Picture this: You're out for a run when, all of a sudden, you twist your ankle. Next thing you know you're in pain, there's swelling, and even some redness. That's inflammation as we know it. The same thing happens when the inside of our body gets an injury. "Inflammation is a vital part of our immune response; it's the body's way of healing and defending itself against bacteria and viruses," says Tali Pines, M.S., a registered dietician in New York City. The problem is when it becomes chronic, as it can disrupt metabolism-regulating hormones, causing weight gain and disease.
What about fruits and vegetables? All fruits are rich in carbs, but you can have certain fruits (usually berries) in small portions. Vegetables (also rich in carbs) are restricted to leafy greens (such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach), cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, bell peppers, onions, garlic, mushrooms, cucumber, celery, and summer squashes. A cup of chopped broccoli has about six carbs.
Put into a soup pot 1 can of no-salt-added red beans (drained), 4 cups low-sodium vegetable juice like Knudsen’s Very Veggie Low-Sodium Juice, 2 to 3 teaspoons oregano or Italian-style seasoning, and 2 cups of any veggies you already have sitting in the refrigerator bin, such as carrots, celery, and onions. Rough-chop the vegetables into bite-size pieces and bring to a boil, simmering until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. If desired, top with a tablespoon of fat-free sour cream.
There’s one thing to like about visceral fat: It yields fairly easily to aerobic exercise. Vaporizing calories via running, biking, swimming—anything that gets your heart rate up—is an effective way to whittle your middle. In fact, one 2011 study from Duke University Medical Center, published in the American Journal of Physiology, found the sweet spot: Jogging the equivalent of 12 miles a week was even more effective in reducing visceral fat than resistance training three times per week. However, both types of exercise were beneficial when it came to belly fat, the researchers say. (Don’t have time to hit the gym? Try these fun at-home cardio workouts if you’re in a pinch.)
Selecting the right food will be easier as you become accustomed to the Keto approach. Instead of lean meats, you’ll focus on skin-on poultry, fattier parts like chicken thighs, rib-eye steaks, grass-fed ground beef, fattier fish like salmon, beef brisket or pork shoulder, and bacon. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and lettuce, along with broccoli, cauliflower and cucumbers, make healthy vegetable choices (but you’ll avoid starchy root foods like carrots, potatoes, turnips and parsnips). You can work in less-familiar veggies such as kohlrabi or daikon.
If giving up pasta is the hardest part of making changes to help lose weight, zucchini noodles are a healthier alternative, Michalczyk says. "I like to think of them as pasta's lower-carb and higher-in-nutrition cousin because zucchini is a good source of vitamins A and C, fiber and potassium for only about 33 calories per zucchini,” says Michalczyk. You can use in zoodles, much on as is with some dip, roast them, or add to salads.
That sour cherry is pretty sweet when it comes to your health. The results of a study conducted at the University of Michigan found that rats given high-fat foods along with tart cherries ditched nine percent more body fat than those in a control group over just 12 weeks. Cherries are also a good source of antioxidant pigment resveratrol, which has been linked to reductions in belly fat, dementia risk, and lower rates of macular degeneration among the elderly.
In a way, moderate-intensity physical activity is that "magic pill" a lot of people are looking for, because the health benefits go beyond keeping your waistline trim: Not only can it reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart attacks, but studies have shown that physical activity can significantly improve the moods of patients with major depressive disorders.
Here’s more reason to add avocado to everything. “Most of the carbohydrate content in avocados comes from fiber (1/3 of an avocado provides 11 percent of our daily fiber needs), and it also contains monounsaturated fat, which is known as a ‘good’ fat and [is] important for heart health,” says Zigler. Together, the healthy fats and fiber will keep you full to avoid mindless munching throughout the day.
This popular diet program is fairly restrictive — and for the first 30 days, dieters must cut out grains, legumes, most dairy, added sugar, and alcohol without any slip-ups, according to the Whole30 website. (29) The aim is to “reset” your body and to adopt dietary habits resulting in weight loss. Cutting out added sugar and alcohol has merit, but all the restrictions prove challenging and could lead to nutrient deficiencies and disordered eating.
Leanne Vogel is a nutrition educator and the creator of healthfulpursuit.com, the popular website for those searching to change their lives through a whole-foods–based keto program. Leanne has gained worldwide recognition for her unique “no-limits”, paleo-friendly approach to the keto lifestyle and is the go-to resource for those looking to achieve health, happiness, and body confidence through a high-fat, low-carb keto diet.
Ilana Muhlstein, M.S., R.D.N., is the co-creator of Beachbody’s 2B Mindset program. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition and dietetics from the University of Maryland, sits on the executive leadership team for the American Heart Association, and leads the Bruin Health Improvement Program at UCLA. Ilana acts as a nutrition consultant for several companies, including Beachbody and Whole Foods Market. At home, she is a wife and mother of two.