Visceral fat: Up your lean protein intake to blast belly fat – expert shares best foods
Visceral fat is stored deep in the belly, making it impossible to see. A certain amount of it is necessary as it insulates and protects the vital organs. But too much of it can be dangerous, and it is known to cause complications like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Like subcutaneous fat, which is found just under the skin, it is possible to lower the amount of visceral fat in the body.
One way to do this is through diet.
Health coach at My Juniper, Louise Bula, explained: “Visceral fat is body fat that’s not seen by the naked eye; it’s stored inside your body and around the organs, including the liver and, in some cases, the heart.
“The best way to get rid of and eliminate any visceral fat around the body is to put yourself in a calorie deficit, ensuring that you’re consuming less calories than you are burning throughout the day.”
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More specifically she advised eating lean protein.
“To try and cut down your levels of visceral fat, you should aim to cut down the amount of carbohydrates that you’re eating as part of your regular diet,” she said.
“One of the best foods to eat to combat visceral fat is lean protein, such as beef and chicken, alongside fish – both of which are low in fat.
“Whole grains and nuts are also great protein sources which contain less saturated fat than the protein found in animal sources.
“When it comes to your protein intake, you need to aim for a healthy intake of 0.75-0.83 grams per kilogram (of your body weight), per day.
“Foods that are high in protein will not only help to reduce your levels of visceral fat, but will also help to boost your metabolism and reduce your levels of hunger, meaning that you’re less likely to snack and pick on unhealthier food throughout the day.
“Combining whole grains and nuts with proteins found in lean meat and fish will also increase the level of fullness that you feel.”
Sources of lean protein include:
- Skinless chicken and turkey
- White-fleshed fish including cod and haddock
- Plain Greek yoghurt
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Egg whites.
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This was backed by a study published in the Journals of Gerontology in 2021.
As part of the research, a group of 92 men were fed diets with varying amounts of protein to establish whether this would have an effect on visceral fat accumulation.
It found that those who ate the most protein – 1.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day – lost the most visceral fat.
It concludes: “In our current controlled feeding study of older men using isocaloric diets for 24 weeks, we show that protein intake greater than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) resulted in greater loss of visceral adipose tissue compared to protein intake equal to the RDA.
“Although both visceral and subcutaneous adipose tissue are correlated with metabolic risk, visceral fat remains more strongly associated with an adverse metabolic profile.
“Our study adds to the scarce literature demonstrating that abdominal visceral adipose tissue may be an important pathogenic fat depot that is responsive to a high protein diet.”
It is not possible to know exactly how much visceral fat you have without imaging tests.
However, you can get a rough estimate by measuring your waist using the belly button as a marker – for women 35 inches or more can signal visceral fat and for men it’s 40 inches.
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