Healthy Hollywood: Ask Keri – Banish Belly Fat!

Nutritionist Keri Glassman, who regularly shares her expertise on Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live, is answering your nutrition, diet, and health questions.

Want to know which foods to curb sugar cravings? Or, what should you eat before a workout? Ask Keri anything!

Keri will choose one great question a week to be answered Thursday in our Healthy Hollywood column.

To submit questions for Keri, click HERE!

This week, a number of Healthy Hollywood readers asked, “How can I get rid of belly fat?”

Belly Fat:

Oh, belly fat … something almost everyone focuses on. Studies show a link between mid-section abdominal fat (yes, the belly bulge) to a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes, not just feeling not-so-great in a bikini.

So, what’s actually causing us to gain weight in our bellies? Often, it’s the big, bad “S” word – Stress! When we’re stressed, the cortisol levels in our bodies rise, causing food cravings and simultaneously triggering an enzyme in our fat cells to convert cortisone to cortisol, therefore triggering more food cravings. The reason why stress often leads to weight gain in the form of belly fat is due to a higher number of enzymes in our visceral fat cells (the ones packed around our vital organs in our midsection). Researchers have found that these belly fat cells have four times as many cortisol receptors as regular fat cells!

What do we do about it? We need to combat the conversion of cortisone to cortisol by helping our bodies calm down! Paying attention to stress levels and managing that stress is critical to overall health including a flat belly. MUFAs, or Monounsaturated Fatty Acids are the healthy fats that help protect our bodies from chronic diseases including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Researchers have also found that these healthy fats help cut down on belly fat. Also, make sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day, performing core strength training exercises, and getting in some probiotics (either through supplement form, or in foods, like yogurt). As for getting in your MUFAs, here are some of my favorite foods rich in them:

- Avocado: Avocados are rich in glutathione, a substance that actually helps block intestinal absorption of certain fats. This creamy fruit is also packed with vitamins E and B, beta-carotene, lutein, and folate. Try substituting avocado for your regular mayo spread on a sandwich or when making tuna or chicken salad, or even add one quarter of an avocado to your morning smoothie.

- Nuts: Nuts are a great snack because they are easy to pack when you’re on the go and provide a quick and easy way to curb your hunger – especially during that mid-afternoon slump. I love almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. Try munching on 7 walnut halves for your mid-afternoon snack instead of that seemingly irresistible bag of potato chips – the nuts are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which won’t just help you slim down, they’ll also help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and even make your brain sharper, helping you get through the rest of the day.

- Olive Oil: All cooking oils are not the same! When grilling vegetables or mixing your own salad dressing, reach for cold-expeller pressed olive oil. “Cold pressed” olive oil means that it is made simply by pressing the source of the oil, rather than oil that is extracted chemically. What’s even better is that 75% of the fats in olive oil are made up of MUFAs! That’s more than any other form of cooking oil. Researchers found that olive oil not only reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, but it also increases the odds of a trimmer waist.

- Chocolate: Dark chocolate (aim for 70% cocoa) promotes heart health by reducing stress on blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. If you practice portion control, eating chocolate will help you manage cravings, helping you to shed pounds. I like combining cocoa powder with yogurt for an evening treat…

--Terri MacLeod & Keri Glassman

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