You might have your heart set on that six-pack, but if you’re eating foods that are simply unhealthy and can lead to fat storage in your abdominal region, you won’t be seeing those washboard abs anytime soon. No matter how many crunches you do!
Regardless of having the appearance of visual abs or not, excess fat around your belly isn’t good for your health long-term.
“While belly fat doesn’t look good, too much belly fat can actually lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, colorectal cancer, and diabetes,” says Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN. “The fat can be internal, as visceral fat covering your organs, putting your body at risk for disease,” she says, and “people with belly fat are three times more likely to develop dementia.” Belly fat can also lead to fatty liver disease, too.
The big takeaway? It’s always best to nosh on healthy foods that help slim down your belly. Not only can that lead to defined abs, but it’s helping out your overall health, too. Here are the 10 worst foods for your abs so you know what to avoid. And while you’re making healthy changes, be sure to try out the 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
“White bread is a refined carb, and is high on the glycemic index which can spike blood sugar levels,” says Schapiro. “When refined carbs like white bread are not adequately burned they can turn to fat, specifically around the middle,” she adds. So, swap for whole grain or wheat instead for more fiber, which will help those abs be seen!
Muffins are typically made from refined white flour, and they also can have a lot of fat and sugar. Easy to see why it’s not a great pick for breakfast or dessert, right?
“Studies show that foods high in sugar and fat interfere with your body’s ability to maintain blood sugar levels,” says Schapiro, adding “the combo can make it hard for your body to metabolize, which can lead to belly fat.”
It’s the one snack that once you start, you know you can’t stop. That’s part of what makes potato chips a no-go and lands them a spot on the list of worst foods for your abs.
“Chips are typically made with hydrogenated oils, and high in fat which is hard for your body to burn off, staying stuck around your middle,” Schapiro says. “It may seem innocent to have a few with your sandwich, but you know it’s hard to just have a handful.”
So, ditch the calorie-laden and salty chips, which can create bloating and take away from those visible abs.
Yes, this includes a “diet” cookie or baked good. If you see an artificial sweetener listed in the ingredients, you’ll want to avoid it!
“Studies show that artificial sweeteners have been linked to belly fat,” Schapiro says. Clearly, the loss in calories and real sugar isn’t all that good for you after all.
Dried fruit is a food that seems like it would be healthy, but you’re going to want to take a closer look before you snack on some.
“In order to get dried fruit, you need to strip it of water, leaving a lot of sugar, and dried fruit is high in fructose,” says Schapiro. Fructose is actually metabolized in the liver, and when you consume a large amount of fructose, your liver breaks it down to glucose and fat, which can turn easily into belly fat. The lesson here—when in doubt, go with fresh fruit instead!
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Canned soup is very high in sodium, plain and simple. And it’s for that reason alone it’s a food you really want to limit when you’re trying to flatten your belly.
“When you consume too much sodium, you can be bloated which is not good if you want to show off your abs,” says Schapiro. Make soup from scratch at home and go easy with that salt shaker.
We know—it’s always sad to see ice cream listed a food you shouldn’t eat. But it’s all about moderation.
“I’m not saying you have to give up all ice cream forever if you want abs, however frequent consumption of high calorie and high-fat foods like ice cream can lead to weight loss especially around the midsection,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. So, make it an indulgence and stick to one serving of a lightened ice cream as a better solution!
“A whole [frozen] pizza can contain more sodium and carbs than is recommended in a day which can cause bloating and weight gain—not great for abs,” says Michalczyk. The good news is that there are plenty of healthier frozen pizza options that contain fewer calories and sodium out there. It’s just a matter of reading nutrition labels when you’re shopping!
“Processed snacks like chips, pretzels, and candy are often high in calories, preservatives, and sodium. And constantly snacking on these high-sodium meals and snacks causes bloating,” says Michalczyk. In addition, high-sodium processed snacks increase your risk for hypertension and heart disease in the long run.
“A fast-food meal [of a burger, French fries, and soft drink] is the perfect storm of lots of calories, sodium, and carbohydrates and when eaten frequently can lead to weight gain in the stomach region and can prevent you from getting or maintaining abs,” says Michalczyk. Look for healthier fast-food options when possible or limit fast-food meals to a once in a while occurrence.