Do you want to know how to get rid of your muffin top? Start with these nine delicious and nutritious foods for a flatter belly!
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In this article:
- What Is a Muffin Top?
- Food First: Eating for a Flat Belly
- Change Your Diet to Prevent Health Risks
Get Rid of a Muffin Top by Eating These 9 Foods
What Is a Muffin Top?
A lot of people deal with a muffin top on a daily basis. It’s a common scenario: you’re dressed and ready to go, giving yourself that once-over in the mirror before heading out the door.
There’s just one little problem.
Despite the fact that your clothes fit perfectly everywhere else, an annoying roll of flab is spilling over the waistband of your pants. That muffin top is rearing its ugly head, and you’re convinced everyone else notices it, too.
Many women wonder why this “spare tire” shows up as they start getting older. Even when you’re eating clean and religiously using your Ab Master, it’s not uncommon to see extra belly fat growing as the years go by.
The pudge that accumulates around the abdominal area tends to be from visceral fat — the type of fat that surrounds your organs and increases your risk for high blood pressure, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, and even dementia.
It’s All About the Hormones
So what causes visceral fat even when you’re exercising like a maniac and eating right? In a nutshell, it all comes down to your hormones.
Several different hormones can contribute to midsection fat, but three power players tend to rule the game:
- Leptin, which lets your brain know you’ve had enough to eat and decides whether to use food as fuel or store it in your abdomen
- Cortisol, which can feed a muffin top when there’s too much of this “stress” hormone floating around (Belly fat cells contain four times more cortisol receptors compared with other cells!)
- Insulin, which keeps visceral fat stored securely where it is (and where it’s unwanted!) and hikes your risk for metabolic syndrome
What is metabolic syndrome? It is an umbrella term for different risk factors associated with many chronic diseases. These can include obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
With elevated insulin levels and cortisol acting like your enemy, that muffin top’s not going anywhere.
Food First: Eating for a Flat Belly
Before I talk about what foods you should eat to help minimize that tummy flab, it’s also important to know what you shouldn’t be noshing on.
Ditching the muffin top includes getting rid of what I call the “white stuff,” which sends insulin levels soaring. These include foods with sugar such as pastries, cookies, cake, bread, rice, and potatoes.
I’m not suggesting you can never eat a sandwich again, but a diet generally high in processed carbohydrates and sugar paves the way for midsection fat and increases your risk for disease.
To break the fat-storing cycle, turn to the following foods:
1. Wild Salmon
With high-quality protein that stabilizes blood sugar and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, wild salmon is helpful for regulating insulin. Human intervention trials also show that supplementing with omega-3 can help reduce visceral fat.
Rich in healthy monounsaturated fat, potassium, and other nutrients, one cup of avocado also contains 10 grams of filling, fat-busting fiber. A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that adolescents who ate more fiber experienced reduced visceral fat and inflammation.
3. Raw Nuts
Loaded with healthy fats, fiber, and protein, raw almonds and other nuts and seeds help stabilize blood sugar and make a delicious snack. Nuts and seeds are also rich in magnesium, a mineral most of us are deficient in.
A study in the journal Magnesium Research found a high-fructose diet with low magnesium levels is a combo that increases inflammation and promotes fat storage in the belly.
4. Green Tea
You’ll need to drink a good amount to get those benefits, so supplementing might be the way to go.
A University of Michigan study found obese rats had lower visceral fat triglycerides and improved insulin sensitivity after eating a blueberry-enriched powder for 90 days. Blueberries add real fiber and a phytonutrient punch to your protein shakes or Greek yogurt.
Frozen blueberries can be just as effective as the fresh ones when it comes to boosting fat and weight loss. You can use them as snacks or make some baked blueberry cheesecake.
Eggs are high-protein foods with very low calories, so you can eat up to three of them a day without a problem (as long as you’re healthy). They are high in satiety index, which makes them an excellent breakfast meal.
What is the satiety index? It is a scale that measures the duration in which food can leave you feeling full and not hungry after eating.
A 2002 study further revealed high-protein diets, such as those with eggs, can also reduce belly fat through their thermogenic effect. This means you can sit in front of your PC and still burn more fat than those on a low-fat, high-carb diet.
If you find the taste of eggs lacking, you can add more fats by making it sunny side up with coconut oil or scrambled eggs with grass-fed butter. Note, though, adding these can also increase the food’s calorie count.
A lot of people tire themselves in their cardio workout or other muffin top exercises to no avail. The reason is simple: they can’t quit refined grains and wheat.
If this is you, then quinoa makes an excellent substitute, especially for those who want a gluten-free diet. This grain crop is high in protein and fiber but low in sugar or glycemic index.
It also contains an amino acid called betaine. This amino acid can lower the levels of homocysteine, which studies associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
It converts homocysteine into a type of methionine, which is essential in improving liver function. The liver plays a significant role in reducing the appearance of muffin top by regulating fat storage, among others.
Other studies suggest betaine may encourage the growth of muscle mass, so you can also get rid of the subcutaneous fat. Quinoa also makes a good complement to your physical activity or interval training exercises.
If you love baking, you can combine baking soda and baking powder with some mashed banana instead of brown sugar. Both are sweet, but the fruit can have lower calories.
Bananas do have sugar, but their glycemic index is only somewhere between low and medium. They don’t cause significant glucose spikes.
What is the glycemic index? It is a measure of how fast or slow food can affect your blood sugar levels.
The green variety, meanwhile, has high levels of resistant starch, which is a complex chain of sugar the body cannot digest.
This makes the fruit a form of soluble fiber, slowing down the absorption of glucose. A 2015 study revealed that resistant starch can also enhance fat oxidation, especially when paired with protein.
You can also learn how to get rid of a muffin top by eating your greens, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli. These foods contain massive loads of vitamins and antioxidants, which can reduce chronic inflammation.
A 2007 study cited a link between belly fat formation and chronic inflammation. The latter can increase the chances of metabolic syndrome.
Greens are also filling but low in calories, so you can add them to your favorite foods, including a portion of red meat, and make the meals healthier.
You can also make them into smoothies and use Alkalizing Greens and combine the powder with equally nutritious fat-burning foods such as blueberries and bananas.
Change Your Diet to Prevent Health Risks
You can never underestimate the dangers of having belly fat. It won’t just affect your waist but also other parts of the body such as your hips, knees, and feet.
You may even damage the other internal organs such as the liver and pancreas. The fat can accumulate around them and secrete its own hormones.
Some people rely only on the belly button or muffin top exercises and strength exercises to help get rid of them. Others succeed, especially when they learn to target certain muscle groups or work with the right fitness trainer.
In many cases, however, they gain back all the weight they lost simply because of poor diet.
So while it may seem frustrating that you can’t melt away that belly fat with good old-fashioned crunches, know that your diet and hormones are the true gatekeepers to a flat tummy. Turn to these fat-busting foods, and you’ll send the muffin top packing in no time.
What are your favorite fat-burning recipes? Share them in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 17, 2015, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.