Foods that will melt your gut

Tom Fontaine
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
With age and a 'relaxed' approach to exercise comes one of men's greatest fears — the gut. Here are the foods you need to get it back under control.

There comes a time in every man's life — usually mid- to late-20s — when he realises that he's no longer able to eat whatever he wants and still maintain a washboard stomach. Suddenly, it's there, the executive paunch — and it'll take more than a few sit-ups to get rid of it. "Unfortunately, as we get older, there is a natural decline in our metabolic rate," says personal trainer Gavin Walsh. "Men stop being as active and, because we're predisposed to storing fat around our waist, we develop a gut. Unfortunately it's not possible to pick a body part and target it with exercise.

You can do all the sit-ups in the world, but if your body fat is too high (over 15 percent) then you're unlikely to see your abs. Instead, focus on your fitness with a combination of resistance training and high intensity cardio and, crucially, cut out all the junk from your diet.

"They say abs are built in the kitchen, and this emphasises the importance of good nutrition. The best thing a person can do is to start eating 'real food' - no more processed foods, E numbers or hydrogenated fat. If it wasn't around 100 years ago then don't eat it."

Oily fish
Most of us know that omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish like tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines boost brain function, but did you know that they also switch on our fat-loss enzymes? Walsh says: "Fish is an excellent source of omega-3s, although to get the desired amount to trigger fat-loss enzymes you would need to eat fish almost every day, so you might want to consider taking a supplement."

Nutritionist Cara Lewis, meanwhile, has this advice: "Healthy adults should consume at least two portions of fish a week. Try grilling and serving with potato wedges and peas, mix into a fish pie or pile onto granary toast with fresh tomatoes."

Liquorice tea
Instead of guzzling a fatty latte in the morning, choose a hot drink which helps to burn, rather than feed, body fat. Recent research shows that liquorice tea can help to stimulate fat metabolism around the abdominal area. Published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, one study found that mice fed liquorice flavonoids were able to enjoy a high-fat diet without accumulating excess stomach fat. — Green tea, meanwhile, is another great belly buster. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that green tea drinkers lost significantly more abdominal fat than others also on a calorie-controlled diet, again due to antioxidants in the hot beverage.

Green foods
Green foods such as wheat grass are thought to aid the fat burning process because they are rich in chlorophyll, a nutrient known to increase metabolism. And, as Walsh explains, they help to correct imbalances in the body which are stopping you from losing weight.

"If a person eats a lot of junk, chances are their hormones aren't going to be functioning as well as they should be," Walsh says. "Of course too many calories plays a huge role, but hormone balance is also pivotal. By eating 'real foods' you can begin to restore the balance. Green foods have an alkalising effect and are especially useful for those who have been eating junk for a long time. Foods like wheat grass, barley grass and alfalfa will help restore hormone balance and improve metabolism."

Drinking plenty of water helps to detoxify the body and prevent fluid retention. It's also a much healthier alternative to alcohol, too much of which is one of the primary causes of midriff weight gain. It's called 'beer belly' for a reason, Walsh explains. "The liquid calories soon add up and a night on the town often leads to poor food choices.

Another big issue with alcohol is increased cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the stress hormone that is responsible for waistline weight. If you want results, cut out booze for a month or even longer." If you're out socialising, swap booze for water or another soft drink, or, if you really can't do without an alcoholic beverage, down a glass of water between drinks or sit out the odd round.

Your diet should focus on eating fewer processed carbohydrates (such as white bread, pasta and rice) and more protein-rich foods like poultry. Walsh says: "Protein-rich foods help us stay full as they take longer to digest and send signals to the brain letting it know we are no longer hungry. Foods like chicken and turkey also help us recover from strenuous workouts and promote muscle growth, so that flabby stomach will soon turn to muscle if you work out and eat the right foods."

Lewis adds: "Poultry is naturally lean and, consumed as part of a balanced diet, it provides vitamins and minerals with low levels of fat. Just make sure you use low fat cooking methods to avoid adding unnecessary calories. Other good sources of protein include eggs, pulses and low fat dairy produce."

Fruit sugars
It's a myth that fruit, because it contains natural sugars, will derail your weight loss regime. Walsh says: "If fat loss is your goal then fruit should be your only sugar source and you can be pretty liberal with fresh fruit. Yes, it's true that high levels of sugar will increase fat storage but I've yet to come across someone who eats too much fruit and gets fat as a result."

Lewis agrees. "Fruit is a low calorie option and replacing high fat and sugar snacks with fruit throughout the day is a great way to maintain intake of vitamins and fibre and ultimately shed fat as a result," she says.

Broccoli, and other vegetables like cauliflower, carrots and squashes, is packed to the gunnels with fibre, which has been shown to decrease blood cholesterol and promote good bacteria in the gut. Eating a fibre-rich diet will also keep weight gain under control.

Lewis says: "Fibre gives a sense of satiety, helping you feel fuller for longer, and as high fibre foods tend to be less energy dense, they will help you to control your calorie intake." Although wholegrain bread, pasta and rice contain fibre, you should look to get most of your dietary fibre from fruit and vegetables.

The acidity in grapefruit is thought to slow digestion, meaning it takes longer for the body to process so your appetite will stay satisfied and you'll be less likely to snack on unhealthy treats that add extra paunch to your waistline.

Meanwhile, research carried out at the University of Ontario showed that grapefruit possesses a natural talent for fat-burning; mice fed with flavonoids (which are rampant in grapefruit) lost weight while other mice remained as lardy as they were before the experiment.

Belly fat thrives on refined, processed carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and rice, so switch to wholegrain alternatives, including quinoa (pronounced keen-wa). Quinoa looks like a cross between couscous and lentils and is available in most supermarkets. Researchers at Penn State University in the US found that dieters eating wholegrains lost double the amount of abdominal fat as those sticking to white. What makes quinoa even more special is its high levels of protein, keeping hunger pangs at bay between meals and promoting lean muscle growth.

So there you have it — the top tips and advice from the experts on how to keep your waistline in check and sort out that gut.

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