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8 Best Ways to Strip Away Your Unhealthiest Belly Fat

Why visceral fat is so dangerous and eight ways to get rid of it. 

The most dangerous fat in your belly may be the kind hiding inside you. For while you probably know about subcutaneous fat–the fat that you can see and pinch around your waistline–most people don't know about visceral fat, which is much more dangerous because it causes severe health issues. "Visceral fat is the fat that is around your organs. We usually focus on the fat that's on the outside of our bodies since it's seen most earlier, but visceral fat is likely more dangerous," says Dr. Seema Bonney, the founder and medical director of the Anti-Aging & Longevity Center of Philadelphia.

"Most notably, visceral fat is linked to increased rates of heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol (the bad kind!), high blood pressure and overall breathing problems," she continues. "As a women's health dietitian, visceral fat comes in to play when working with women with PCOS and who are going through menopause. Both PCOS and menopause encourages fat to be stored in the midsection which correlates with visceral fat."

To discover 8 ways to lose visceral fat, Best Life spoke with Bonney; personal trainer Lance Goyke, MS, CSCS; Bess Berger, a women's health registered dietitian at Nutrition by Bess; Reda Elmardi, a Registered Dietician, Certified Nutritionist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Trainer and owner of

Focus Most on Your Diet as it's 80% of the Equation

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According to Dr. Bonney, "Diet is at least 80% of the equation when getting rid of visceral fat. Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables of every color. Some studies have shown that more calcium and vitamin D in your body is linked to lower amounts of visceral fat. Reduce or eliminate sources of sugar in your diet and simple carbs that turn into sugar. Avoiding processed foods will also help you lose and keep off visceral fat. Increase your intake of lean proteins and reduce intake of red meats. It's key to eat smart—while some foods help you reduce visceral fat, others help you gain it, so avoid foods with trans fats as well. At our longevity practice, our health coach helps patients read food labels to avoid ingredients like partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup."

RELATED: 20 Ways to Eat Your Favorite Foods and Still Lose Weight

Eat the Right Amount of Protein

Fresh Salad with Grilled Chicken

According to Goyke, "Protein is a bit of a wonder drug when it comes to fat burning. Protein increases our metabolism and keeps us feeling full for longer. This helps reduce our caloric surplus by burning more calories and ingesting fewer calories." A good rule of thumb is to consume 0.4 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. So for example, if you weigh 140 pounds, aim for about 50 grams of protein per day.

Add More Veggies to Your Diet

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Goyke says, "Vegetables are dense in vitamins and minerals, but low in calories. They are the best way to eat until you're full without having excess calories stored as fat. Vegetables help reduce our caloric surplus, but also supply nutrients that keep our bodies functioning in tip-top shape."

RELATED: 20 Easy Ways to Flatten Your Belly Fast, Says Top Nutritionist

Take at Least 10,000 Steps Per Day

Woman taking a walk in nature.

Goyke reminds us that, "Movement is great for the mind and body. Walking at least 10,000 steps per day helps us stay active and keeps our metabolisms revving. Try going for a walk next time you're on the phone or need some time to think through a problem at work. This helps reduce caloric surplus by burning more calories."

RELATED: If You Want to Lose Weight, "Avoid These Foods Like the Plague," Fitness Expert Says

Work Out at Least 20+ Minutes Every Day

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"Walking is a good first step, but higher activity levels can burn calories at nearly 10x the rate of walking," says Goyke. "More calories burnt means less caloric surplus to be stored around the organs. But on top of that, exercise also gives the calories another place to go. Eating a large meal after a day of inactivity forces all your carbs, fats, and proteins to be stored as fat. Fatiguing the muscles, however, makes room to store energy in the muscles and the liver. These are the two best places to store energy."

Dr. Bonney states, "Long-term lifestyle changes like making sure you exercise daily is key to losing visceral fat. And as far as the kinds of exercise you can do, specifically cardio is best when attacking visceral fat. In general, it's so important to keep moving. If your job is sedentary, get a standing desk and make sure to get some steps in every hour. If you can walk instead of driving close distances, opt for the walk. be sure to build some exercise into your daily regimen. Ideally you want to do 30 min of exercise daily, but studies have shown us that even 10 minutes of daily exercise enhances longevity!"

Manage Your Stress Levels

Man Stressed Over Work
Dorde Krstic/Shutterstock

According to Dr. Bonney, "Excessive stress causes visceral fat because stress stimulates the body to release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol increases how much visceral fat a person stores."

Goyke explains, "We've thoroughly established that a caloric surplus makes us store fat, but why does it get stored around the organs instead of under the skin? The answer is hormones. Low testosterone in men, low estrogen in women, and persistently high cortisol all increase this visceral fat. Exercise and good nutrition help reverse these hormonal effects, but reducing psychological stress is necessary to fully change our hormonal profile. Start by getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night."

Get Good Quality Sleep

brown noise - overhead shot of a woman sleeping soundly in bed
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"Getting enough sleep is part of the plan to reduce visceral fat," says Dr. Bonney. "It's not only important for optimal physical and mental health as well as a healthy cardiovascular system. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology  demonstrated that lack of sufficient sleep led to a 9% increase in total abdominal fat and an 11% increase in abdominal visceral fat.  So beef up your sleep hygiene and track your sleep to see if this needs to be addressed with your functional medicine physician."

RELATED: 9 High-Fiber Foods for Weight Loss That Will Keep You Full and Satisfied

Limit Alcohol Intake

different alcoholic beverages
New Africa / Shutterstock

Elmardi says, "Alcohol consumption has been linked to obesity and belly fat. Alcohol dehydrates us and increases the number of calories consumed. People who consume alcohol have higher levels of cortisol, which makes them hungrier later. Cortisol triggers the release of insulin from the pancreas, which then converts any excess sugar into fat cells."

Remember Why Visceral Fat is so Dangerous


Dr. Bonney says, "There are 2 kinds of fat in our bodies—there's the subcutaneous fat you can pinch and feel and there's visceral fat – deeper fat that wraps around our abdominal organs. You may not even know you have visceral fat because you can't feel it or see it. We have seen patients with flat tummies that still have visceral fat. Neither type of fat is optimal; however, the bigger problem with visceral fat is that it raises your risk of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, high cholesterol among other disease processes.Visceral fat is more sinister because it makes inflammatory proteins that damage blood vessels as well as tissues and organs inside the body."

Measuring Visceral Fat


Since you can't see or touch visceral fat, most people don't know it's there. Dr. Bonney shares how you can measure it. "Sometimes it's evident by your waistline and BMI. If you see your waist size going up, your pants being too snug in the belly area, this is evidence that you are gaining visceral fat. We have noted many men especially who have large bellies above their waist who over time get used to that fat, but it is a major red flag and needs to be addressed. Since our focus is optimizing health, we do a deeper dive into looking for visceral fat. We check waist sizes, BMIs, and do body composition scans on our patients that help tell us if they have visceral fat."

"You can measure your waist size using a tape measure. If you find yourself having trouble fitting into certain clothing sizes, then you may need to lose some weight. Another way to determine if you have too much abdominal fat is through your body mass index (BMI). A BMI between 25-and 29.9 is considered overweight, while a BMI above 30 is considered obese."

Causes of Visceral Fat

Glasses of Soda
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Dr. Bonney says, "Not getting enough exercise and physical inactivity leads to a significant increase in visceral fat. High amounts of exercise on the other hand, can lead to significant decreases in such fat, even in a short period of time. Eating foods high in trans fats which are found in dairy and meats as well as in processed and deep fried foods will raise visceral fat. Trans fats cause a redistribution of fat tissue into the abdomen and lead to a higher body weight, even when the total dietary calories are controlled. Other foods to avoid are sodas, processed baked goods, and foods sweetened with fructose."

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance. When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more
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