Not only is belly fat extremely unattractive, but visceral fat is the deadliest kind. Here are 10 foods you can eat that will fight visceral belly fat NOW!
Not surprisingly, nutrition behaviors and food intake appear to have a direct impact on belly fat and what’s more, studies that combine regular physical activity with diet interventions (i.e., resistance and/or aerobic exercise PLUS a reduced-calorie diet) result in even more significant reductions in visceral belly fat than either individually.
As cited above, poor insulin sensitivity and carbohydrate tolerance coincide with excessive belly fat, and there’s evidence to suggest that diets rich in refined carbohydrates (e.g., sugar-sweetened beverages) may selectively promote the storage of belly fat.
In addition, excessive consumption of saturated fats also appears to be linked to visceral belly fat storage.
Conversely, researchers have shown that replacing saturated fats with more monounsaturated fats (i.e., Mediterranean diet using these 4 specific fats) prevents visceral belly fat gain despite consuming an equal number of calories.
Additionally, adherence to the Mediterranean diet has been shown to be associated with lower waist circumference values independent of body weight in both men and women.
Perhaps overtly obvious long-term energy excess (i.e., overconsumption of calories) also leads to increases in overall body fatness and increases in abdominal obesity and along those lines, research suggests that reduced-calorie diets (regardless of macronutrient composition) are effective at decreasing abdominal obesity.
With that said, there is evidence that higher-protein (i.e., > 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day), “controlled carbohydrate” (i.e., <40% of calories from carbohydrate) reduced-calorie diets may be more effective at reducing visceral fat.
While overall nutritional factors like those outlined above seem to play a role, it’s a bit less clear as to whether body fat distribution patterns can be influenced by specific foods/nutrients.
Having said that, the following lists of foods can be a solid foundation to be used along with an overall healthy diet, regular physical activity, and routine stress management strategies to help fight visceral belly fat.
1. Cold-Water Fatty Fish
In one study, researchers from France evaluated the effects of supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids on the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and stress hormones.
They found that three weeks of omega-3 supplementation significantly blunted cortisol and sympathetic nervous system activity when participants were challenged with a mental task.
In a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers from Gettysburg College assessed the effects of supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids on cortisol levels.
After 6 weeks of supplementation, they found that participants’ levels of cortisol were reduced.
Not only that, participants who supplemented with fish oil also significantly reduced body fat and increased calorie-burning lean mass.
As previously noted, chronically elevated levels of cortisol may specifically contribute to abdominal obesity.
What’s more, elevated cortisol levels have been shown to be positively associated with abdominal sagittal (waist) diameter and waist-to-hip ratio, two indicators of visceral fat and abdominal obesity.
According to a review study published in the journal Nutrients, South Australian researchers concluded that there is “considerable” evidence from animal studies indicating that supplementation with omega-3 fats (i.e., EPA, DHA) can reduce body fat, in particular visceral belly fat.
The researchers cited several studies where omega-3 fats had a protective effect against fat accumulation.
In other words, in studies where animals overfed high-fat, high-calorie diets supplemented with omega-3s, they experienced significantly less belly fat accumulation compared to without.
That’s great, but what about humans like you and I? Good news.
There is indeed evidence—and it’s growing to boot—indicating that increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids (by 0.3 – 3.0 grams per day) can reduce body fat, particularly abdominal fat, in overweight and obese folks.
For instance, in a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Spain found that abdominal obesity was inversely related to the omega-3 (particularly DHA) intake.
In a follow-up study, the researchers found that omega-3 intake was inversely related to the size of fat cells in overweight and obese adults.
Taken together, these findings suggest that a higher omega-3 intake is associated with reduced visceral belly fat as a result of a decrease in the size of fat cells.
In a randomized controlled trial published in the journal International Journal of Obesity, researchers from Iceland investigated the effects of including seafood and fish oil as part of a reduced-calorie diet on weight loss in young overweight adults.
The researchers found that the addition of fatty fish (5.3 ounces of salmon 3 times per week) or fish oil (1.5g of EPA and DHA per day) for 8 weeks resulted in significantly greater weight loss and reductions in waist circumference (i.e., visceral fat) compared to diet alone (without the addition of omega-3 fats).
Even more compelling, a recent meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials published in the journal PLoS One provides additional evidence that omega-3 fats may reduce visceral belly fat.
For instance, 8 studies (including 624 participants) investigated the effects of fish oil supplementation on waist circumference combined with a weight-loss program (e.g., diet, exercise).
The results demonstrated that fish oil had a significant additional effect in reducing waist circumference, a measure of abdominal obesity, in combination with a weight-loss program.
In other words, fish oil plus diet and/or exercise had a greater effect than diet and/ or exercise alone.
What’s more, this comprehensive review also found that fish oil supplementation had a significant effect on waist-to-hip ratio, another important metric of visceral belly fat and overall health.
The results of 17 different studies (with over 1,000 participants) showed that supplementation with omega-3 fats significantly reduces waist to-hip ratio both as standalone treatment and when combined with a weight-loss program.
Taken together, the researchers concluded that folks “may benefit from reducing belly fat with fish oil supplementation especially when combined with life modification intervention” (e.g., diet and exercise).
2. Pasture-Raised Meat & Eggs
Research illustrates quite clearly and convincingly that increasing dietary protein intake to at least TWICE the RDA (i.e., ≥ 1.6g/ kg or 0.72 g/lb) may be “metabolically advantageous,” particularly for individuals looking to improve body composition as well as physically active folks.
Higher protein diets have been shown to:
- Accelerate fat loss and spare lean body mass while following a reduced-calorie diet.
- Attenuate weight regain and contribute to long-term weight maintenance.
- Optimize 24-hour muscle protein synthesis and facilitate the maintenance or building of muscle mass, which is critical for preserving metabolic rate and preventing weight regain.
- Boost metabolic rate.
- Preserve metabolic rate after weight loss.
- Increase satiety and improve appetite control.
- Improve carbohydrate metabolism and glycemic regulation.
In addition, there’s evidence that protein intake may be particularly effective against belly fat.
For instance, in a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from Denmark assessed the diet and macronutrient intake on waist circumference among a large group (over 40,000) of people over the course of 5 years.
They found that, besides fruit and vegetable intake, only protein intake (specifically, animal protein) was inversely associated with belly fat.
In addition, a recent study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism demonstrated that the amount of quality protein consumed was inversely related to abdominal fat.
In other words, people who ate more high-quality protein had less belly fat.
And when it comes to quality protein (e.g., amino acid profile, digestibility), animal proteins (such as meat and eggs) are at the top of the list.
When buying meat and eggs, it’s best to purchase products from pasture-raised animals whenever possible.
In a recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Nutrition, a group of researchers critically analyzed data from 67 different studies comparing the composition of organic (i.e., grass-fed, pasture-raised) and nonorganic (i.e., conventional) meat products.
They found that meat from pasture-raised animals contained 47% more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional meat products.
Further, several studies have examined the nutritional content of eggs from pastureraised hens compared to eggs from commercial caged chickens.
In a study conducted by researchers in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, eggs from pastureraised hens were shown to have 2 ½ times more omega-3 fats and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats.
3. Pasture-Raised Dairy
Numerous studies have shown an inverse association between dairy intake and abdominal obesity.
Even more interesting—and perhaps counterintuitive—is that recent research has shown that a high intake of dairy fat (e.g., full-fat milk and yogurt) is associated less belly fat.
Also like meat and eggs, it’s best to choose products from organic, pasture-raised animals when possible.
A recent systematic review found that organic milk was significantly higher than conventional milk in omega-3 fats, by an estimated 56%.
Even more, organic milk contained an estimated 41% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
CLA has been shown to improve body composition (i.e., reduce body fat, increase lean body mass), enhance immunity, and promote a healthy inflammatory response.
Even more, there is also some evidence that CLA may reduce visceral belly fat.
4. Whey Protein
Protein quality refers to the balance of amino acids, the digestibility of the protein to release amino acids for absorption, and the availability of the absorbed amino acids for protein synthesis.
Protein quality is also often defined as a protein’s capacity to provide essential/indispensable amino acids, arguably the most important of which is leucine.
Traditionally, there have been several measures to assess protein quality, including Protein Efficiency Ratio, Biological Value, Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), and most recently, the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score, or DIAAS, which has been suggested to be “ostensibly superior” to the previously more commonly used PDCAAS.
Regardless of which scale is used, animal-based proteins, such as milk (e.g., whey), eggs, and beef) rank at the top with the highest scores.
For instance, DIAAS scores for whey, eggs, and beef are all above 100% whereas plant-based proteins typically fall below 80%.
Whey is an ideal source of protein because it is rapidly-digesting, and it contains the highest concentration of leucine (13.6%).
Considering that whey protein is such a high-quality protein (remember, intake of quality protein has been shown to be inversely related to belly fat) and comes from dairy (remember, dairy intake seems to be inversely related to abdominal fat as well), it shouldn’t come as much of surprise that whey may help ward off belly fat.
In a recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers from Finland assessed the effects of whey protein supplementation on adaptations to resistance training over the course of 12 weeks in healthy men.
The men consumed a whey protein shake (or placebo) immediately after exercise, which they performed 2 – 3 times per week.
While both groups gained muscle size and strength, the group supplementing with whey protein lost significantly more total fat and belly fat at the end of the study.
In addition, whey has been shown to provide numerous other health benefits:
- Supporting muscle strength, size, and recovery
- Promoting appetite control
- Aiding in fat loss and weight management
- Promoting healthy aging
- Providing immune support
- Promoting glycemic control and carbohydrate management
- Supporting cardiovascular health
5. Coconut Oil
While once shunned because of its saturated fat content (more on that below), coconut oil is now lauded as a “miracle” food; some may even go so far as to call it a “cure” for [insert health concern here].
While it may not be the “magic bullet” that some would lead you to believe, there may be something to the “coconut craze.”
Combined with an overall healthy diet, there are a number of health benefits that may be conferred by regularly consuming virgin coconut oil.
Coconut oil is principally made up of saturated fat (about 92%), with as much as 70% of that being a special type of fat called medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), or medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), making coconut oil unique among dietary fats.
You see, unlike long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), which are the more common fats found in foods, MCTs are easily burned for energy and are far less likely to be stored as fat.
Furthermore, in the scientific community, MCTs are viewed as “functional” fats that provide a host of health benefits, as they have been shown to lower body weight, improve markers of metabolic health, reduce belly fat (i.e., visceral fat), and improve insulin sensitivity.
In other words, all fats are not created equally, and coconut oil is a very rich source of this unique, health-promoting saturated fat.
Research suggests that the MCTs found in coconut oil have a significant metabolismboosting effect. In one study, researchers found that consuming MCTs increased metabolism more than eating LCFAs from other foods.
As a matter of fact, the participants who consumed MCTs lost significantly more weight and burned more fat than the group consuming LCTs.1
Researchers have also found that consuming just 1 – 2 tablespoons daily of MCTs can elevate the metabolism by as much as 5%, which may mean burning an additional 150 calories or more per day.
In addition to short-term feeding studies showing an acute rise in calorie burning with MCTs, research has shown that this elevation in metabolism continues even over prolonged periods of time.
What’s particularly interesting is that this increase in energy expenditure appears to be met by a subsequent increase in fat burning.
The MCTs in coconut oil may also suppress appetite, which may be related to their conversion in the liver to ketone bodies (more on that in a moment).
In one crossover trial, researchers assessed whether increasing the amount of MCTs in the diet influenced food intake under free living conditions.
They found that when men at the most MCTs, they consumed, on average, over 250 fewer calories per day.
In a crossover trial published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from France found that when they added MCTs to a standardized breakfast, men ate significantly fewer calories at lunch compared to when they ate the same breakfast with LCFAs.
Numerous other studies have shown that the addition of MCTs promotes satiety, resulting in an involuntary reduction in food intake.
With potential beneficial impacts on both aspects of the energy balance equation (i.e., more calories burned, fewer calories consumed), it may be little surprise that there’s evidence that coconut oil may promote weight loss.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial published in the journal Lipids, a group of Brazilian researchers found that women who consumed two tablespoons of coconut oil per day for 12 weeks while following a reduced-calorie diet and including daily exercise lost significantly more belly fat compared to the placebo group (i.e., diet and exercise alone).
In another study, researchers from Malaysia found that men who added 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to their normal diets for 4 weeks significantly reduced belly fat.
Furthermore, numerous randomized controlled trials have shown that supplementing the diet with MCTs (like those found in coconut oil) leads to greater weight loss and reductions in belly fat than other fats (e.g., LCFAs, including olive oil, soybean oil, canola oil, and corn oil), effects likely due to MCTs’ ability to increase metabolic rate (i.e., calorie expenditure) and fat burning and suppress appetite.
6. Apple Cider Vinegar
Research has shown that vinegar may promote weight loss by suppressing appetite, delaying gastric emptying, or exerting a “carb blocking” effect by inhibiting certain carbohydrate digesting enzymes.
Perhaps the most noteworthy benefits of apple cider vinegar relate to its effects on carbohydrate management.
Recent research even suggests that an individual’s glycemic response may be a key variable in determining the best diet for that person.
Even more, emerging evidence suggests that the better one’s carb tolerance, the more carbs that s/he can eat while still losing fat.
Research has also shown that poor insulin sensitivity, carbohydrate intolerance, and poor glycemic control can lead to weight gain, reduce energy levels, increase appetite, increase cravings, and more.
Vinegar has been shown to possess numerous benefits for insulin function and glycemic control.
In one study, researchers from Arizona State University found that participants’ insulin sensitivity improved by as much as 34% when they consumed apple cider vinegar (about four teaspoons) before a carbohydrate-containing meal compared to when they ate the same meal without apple cider vinegar.
In a randomized crossover trial published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that consuming apple cider vinegar before eating white bread (providing 50 grams of carbohydrate) reduced participants’ glycemic response by 31% compared to when the white bread was eaten without vinegar.
Numerous additional studies have fortified the ability of apple cider vinegar (as little as two teaspoons) to significantly improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the glycemic response when taken before a carbohydrate-containing meal.
In addition to its effects on carbohydrate management, apple cider vinegar has also been shown to reduce hunger, increase satiety, and ultimately, lead to reduced calorie intake at subsequent meals.
In a randomized, crossover trial, researchers found that consuming apple cider vinegar before a carbohydrate-containing meal led to not only a substantial improvement in acute glycemic control, it also led to participants eating 250 fewer calories over the rest of the day.
In a separate study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Swedish researchers found that consuming vinegar prior to a carbohydrate-containing meal led to significant increases in satiety (or feelings of fullness and satisfaction).
The level of satiety was proportionate to the amount of vinegar consumed.
Naturally, with beneficial acute effects on carbohydrate management and satiety, apple cider vinegar has the potential to be a useful tool to promote weight management.
In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, Japanese researchers found that participants who ingested apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks lost significantly more body weight, belly fat, and inches from their waistlines compared to the placebo group.
Interestingly, folks who consumed two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar today showed greater improvements in these areas than those who took one tablespoon.
7. Green Tea
Although various types of teas (e.g., green, black) come from the Camellia sinensis plant, green tea leaves are processed (i.e., fermented) differently, which leaves them with a high concentration of beneficial polyphenols called catechins.
It’s these compounds, which also have noteworthy anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, that seem to have quite a potent effect on the metabolism and fat burning; what’s more, they may also suppress appetite and decrease the absorption of calories.
Studies consistently show that green tea extract (standardized for the catechin epigallocatechin gallate, EGCG) increases the body’s use of fat for fuel, and these effects are independent of its caffeine content, which also stimulates metabolism and fat burning.
EGCG does so by inhibiting enzymes that can shut down important fat-burning hormones (i.e., norepinephrine), thereby stoking the body’s fat-burning furnace.
In one study measuring 24-hour calorie expenditure and fat burning, healthy men supplementing with a green tea extract providing 90mg EGCG three times daily experienced a 4% increase in metabolic rate and 3.4% decrease in respiratory exchange ratio (RER), which signifies that they were burning more fat to meet the increased demand in calories.
The participants taking the green tea extract were even burning more fat during sleep, with over 41% of their daily calories burned came from fat—31% more fat burned than the placebo group.
In another study, participants taking a green tea extract (standardized for 400mg EGCG) daily for 4 weeks showed a 25% increase in fat burning, and what’s more, they lost over 1.5% body fat during the one-month trial.
In a 12-week study, participants taking a green tea extract (providing 270mg of EGCG daily) experienced a 3.3% increase in metabolic rate, a 4.6% decrease in body weight, and a 4.5% reduction in waist circumference.
In yet another study, participants taking a green tea extract standardized for EGCG combined with a modest reduced-calorie diet lost over twice as much weight as the placebo group after just 8 weeks.
The participants taking the green tea extract also experienced a 2-fold greater increase in metabolic rate compared to the placebo group.
In other words, green tea can help make a good fat loss program even more effective.
In a randomized controlled trial published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Japanese researchers assessed the effects of green tea catechins (EGCG) on visceral belly fat.
Healthy Japanese men consuming one bottle of EGCG-enriched tea daily for 12 weeks lost more weight, body fat, and subcutaneous fat than a control group.
Even more, the men drinking the green tea extract lost over 4 times more visceral belly fat.
In addition to increasing metabolism, calorie expenditure, and fat burning, researchers also suggest that green tea extract can help control energy balance by suppressing appetite.
In rats, researchers from the University of Chicago found that injections of EGCG significantly reduced food intake and body weight.
In a human study published in the International Journal of Obesity, participants consumed 8% fewer calories at a meal 4 hours after taking a standardized green tea extract when compared to the placebo group.
Not only did the folks taking the green tea extract eat less, they also experienced a significant increase in metabolic rate, an effect that was maintained over the course of the 8-week trial and was accompanied by a significant reduction in body fat.
Researchers suggest consumption of 2 – 4 cups (i.e., 500mL – 1L) of green tea per day to reap these fat-burning and health promoting benefits.
8. Bananas & Potatoes
Au contraire, mon frère; not so fast. Bananas (particularly green, unripe bananas) and potatoes (that have been cooked then cooled) are good sources of resistant starch, which is so-named because it is a non-digestible carbohydrate (i.e., fiber).
Resistant starch has been shown to increase satiety (feelings of fullness and satisfaction) and reduce food intake both acutely and in the long-term.
Research has also shown that consumption of resistant starch increases fat burning, decreases fat storage, and improves insulin sensitivity.
That’s not all; researchers speculate that resistant starch may also increase the thermic effect of feeding (i.e., increases calorie expenditure), and it may also promote weight loss and preserve calorie-burning muscle.
Not surprisingly, the resistant starch has been hyped by the popular press as a “weight loss wonder food.”
Additionally, in a review study published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, University of Colorado professor Dr. Janine Higgins critically analyzed the body of scientific evidence surrounding resistant starch and its effects on body weight and body composition.
Dr. Higgins found that resistance starch can significantly reduce visceral belly fat stores. In fact, Dr. Higgins stated that “there is strong evidence demonstrating that RS [resistant starch] lowers whole body and visceral adiposity. The magnitude of these changes in adiposity are very large…”
In other words, gut bacteria feed off resistant starch through the process of fermentation, which results in the production of key chemicals (i.e., short-chain fatty acids) that fuel our immune cells and stimulate the release of key hunger-suppressing hormones.
Several other health benefits have been associated with resistant starch in the GI tract, including enhanced laxation, increased uptake of minerals such as calcium, and reduced symptoms of diarrhea.
As a prebiotic, resistant starch has been shown to positively influence the gut bacterial ecosystem, increasing levels of beneficial Bifidobacteria and reducing levels of pathogenic bacteria.
When resistant starches are fermented by healthy gut bacteria, a by-product is the production of short-chain fatty acids (SFCA), which may help suppress appetite.
Specifically, SFCA stimulate the release of two key satiety hormones, GLP-1 and PYY.
As alluded to above, the content of resistant starch in food is highly influenced by preparation and processing techniques. Generally speaking, the following are good sources of resistant starch:
- Green, unripe bananas
- Uncooked, rolled oats
- Potatoes that have been cooked then cooled
- Rice that has been cooked then cooled
- White beans that been cooked then cooled
- Lentils that have been cooked then cooled
Speaking of beans and lentils…
9. Beans & Lentils
In a recent study published in the journal Obesity, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine set out to examine what lifestyle factors were associated with changes in abdominal fat over the course of a 5-year study period.
The researchers obtained abdominal computed tomography (CT) scans at baseline and at 5 years from over 1,000 participants aged 18 – 81 years old.
The researchers tracked physical activity levels and dietary intake throughout the study period.
Of all the factors they analyzed, they found that soluble fiber intake and participation in vigorous activity were inversely associated with visceral belly fat.
In fact, for each 10-gram-per-day increase in soluble fiber, the amount of belly fat decreased by a substantial 3.7%.
“Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits,” said lead author Kristen Hairston, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Results from this study, however, reveal that increased consumption of soluble fiber led to a decreased rate of belly fat accumulation, suggesting that increased soluble fiber intake may be instrumental in slowing this natural progression.
According to Dr. Hairston, a 10-gram daily increase in soluble fiber can be accomplished by eating two small apples, one cup of green peas, and one half-cup of pinto beans.
Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are also a good source of the mineral magnesium, which regulates cortisol and calms the nervous system.
Research has shown that supplementation with magnesium can reduce cortisol levels when study participants are faced with a stressful challenge.
Supplementation with magnesium also led to reductions in sleeping cortisol levels and significant increases in slow-wave sleep, which contributed to normalize age-related changes in sleep patterns in older study participants.
In addition to beans and lentils (and other legumes, such as peas), other good sources of soluble fiber include:
- Citrus fruits
- Apples (with skin)
10. Veggies, Fruits & Nuts
In a recent systematic review of 17 cohort studies (including over 500,000 participants), German researchers found that intake of fruit was inversely associated with waist circumference, and the highest fruit and vegetable intakes were associated with the lowest risk of excess body fat.
We know this doesn’t really come as much of a surprise considering that veggies and fruits provide dietary fiber, including some soluble fiber, and they are low in energy density and glycemic load.
Speaking of which, in a study published in the journal PLoS One, researchers from Europe set out to assess the association between dietary factors and visceral belly fat.
Not surprisingly, they found that consuming a diet with low glycemic load and energy density may prevent visceral belly fat.
In addition to these noteworthy associations, various fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals that may specifically help fight visceral belly fat.
For instance, sulforaphane, which can be found in cruciferous vegetables (most notably, broccoli), has been shown in several studies to have an “anti-obesity” effect.
Animal studies have shown that sulforaphane can mitigate fat gain—including accumulation of visceral belly fat—in animals overfed a high-fat diet.
Another example is berries, which contain anthocyanins, the phytochemicals that give the fruit their rich, dark colors.
Anthocyanins have also been shown to possess anti-obesity effects.
In addition to helping regulate cortisol levels, research has shown that magnesium deficiency induces anxiety and initiates the body’s stress response (e.g., increase in the production of stress hormones); conversely supplementation with magnesium has been shown to reduce anxiety-related behaviors.
Likewise, nuts (e.g., cashews, almonds) and seeds (e.g., pumpkin, sesame, sunflower) are good sources of magnesium. In addition, nuts and seeds also tend to be good sources of the mineral zinc.
Research has shown that lower zinc intakes appear to be associated with anxiety and depressed mood, and supplementation with zinc leads to significant improvements in anxiety and mood.
Another stress-easing property of nuts and seeds is their crunchiness.
Interestingly, chewing (i.e., mastication) is an effective behavior for coping with stress.
Researchers believe that chewing causes changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), which is responsible for initiating the hormonal response to stress.
Under stressful circumstances, mastication attenuates stress-induced increases in stress hormones (e.g., cortisol, catecholamines).
Despite their energy density, studies have consistently shown that nut consumption is inversely associated with visceral belly fat.
For instance, a cross-sectional study of over 7,000 men and women (as part of the PREDIMED study) demonstrated that higher nut consumption was associated with a lower risk of abdominal obesity.
In another crosssectional study (the Adventist Health Study), researchers found that “tree nuts have a strong inverse association with obesity.”
More recently, in a study published in the Nutrition Journal, researchers analyzed data from over 14,000 participants over the course of five years to determine the association between tree nut (i.e., almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts) consumption and adiposity.
They found that tree nut consumption was associated with lower body weight and waist circumference, a marker of visceral belly fat.
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