Diet high in plant foods best to burn visceral fat – expert

Dr Zoe Williams discusses visceral fat on This Morning

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Every one of us has some amount of visceral fat in our bodies. Unlike subcutaneous fat, which you can see, visceral fat lives deep in the belly. While it is necessary to protect vital organs, too much of it can be damaging to our health.

Storing an excessive amount of visceral fat in the body can result in a variety of issues including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Like subcutaneous fat it can be reduced by eating a healthy diet and exercising.

Registered dietitian at Plant Based Health Professionals, Lisa Simon, spoke with Express.co.uk about the best ways to shed visceral fat.

“The best diet is one high in plant foods and low in animal foods,” she said.

“This is because plant foods do not contain cholesterol and if you eat predominantly whole foods such as legumes, wholegrains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables you will be consuming low amounts of saturated fat and high amounts of fibre which is really important for weight loss and also general health.

“Eating a diet rich in fibre means that you will feel full and satisfied after a meal, it will help to maintain steady blood glucose levels, and because fibre acts as a bulking agent to your stools, it helps keep your digestive system functioning optimally.

“Animal foods on the other hand are often high in saturated fats and they also contain cholesterol and are devoid of fibre. All of these things will increase the risk of visceral fat storage and chronic disease.”

This was backed by a study published in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology.

The research, conducted by a team from the University of South Carolina, concludes: “Based on the available evidence, plant-based diets should be considered a viable option for the treatment and prevention of overweight and obesity.”

If you want to cut down on animal products but are concerned about eating enough protein, there are plant-based alternatives.

The Vegetarian Society recommends the following protein-rich foods as meat alternatives:

  • Beans (including baked beans, chickpeas, butter beans and kidney beans)
  • Tofu
  • Nuts
  • Veggie mince, sausages, fillets and burgers found in supermarkets.

Ms Simon also promoted the benefits of exercise for losing fat,

She said: “A combination of cardio and strength training is important when trying to reduce visceral fat.

“Cardio training raises your heart rate and promotes visceral fat loss, and strength training increases bone strength and muscle size.

“A benefit of strength training is that it improves your metabolic rate as you will continue to ‘burn’ fat after your session has finished.

“Aim for three to four lots of 30 to 60 minute sessions a week but stay active on the remaining days.

“If you have a sedentary job make sure you stand every hour and do some gentle stretches and try to go for a walk on your lunch break, even if it’s raining.

“Moving your body more and sitting less, combined with a healthful diet will help you achieve your goals.”

Ms Simon added: “Other lifestyle factors which are important to consider are stress and sleep.

“If your stress levels are high you will release more cortisol (a hormone) and this increases visceral fat storage. Poor sleep can also increase cortisol.”

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