Visceral fat, also known as belly fat, is body fat that is stored within the abdominal cavity. It neighbours a number of important internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines. Research has shown that this type of fat plays a distinctive and potentially dangerous role affecting how our hormones function.
Fortunately, you can reduce the harmful belly fat by making healthy dietary interventions.
According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, carotenoid-rich vegetables can help to eliminate the belly fat.
Carotenoids are plant pigments responsible for bright red, yellow and orange hues in many fruits and vegetables.
In the study, researchers investigated the effect of carotenoid-rich vegetables, particularly lycopene and lutein-rich vegetables, on visceral fat.
READ MORE: Get rid of visceral fat: The best foods to reduce the belly fat unveiled
They conducted an eight-week long randomised, double-blinded, controlled clinical trial in which, 28 middle-aged Japanese men with high body mass index were randomised into four dietary groups: high lycopene and high lutein, high lycopene and low lutein, low lycopene and high lutein, and low lycopene and low lutein.
The results showed the visceral fat level was significantly decreased in all the groups.
The waist circumference was significantly decreased only in the high lycopene and high lutein group, however.
In conclusion, the results suggest that dietary uptake of carotenoid-rich vegetables reduces the visceral fat, the researchers wrote.
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How to pack lycopene and high lutein-rich vegetables into your diet
There are more than 600 types of carotenoids but lycopene and lutein have been singled out for their beneficial properties.
Good sources of lutein include kale, spinach, turnip greens, summer squash, pumpkin, paprika, yellow-fleshed fruits and avocado.
Lycopene is a bright red pigment responsible for the colour of watermelons, tomatoes, guavas and grapefruit.
Other good sources include papaya, carrots, asparagus, red cabbage, red bell peppers and parsley.
General dietary tips
If you want to reduce your belly fat, you’ll need to burn more calories (energy) than you consume, and eat the right kinds of food.
Bupa says the following can help you to achieve this:
- Make sure you eat a balanced diet. Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and veg each day, and include higher-fibre starchy foods in meals
- Have some reduced-fat dairy or soya drinks fortified in calcium
- Eat more beans, pulses, fish and eggs
- Eat small amounts of unsaturated oil
- Drink six to eight glasses of water each day
- Avoid adding salt or sugar to your meals.
“And finally, cut out sports drinks, sugar sweetened drinks and other foods that have a lot of added sugar in them,” advises the health body.
“Be aware that low-fat options might have high amounts of added sugar in them.”
To maximise the benefits of eating well, you should engage in regular physical activity.
Studies have shown that you can help trim visceral fat or prevent its growth with both aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) and strength training (exercising with weights).
“Spot exercises, such as sit-ups, can tighten abdominal muscles but won’t get at visceral fat,” reports Harvard Health.
It adds: “Exercise can also help keep fat from coming back.”