body fat is healthy. We use it to keep our bodies warm, to burn for energy, and to protect our joints.
With that said, there’s healthy body fat and then there’s unhealthy body fat.
One of the unhealthy fats is called visceral fat and it’s not one you can necessarily see or experience, which makes it a bit more deadly than other types. In fact, visceral fat is so dangerous that it is oftentimes referred to as “active fat” because it can “actively” increase the risk of serious health problems.
The good news is that visceral fat is relatively easy to reduce and manage! While lifestyle changes are an important part of the process — incorporating exercise and stress reduction methods — visceral fat reacts quickly to diet changes. In particular, upping the ante when it comes to veggies, fruits, and whole grains and decreasing causal foods including highly processed products filled with sugar, refined ingredients, and hydrogenated oils.
What is Visceral Fat?
Visceral fat is a “type of body fat that’s stored within the abdominal cavity [and is] located near several vital organs, including the liver, stomach, and intestines,” and it also has a bad habit of building up in our arteries.
There are a variety of reasons why visceral fat accumulates, but most of them have to do with lifestyle choices including “poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress.” Yet, these aren’t the only factors. Visceral fat can also be affected by other lifestyle choices such as overconsumption of alcohol, poor sleep habits, and smoking.
While this may seem overwhelming, it also means that each of us has the power to reduce visceral fat and manage its accumulation.
Visceral Fat versus Subcutaneous Fat
Let’s take a moment to clear up the differences in our “belly fat,” as most people refer to them! There are two different types of fat that make our bellies distend: visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.
While visceral fat surrounds organs, subcutaneous fat collects directly under the skin, oftentimes on the belly, arms, and legs.
We are all born with some subcutaneous fat, yet there are a few factors that determine how much subcutaneous fat you have on your body including genetics, physical activity, and diet. With that said, lifestyle and overall health play a much bigger role. People who are sedentary, don’t have much muscle mass, eat higher calories than they burn, or suffer from diabetes or insulin resistance are more likely to have higher amounts of subcutaneous fat.
Are these two types of “belly fat” interconnected? It all depends. With that said, “people with a large amount of subcutaneous fat often have a large amount of visceral fat,” therefore subcutaneous fat can be a good indicator of your visceral fat health.
Health Side Effects of Visceral Fat
If you can’t really see visceral fat, — unless it’s an extreme case — then why is it important? Turns out that accumulating too much visceral fat can “start causing [serious] health problems immediately.”
Visceral fat causes many unwanted reactions in the body. Researchers believe that this type of fat may secrete a “retinol-binding protein that increases insulin resistance,” which means the chances of developing diabetes or prediabetes drastically increases. It’s also been proven that visceral fat raises blood pressure quickly and collects in your arteries.
These factors lead to all sorts of serious and life-threatening health conditions including heart disease, heart attacks, type 2 diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain cancers, such as breast and colorectal cancer.
Reducing Visceral Fat with Diet
Luckily, the power to manage visceral fat is in your hands!
Visceral fat is extraordinarily “receptive to exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes.” While exercise and lifestyle management techniques are important, switching up to a healthier diet is a great way to launch the process and Support the other two methods of reducing visceral fat.
It’s recommended to begin by eliminating the foods that cause visceral fat accumulation including “processed, high-sugar, high-fat foods.” After you’ve eliminated the bad stuff, try incorporating the good stuff including “more lean proteins, vegetables, and complex carbs like sweet potatoes, beans, and lentils.”
Besides these tips, there are a few more targeted ways to quickly reduce visceral fat.
First off, try adopting a low-carbohydrate diet! Studies have shown that a low-carb diet is more effective than a low-fat diet.
Secondly, try increasing soluble fiber and protein consumption. Both of these nutrients help to naturally suppress the hunger hormone ghrelin, while increasing the fullness hormones GLP-1, PYY, and cholecystokinin. This means you can naturally decrease caloric intake to promote healthy weight management and reduction in visceral fat.
Lastly, try incorporating either probiotic-rich foods — such as fermented foods like sauerkraut, Natto, and kefir — or a probiotic supplement. While probiotics are mostly recognized for their ability to boost gut health, it’s also been noted that probiotics can help to “reduce dietary fat absorption in the gut, increasing how much of it you excrete in feces.”
4 Best Types of Plant-Based Foods for Reducing Visceral Fat (With Recipes)
Now that you’re aware of visceral fat — maybe you’re even on board with changing up your diet — it’s time to talk about the actual food! While switching to a plant-based diet is a great start, — it naturally increases your intake of fruits, veggies, and whole grains, while decreasing processed foods — it’s also important to focus on the aforementioned nutrients — healthy carbs, protein, soluble fiber, and fermented foods. Here are a few great sources!
1. Complex Carbohydrates
Complex carbs encompass a rather large category! With that said, if you’re looking to incorporate a low-carb diet to reduce visceral fat, this narrows down the playing field.
Focus on complex carbs sourced from fruits and veggies rather than whole grains, as well as those that also provide dietary fiber and are low in sugar. Some good options include broccoli, leafy greens, zucchini, carrots, apples, berries, and bananas. If you’re looking something a bit bulkier, try incorporating a mixture of beans. While these are a bit higher on the carb side, they’re also a rich source of dietary fiber and protein!
Looking to go low carb with complex carbs? Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started: Miso-Turmeric Glazed Eggplant With Spicy Chickpeas, Skillet-Roasted Chilli Carrots, Rajma Pulao With Cauliflower Rice, Chilled Zucchini, Orange, and Basil Soup, and Harissa Roasted Potato, Okra, and Broccoli.
Looking to drop that visceral fat? It’s time to get your protein fixing on!
Protein is one of the best nutrients to help reduce visceral fat, as well as Support a more active and healthy lifestyle. If you’re practicing a strictly plant-based diet, then you’ll want to really hone in on some powerful natural sources of protein such as tofu, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts, almonds, quinoa, chia and hemp seeds, and potatoes. There are also a handful of less commonly recognized sources of plant-based protein such as spirulina, seitan, and mycoprotein.
Try a few of these high-fiber recipes: Baked Tofu Bites, Tempeh Salad, Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Onions, Quinoa with Stir-Fried Vegetables, Red Vegetables with Lentils, Tahini Vanilla Blondies, Coconut Black Bean Brownies, or these Roasted Greek Cauliflower Wraps With Hummus.
3. Soluble Fiber
When it comes to increasing your soluble fiber intake, you’ll notice there’s quite a bit of cross-over between complex carbs and protein. This means that if you’ve already switched to complex carbs and increased your protein intake, then you’ve most likely naturally increased your intake of soluble fiber.
Another huge benefit of a plant-based diet!
With that said, there are a handful of foods that you can actively incorporate in order to make sure you’re hitting that soluble fiber mark. These include some carby foods, — such as black beans, sweet potatoes, oats, and lima beans — some veggies, — such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, turnips, and carrots — some fruits, — such as avocado, pears, figs, apples, and nectarines — and some nuts and seeds — such as flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts.
Try a few of these soluble fiber-rich recipes: Buffalo Brussels Sprouts, Chickpea Turnip Meatballs, Baked Sweet Potato and Apple, Quinoa Pear Salad, Fig and Walnut No-Knead Bread, or this Coconut Hemp Milk.
4. Probiotic-Rich Food
When it comes to probiotics, there’s lots of debate around the effectiveness of natural sources. If your diet is rich in fermented foods — such as sauerkraut, kefir, Natto, kimchi, kombucha, and miso — then you probably have a better chance of absorbing those gut-enriching probiotics. Unfortunately, most of us in the states don’t regularly eat fermented foods, therefore it may be a good idea to consider incorporating a good probiotic supplement into your diet.
Of course, always check with a medical professional, nutritionist, or dietitian before starting a new supplement!
If you’re truly looking to go all-natural with your probiotics try incorporating daily doses of yogurt, — such as this Homemade Probiotic Cashew Yogurt, 4-Ingredient Probiotic Oat Yogurt, or this Probiotic Blueberry Yogurt Bites — kefir, — such as this Soy Milk Kefir or this Water Kefir — sauerkraut and/or kimchi — such as this Simple Sauerkraut, Raw Purple Sauerkraut, Homemade Kimchi, or this Cucumber Kimchi — miso, — such as this Chickpea Miso Noodle Soup or this Miso Cilantro Edamame Dip — or kombucha, — such as this Cran-Pomegranate Kombucha Mocktail, Blackberry Kombucha Pops, or this Raw Kombucha Banana Ice Cream Float.
If you’re interested in learning a bit more about a healthy, plant-based diet, try taking a good read of the following articles:
- Mastering Intermittent Fasting on a Plant-Based Diet
- 7 Plant-Based Foods That Can Help You Slim Down, No Dieting Required
- Guide to Weekly Plant-Based Meal Plans: By Diet Type
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Trying to Lose Weight? Make These 10 Healthy Plant-Based Dishes
- 5 Amazing Health Benefits of Embracing a Plant-Based Diet
- Free Your Mind: How a Plant-Based Diet Rejuvenates the Brain
- 5 Plant-Based Foods to Aid Weight Loss
- High Protein Archives
- Low Carb Archives
- High Fiber Archives
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
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