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Everything you need to know about belly fat and how it affects your health

Its proximity to so many vital organs makes it worth worrying about.
August 26, 2020 5:55 a.m. EST
August 26, 2020 5:55 a.m. EST

When it comes to taking care of your body, it’s not always about your appearance. While shedding a few pounds might be your main goal, focusing on your health habits and food routine is just as important as getting fit in the gym. Dietitian Nishta Saxena shared her belly fat guide with us and told us exactly what causes it, what we can do about it and why it’s important to fuel your body with a well-balanced diet!


Typically when people talk about wanting to make a physical change with their appearance, they target losing fat. Belly fat, also called visceral fat, can have a major affect on our health as it’s the type of fat that is wrapped around organs. It can make it hard for your heart and liver to work properly and it’s also linked to:

  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Insulin resistance
  • Type 2 diabetes


How many fat cells you have and where they are in your body is determined by your genetics. You actually have the exact amount of fat cells now as you did when you were born, they just might be a different size now. Depending on your lifestyle habits and diet, your fat cells can get bigger or smaller. One of the biggest “triggers” for belly fat is eating lots of carb-based foods that are high in the glycemic index. When you consume those types of carbs, the sugars cause your body to produce a hormone called insulin. If you aren’t using up the energy, insulin tells your body to store that sugar (often as belly fat).


The glycemic index (a scale from 0-100) is a great indicator of how likely your body is to store the food you consume as fat. The higher the food is rated on the scale, the higher the chances are of it turning into belly fat. High glycemic foods score between 70 to 100 while medium glycemic foods score between 55 and 69. Low glycemic foods score below 55.


The most important way to attack your belly fat from all angles is to move as much as possible. Being sedentary is the second biggest cause of belly fat. Exercising regularly, whether it’s a HIIT workout or a spin class, will help zap your belly fat. It’s also important to fuel your body with water instead of sugar. Sweetened beverages are one of the major contributors to belly fat, along with alcohol. Finally, try to avoid unnecessary snacking. Plan your meals in advance so that you know exactly what you’re making each day rather than wandering around your home looking for anything that’s laying out.