Eat kimchi - and five easy ways to reduce belly fat (and they don’t include exercising)

Belly fat guide image
Faddy diets often claim to target belly fat, also known as visceral fat, but no diet can guarantee weight loss in a specific area - Getty

Even if you’ve never had a spare tyre before, the hormonal and metabolic changes that midlife brings can lead to a thickening around the middle.

No diet can guarantee weight loss in a specific area, however some foods can reduce your risk of  developing a belly, or dangerous visceral fat. One of those foods is kimchi, made from fermented cabbage.

A major new study shows that eating up to three servings a day of kimchi could reduce your risk of developing fat around your middle. Researchers from the Chung Ang University in South Korea have found that men who ate kimchi several times a day were less likely to be overweight or carry belly fat, the riskiest type of fat most often linked to diabetes.

But how might kimchi help reduce our risk of developing a belly?

Kimchi contains probiotics known to boost the good bacteria in our gut and there is a growing consensus that they may also play a role in weight control.

The Korean study isn’t the first to find a positive correlation between the presence of probiotics and weight control.

There is a growing consensus  that probiotics from the Lactobacillus family – the best food sources of which are live yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and tempeh –  could aid weight loss, including loss of belly fat.

If the thought of kimchi for a breakfast is a step too far, eating more yoghurt is a good place to start, but choose a good quality Greek strained yogurt which has no other added ingredients, just milk and live cultures. You can have it with berries and granola for breakfast, in place of mayonnaise in sandwich fillings with egg or tuna, or for something a bit different, make this healthy potato salad:

  • Boil 500g of mini potatoes in their skins until tender (around 10 minutes) then drain and place in cold water.

  • Mix together 4 tbsp plain Greek yogurt, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, a squeeze of lemon juice, 2 finely sliced spring onions and season with salt and pepper.

  • Drain the potatoes, cut in half and place in a bowl.

  • Add the yogurt mixture and toss well to coat fully.

  • If you happen to have some chives you can chop some over before serving.

* Recipe extracted from Supercharge Your Diet: Ten Easy Ways to Get Everything from Your Food by Sam Rice

But fermented foods aren’t the only dietary strategies to help avoid the dreaded middle-aged spread. Here are five other ways to help banish belly fat.

A good number of studies have linked sugar consumption with obesity, in particular, increased belly fat. Address this by radically cutting your free sugar intake. Free, in this context, means sugar that is added to food rather than occurring naturally, the obvious culprits being sugary drinks, breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits and most processed foods. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat any sugar at all.

The intrinsic sugar in whole fruit is fine, because it comes packaged with fibre and other nutrients which slows digestion, preventing excess blood sugar which is ultimately stored as fat.

Try this healthy berry crumble for pudding and you won’t miss those free sugars at all.

Here’s how to make it:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. For the crumble topping, melt 50g coconut oil in a small saucepan over a low heat

  • Remove from the heat and add 75g oats, 30g flaked almonds, 30g sunflower seeds, 70g wholemeal flour, 1 tsp cinnamon and 4 finely chopped pitted dates

  • Place 500g frozen mixed berries in a single layer in a shallow baking dish and cover with the oaty topping

  • Bake for 25 minutes until the fruit is sticky and bubbling and the topping has gone nice and crisp

An independent study published in the peer reviewed journal BioMed Central found that quality protein intake is inversely related to abdominal fat. Quality protein means foods high in the nine essential amino acids (EAAs) our bodies need to stay healthy.

The best sources are whole eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, lean high-quality meat and dairy products. It’s easy to up our intake of animal-based sources of protein but there are some plant foods that are particularly good as they contain all nine EAAs, such as soy, quinoa, buckwheat, chia seeds and hemp seeds.

Try this tasty chia porridge for breakfast:

  • Place 250ml milk, 3 tbsp chia seeds , ½ tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp vanilla extract in a small saucepan and bringing to a boil

  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened to a porridge-like consistency, stirring occasionally

  • Top with sliced banana

The benefits of fibre in the diet are well documented: better gut health, improved appetite and blood sugar regulation and lower cholesterol levels to name but a few.

Current NHS guidelines recommend having 30g of fibre a day but the average adult in the UK eats only 19g.

You can up your fibre intake by swapping to wholegrain versions of bread, pasta and rice. Other quick tips include keeping the skins on potatoes, eating nuts (be mindful that a portion size is just 30g however, as they are calorific) and nut butters, eat plenty of beans and lentils – and yes, good old beans on (wholegrain) toast counts – and don’t forget that fridge staple, hummus. Pair with wholegrain crackers for a tasty fibre-rich snack.

A daily cup of green tea every day is a simple way to help guard against abdominal fat. In a 2022 randomised controlled trial, overweight participants who were given a daily dose of green tea for 12 weeks saw a significant reduction in visceral fat. Scientists believe it’s the antioxidant catechins contained in the tea that increases fat metabolism leading to weight loss.

If you aren’t a tea drinker then another way to get the benefits is to use matcha – a Japanese version of green tea that has the highest concentration of catechins – to make this “super green” porridge:

  • Place 50g oats, 2 tsp honey, a pinch of salt and 250ml water in a pan and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes until it begins to thicken.

  • Dissolve 1 tsp of matcha powder in a little boiling water and stir well. Add to the porridge along with one small, mashed banana.

  • Serve with a few blueberries sprinkled over the top.

Countless studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids have a positive impact on brain health, but recent research has discovered that it may also help target visceral fat. It’s not fully understood why but there is some evidence that eating more omega-3 rich foods, like fatty fish, increases our metabolic rate. Another theory is that a diet rich in omega-3 helps regulate hunger and appetite. In any case, increasing omega-3 in your diet is a good idea if you want to see off the spare tyre.

An easy way to eat more oily fish is with a good old tin of sardines. Here’s how to make a tasty sardine toast topper:

  • Mash up a tin of sardines in olive oil (drain off most of the oil first) with ½ a small red onion, finely diced, a small handful of chopped flat parsley leaves, 6 black olives, pitted and finely chopped, juice of ½ a lemon and a dash of tabasco or hot sauce

  • Mix well and serve on wholegrain toast.


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