During American Heart Month, conquer belly fat and winter weight gain

Many people who have lost a significant amount of weight have found that one of the toughest areas to slim down is the belly. Not only is it difficult to lose weight there, but heart health studies have shown that there’s a strong correlation between heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer with visceral fat, which is deep within the abdominal cavity between the internal organs.

February, which is American Heart Month, is a good time to address the winter weight that people often gain during a holiday season of overeating and cold months when they are indoors and more sedentary.

Eat to shrink fat
Belly fat is such a concern that health professionals have devised diets and weight loss strategies aimed at this difficult area to reduce. TV talk show host, Mehmet Oz, M.D., for instance, has crafted the Dr. Oz Flat Belly Diet to address the problem. The Oz approach to cutting down excess belly fat is multi-pronged – shrink fat cells, eat more monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), reduce inflammation and conquer bloat.

The first step, shrinking fat cells, is based on a study at the University of Tennessee’s Department of Nutrition, which found that low-fat Greek-style yogurt eaten three times a day can reduce belly fat. Researchers theorize the calcium in the yogurt blocks fat from entering the abdominal cells and helps the body break it down. Oz suggests eating 6 ounces of the yogurt before each meal.

Eating MUFAs, which are plant-based fats, is the biggest step in the Flat Belly Diet. Many MUFA-rich foods are similar to those found in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet – which features nuts, olive oil, avocados and seeds – as a complement to fruits, vegetables and fish. The American Diabetes Association is also a proponent of adding MUFAs to one’s diet.

In the Dr. Oz diet, the ideal MUFA meal includes 3 ounces of lean protein, one complex carbohydrate, an unlimited amount of vegetables and one portion of monounsaturated fatty acid in a meal that is about 350 calories.

Reduce inflammation and bloat
Anti-inflammatory foods are also believed to curb belly fat, which interferes with proper metabolizing of food. Having an anti-inflammatory snack every afternoon, such as one that contains antioxidant flavonoids found in berries and other fruits, is one way to cut down inflammation. You can also try slices of a yellow or red bell pepper to dip in hummus or a bowl of berries drizzled with dark chocolate.

The final component of Dr. Oz’s belly fat diet is to rid the body of bloat by drinking a ginger-flavored iced tea with mint and lemon. Ginger is a natural digestive, mint reduces gas and lemon is high in antioxidants. Steeping three tea bags of ginger tea with 1 cup of chopped mint in two cups of boiling water  for five to 10 minutes melds the flavors. After straining the teabags and mint, add the juice of one lemon, chill and serve over ice.

Reduce salt intake
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are easy steps that people can take to reduce their risks of high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. Frequently, the same steps lead to weight loss, including cutting belly fat.

One important move is reducing salt intake by reading processed food labels and choosing low sodium options. The CDC suggests cutting down on the 10 saltiest foods – bread and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, meat dishes and snacks.

Along with lowering sodium intake, choosing dietary supplements that help keep blood pressure on an even keel, such as Omega Krill from Dr. Newton’s Naturals, will also have a cardiovascular benefit.