Tummy fat is not only the most stubborn, it's also the most dangerous - especially as we age. It's time to beat the bulge for good!
For years we’ve been told that the best way to work out our body fat is to look at our BMI – the height to weight ratio tool that tells us if we’re overweight or healthy. But that could soon be flipped on its head after studies have found the best way to monitor body fat is to actually instead use the waist to height ratio.
The study, conducted by Cass Business School at City University in London, claims that those who have a waist to height ratio of 80 per cent or more could be reducing their life expectancy by as much as 20 years! Yikes – time to read up on our top tummy flattening foods and tips, then…
The new method of analysing body fat takes into account the difference between fat and muscle, something which a BMI measurement doesn’t do, and argues that a healthy ratio is a waist which measures half or less than your height. That’s because a too-high waist circumference can be seriously damaging to your health. But don’t fret if that’s you – we’ve got all the tummy flattening foods and tips you need to shrink your waistline.
So, what does the new body fat measurer actually mean? For example, a woman at 5ft 4in should have a waist measurement of 32in in order to be deemed healthy, and any increase in this could risk her life expectancy dramatically.
So what happens when we get older and hormones increase the fat around our middles?
As we age, fat moves from the hips and thighs towards our stomachs as the hormone oestrogen falls before and during menopause, resulting in an increase of visceral fat around the middle and internal organs. A decrease in levels of oestrogen can also increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol, another belly fattening factor, and growth hormones decline which is also a major contributor to our waist measurements.
But despite age and other factors, dropping your waist measurement to help you achieve a healthy waist to height ratio could be easier than you think.
Read on for our the best tummy flattening foods and belly busting tips and tricks for a slimmer, healthier you…
Try and incorporate calcium into your diet everyday. Scientists say eating five portions of low-fat dairy a day (natural yogurt, skimmed cows or goats milk, cottage cheese) can kickstart weight loss as part of a healthy diet and research has found that calcium in a woman's diet helps reduce the chances of gaining visceral fat.
Not getting enough sleep could be one of the biggest contributing factors towards weight gain. The body needs at least seven hours a night to prevent an increase in levels of ghrelin in the body - the hormone that tells our brains we're hungry and need to eat. Not enough sleep can also decrease levels of leptin in the body, the hormone which tells the brain it's full. We want high levels to keep hunger at bay!
Find it hard to have a restful nights sleep? Try our top tips of getting seven hours of shut eye a night.
Another big contributing factor towards increasing waistlines is insulin resistance. Folate, or folic acid, dramatically helps to tackle this and can be a big help in the quest for a smaller tummy. Try adding folate-rich foods such as asparagus into your daily diet.
Stocking up on omega-3 in both natural form (fish) or supplements (fish oil) has been proven to help weight loss. It is argued that the increase of omega-3 in the system helps to improve blood flow, stimulating fat transporting enzymes to the places needed for energy so it's burned rather than stored up.
Foods packed full of fibre help us to feel full so we don't overeat, reducing the chances of gaining weight around our middle. Fibre rich foods, like seaweed, also regulate blood sugar levels ensuring those afternoon cravings stay well away.
Try and eat lean protein like tuna, turkey, eggs or chicken, in every meal. It's thought people who eat a diet rich in these foods (and combine them with other bloat-beating foods like green vegetables) often have smaller waists because lean protein encourages fat-burning. Red meat, though, has the opposite effect. Protein in every meal also helps to control our blood-sugar levels.
Just changing your diet isn't enough - we need to get up and exercise on a regular basis to fight visceral fat. One of the key proven methods is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which shocks the body into burning fat. Weight training is also key for beating the belly as it increases calorie-burning tissues. Need some inspiration? Check out these amazing classes which are on at gyms up and down the country.
Dieters often shun nuts, but snacking on a handful of almonds won't make tummy fat worse. In fact, you'll find you eat less throughout the day because they're nutrient-rich and filling, so losing inches all over will be a cinch.
A simple diet that will have you looking (and feeling) trim in no time! Swap the processed carbs found in white bread, pasta and rice for wholegrain foods and brown rice. Research suggests it's the easiest way to get a streamline tum.
Believe it or not adding a little oil to that salad can work wonders on your waistline, but it needs to be a certain type. Safflower and coconut oils have been found to have belly-flattening effects, especially in women, when eaten - or taken as a supplement - every day. Extra-virgin olive oil can also help to control insulin levels in the body when eaten everyday, a great belly busting ingredient to add to meals.
A cup of mint tea is the best thing to drink after a heavy meal because it helps aid digestion, banishing that uncomfortable bloated feeling. Try a peppermint supplement in the morning to keep you regular too.
Filling grains like wheat might encourage bloating, but oats do the opposite. Try a oat-based cereal like granola for breakfast. Just watch out for diet-busting additives like sugar, or salt which causes water retention.
A spice the A-listers swear by for a washboard stomach, cinnamon encourages the body to burn fat rather than store it and helps regulate insulin production, according to recent studies. Sprinkle over your cereal.
Potassium is a wonder mineral when it comes to trimming your tum. Not only does it aid water retention but also gives the body a boost. Bananas are often touted as an easy way to get a potassium fix, but half a melon contains nearly twice as much!
We all know tomatoes are a superfood, but did you know that they can help fight tummy fat too? Tomatoes are packed with a type of protein called leptin which regulates metabolic rate, supressing the body's appetite. Slice in to a sandwich to get your fix.