Who doesn't complain about the extra fat around their abdomen and how hard it is to get rid of? Unfortunately, abdominal fat tends to increase with age, especially with women.

While most people want to reduce their abdominal fat to look and feel better, there are other benefits that can motivate you to want to lose the excess fat. One of the reasons is the fact that abdominal fat, specifically visceral fat (fat within the abdomen, around the organs), is more metabolically active and releases several substances that participate in chronic inflammation and can increase your risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. It is therefore important to keep abdominal fat within a healthy range. There are a few easy changes you can make to your lifestyle to help you achieve this.

Make time to exercise.

It is well-known that exercise can help you to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight and therefore it is important to include physical activity when you want to decrease your abdominal fat. Usually, moderate-intensity continuous training is recommended because it can be maintained over a long period and help your body to use fat as fuel.

However, there are also studies showing that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help to reduce excess fat, including abdominal and visceral fat. [1] These exercises can also be done in a short amount of time so you don’t have to change your whole routine to fit these workouts into your day. Bonus!

Make sure you get enough soluble fiber.

Dietary fiber intake, especially soluble fiber can influence weight gain and can affect abdominal fat. A low soluble fiber intake is associated with long term weight gain.

Soluble fiber increases satiety which helps you to consume less calories in total. A higher soluble intake has been shown decrease the amount of visceral fat that develops.[2] It is thus important to make sure you consume enough soluble fiber in the long term to slow down the accumulation of visceral fat. Examples of food that contains soluble fibre include dried beans, oats, oat bran, barley, citrus fruits, apples, pears, strawberries, peas, sweet potato, carrots and lentils.

Choose the right type of carbohydrates.

Not all carbohydrates are created equally and choosing the right type of carbohydrates is key when it comes to managing abdominal fat. Increasing whole-grain intake is associated with lower visceral fat and a higher intake of refined grains is associated with higher visceral fat.[3]

Whole grains basically refer to grains that still contain all their basic components, such as the starchy endosperm, germ and bran, in the same amounts as it is found in the intact grain. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn and bulgur wheat.

Usually when grains go through the milling process, some of the components are lost which also results in a loss of nutrients like fiber. Therefore, refined grains such as white bread, English muffins, bagels, muffins, biscuits, white rice, pasta and pancakes, do not contain the same nutrients as whole grains and thus do not have the same health benefits.

Improve the quality of your diet

The quality of your diet can influence your visceral and subcutaneous (below the skin) abdominal fat. Improving the quality of your diet can help to prevent visceral fat accumulation.[4] You can improve the quality of your diet by making sure you are consuming enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, fish and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado and nuts.

Although it can sometimes be difficult to get rid of abdominal fat, starting off with a few easy changes to your lifestyle can already make a big difference and should be the first steps you take when attempting to lose the fat in this area.

[1] Maillard, F., Pereira, B. and Boisseau, N., 2017. Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine, 48(2), pp.269-288.

[2] Hairston, K., Vitolins, M., Norris, J., Anderson, A., Hanley, A. and Wagenknecht, L., 2011. Lifestyle Factors and 5-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study. Obesity, 20(2), pp.421-427.

[3] McKeown, N., Troy, L., Jacques, P., Hoffmann, U., O’Donnell, C. and Fox, C., 2010. Whole- and refined-grain intakes are differentially associated with abdominal visceral and subcutaneous adiposity in healthy adults: the Framingham Heart Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92(5), pp.1165-1171.

[4] Hennein, R., Liu, C., McKeown, N., Hoffmann, U., Long, M., Levy, D. and Ma, J., 2019. Increased Diet Quality is Associated with Long‐Term Reduction of Abdominal and Pericardial Fat. Obesity, 27(4), pp.670-677.