When I toss around the words "belly fat," I'm actually talking about two different types: subcutaneous and visceral. Subcutaneous fat is best, though perhaps not most scientifically, defined as the fat that you can see, the "inch you can pinch." Subcutaneous means "beneath" (sub) "the skin" (cutaneous), and it's no big secret that this fat resides all over. In some spots—your thighs, underarms, tummy, anyone?—it may be thicker than in others, but for the most part it's everywhere, even on the soles of your feet. A moderate amount of subcutaneous fat is essential for life—for one thing, it keeps you from freezing to death in the winter. But too much of it causes dissatisfaction with how we look (which studies show leads to even more dangerous health behaviors). And worse: Excessive amounts of subcutaneous fat function as a visible sign of being overweight or obese, which studies show raises your risk for many diseases. But I have some great news: Subcutaneous fat responds immediately to this diet plan.
Before you happily skip pages and move to the diet, let's talk about the second type of fat—visceral—which is much more dangerous and difficult to lose. Visceral fat resides deep within your torso and is sometimes referred to as "hidden" belly fat. I prefer the term "deadly." Because of its proximity to your heart and liver, excess visceral fat can increase your risk of all sorts of diseases, from heart disease and diabetes to cancer and Alzheimer's disease. And the most frustrating part? You can cut calories and exercise religiously and still be left with too much of it.
In fact, the only way to minimize both visceral and subcutaneous fat simultaneously is to eat the right . . . fat.
The New Belly-Flattening Nutrient
At Prevention, we've been talking about the healthfulness of monounsaturated fat—the kind found in olive oil, nuts, and avocados—for decades. Nearly every issue contains some tip or strategy for getting more in your diet. In fact, we're on such intimate terms with monounsaturated fatty acids that we have a nickname for them—MUFAs (pronounced MOOfahs). But it wasn't until the spring of 2007 that we realized just how amazing these fats are. That was when Spanish researchers published a study in the journal Diabetes Care showing that eating a diet rich in MUFAs can actually help prevent weight gain in your belly.1
The researchers looked at the effect of three different diets—one high in saturated fat, another high in carbohydrates, and a third rich in MUFAs—on a group of patients with "abdominal fat distribution" or, in language the rest of us non-scientists can understand, belly fat. All three diets contained the same number of calories, but only the MUFA diet was found to reduce the accumulation of belly fat and, more specifically, visceral belly fat.
Bear in mind: No other nutrient can do this. And that's what makes Flat Belly Diet unlike any other diet book you've ever read. It's the only diet to give MUFAs center stage, to make them an essential part of every single meal. And that means it's the only diet that helps you lose fat in the belly specifically! In Chapter 5, you'll read more about MUFAs and their various health benefits, but until then, let's take a broader look at this truly groundbreaking diet plan.
The Flat Belly Diet Program