Excess belly fat (visceral fat) has been linked to a lot of serious health issues like metabolic disturbance, increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Visceral fat is the fat surrounding the organs in the abdominal cavity. It is not generated only because of unhealthy food choices; lack of sleep and stress have a significant impact on it as well.
There are thousands of articles all over the internet listing ways to reduce visceral fat, but which ones are effective, affordable and easy to incorporate in you daily diet especially in Ramadan? I listed below the food swaps I did last Ramadan in my daily diet to reduce the fat while maintaining enough energy to workout everyday.
Beans are rich in soluble fibre, so having one cup of beans instead of eggs and a toast everyday is a winning swap because soluble fibre was proven to reduce visceral fat when consumed daily (10 grams). Beans are also high in protein which keeps your energy levels high while the starch in them is digested slowly to keep you feeling full for a longer time than the faster-digesting carbohydrates.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich with Vitamin C which reduces cortisol levels (the hormone that is responsible for increasing your belly fat when you’re excessively stressed out). So after a stressful situation, sweet potatoes can actually reduce your cortisol level because of its high Vitamin C content. Instead of French fries, I opted for sweet potato fries which can be made in the oven in less than 20 min and are as delicious as well.
According to a recent study if you incorporate yogurt in your daily meal plan (500gm), you will lose 81% more belly fat and 22% more weight than those who don’t include yogurt in their snacks. So how does this work? The calcium in the yogurt gives a signal to your fat cells to produce less cortisol (the hormone that make you accumulate more fat around the waist) instead of producing more in the case of other alternatives. One important watch out though, sweetened yogurt or the type that has preservatives doesn’t have the above benefits so make sure you get natural yogurt without any added sugar. I started having yogurt instead of ice-cream, milk-shake which gave me a healthier stomach with less inflammations. So yogurt is my hero in this list; read 5 more benefits of yogurt here on my Instagram post last week.
According to a few studies, people who replace more complex carbohydrates with almonds while following a low-calorie diet, lose more weight and belly fat than those who don’t despite consuming the same calorie count. Almonds are high in Fibre, protein and fat so it needs to be consumed in moderate amounts. For me, I replaced the chips, crackers and similar snacks with almonds and sometimes even dessert with energy balls made with just almonds, dates and apple which was a delicious energy boosting snack.
Watermelon has half the amount of carbs in a similar amount of grapes or bananas. Being fat-free and sodium free with 91% water, if you eat a cup of diced watermelon instead of a banana 3 times a week, you’re saving almost 14,000 calories a year. As for belly fat, a research done at the college of Kentucky concluded that drinking 2 glasses of watermelon everyday for 8 weeks resulted in overall weight reduction, particularly in the mid-section with no effect on the muscle mass. I didn’t go as far as 2 glasses per day, but I replaced most of the desserts with watermelon and cheese (the perfect combination).
Going for the above healthy swaps along with exercising made me lose 16 cm from the waist in Ramadan only last year, while maintaining my energy level throughout the day.