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Drinking Habits to Help You Shrink Abdominal Fat, Say Dietitians

These smart strategies will have you feeling slimmer in no time.
FACT CHECKED BY Kiersten Hickman

Belly fat is obviously a major bummer—but while the kind you can pinch with your fingers may make your clothes fit differently, it's not nearly as harmful as the kind that's deeper and less visible. This specific type of abdominal fat, known as visceral fat, is actually super dangerous for your health.

Unlike subcutaneous fat—the kind that can accumulate around your arms, hips, and thighs—visceral fat can increase your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and other chronic diseases and conditions. Visceral fat has also been linked to high cholesterol and insulin resistance. What's worse, studies have shown that even people within a normal weight range are at a higher risk of health issues if they have a lot of visceral fat.

But here's the good news: there's something you can do about that visceral fat, starting with changing your eating and drinking habits. For example, Lisa Young, RD, PhD, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and a member of our medical expert board, advises staying away from sweetened beverages, as people who drink these tend to have more visceral fat on their bodies.

As a healthier alternative, Blanca Garcia, RD, recommends infusing water with sliced cucumbers, oranges, limes, or lemons. This will give the water flavor without the empty calories or added sugars to contribute to visceral fat.

Looking for some more healthy swaps to try? Read on for all the RD-approved drinking habits that can help you shrink stubborn abdominal fat—and don't forget to scope out the Drinking Habits Causing Abdominal Fat As You Age.

1

Limit the cocktails.

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Time and time again, studies have shown that overdoing it on alcohol can contribute to belly fat. In fact, one 2007 study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that men who drank more than three drinks a day were a whopping 80% more likely to have excess belly fat than those who drank very little or in moderation.

Not only does beer, wine, and liquor pack a lot of calories with almost no nutrients, according to Garcia, the body also essentially treats alcohol as fat. Plus, studies have shown that drinking alcohol can increase your appetite, leading you to eat more.

The more drinks you have per day, the more abdominal fat you're likely to have. That's why Garcia strongly suggests cutting back on alcohol. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it's best to limit yourself to no more than one drink per day if you're a woman, and two per day if you're a man.

2

Swap juice for homemade smoothies.

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A 2020 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology revealed that when you consume too much sugar the excess is converted into fat and stored—often as visceral fat around the abdominal area.

Fruit juice may seem like a healthy choice, but unfortunately, many of the products available on your local grocery store's shelves are sweetened. Even if they don't contain added sugar, there's a big difference between eating an apple and drinking a glass of apple juice: the apple has fiber, which minimizes the negative effects of fructose by preventing big spikes in blood sugar. A 2012 study in Obesity showed that for every 10-gram increase in participants' soluble fiber intake, their belly fat decreased by 3.7% over a span of five years.

That's why Garcia advises opting for drinks that are as close to the whole fruit as possible — such as by blending your own smoothie at home rather than buying bottled juice.

"By choosing an orange juice with pulp, for example, you are immediately upgrading your drink with fibers to slow the absorption of extra sugars that can usually be stored as fat," says Garcia.

Consider adding berries, oranges, kale, carrots, flax seeds, chia seeds, or avocado to boost the fiber content of your homemade blend.

3

Add unsweetened green tea to your daily routine.

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Unsweetened tea is one of the best beverage choices you can make when you want something a little more flavorful than water, says Young. Specifically, you might want to go for green tea, because it contains a powerful metabolism-boosting duo: caffeine and epigallocatechin gallate, a type of catechin. A 2012 study in Obesity revealed that subjects who drank catechin-rich green tea daily lost more visceral fat over the course of 12 weeks than those in the control group.

Remember: sweetening your green tea may compromise its visceral fat-blasting benefits, so consider enhancing the flavor with calorie-free fruits and herbs, like lemon juice, mint leaves, or ginger root.

Here's The #1 Best Green Tea to Drink, According to Experts.

4

Drink your protein.

Make a protein shake smoothie with hand held blender
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A 2012 study in Nutrition & Metabolism found that people who eat more protein often have less abdominal fat.

"Increasing protein intake stimulates the release of the fullness hormone, which suppresses hunger and promotes satiety," explains Shafaq Bushra, RD, MS, with Marham. "Additionally, protein helps you maintain muscle mass while losing weight by increasing your metabolic rate."

Protein shakes aren't the only way, either. You can also amp up the protein content in a homemade smoothie by adding Greek yogurt, oats, almond butter, or hemp seeds, or give your morning cup of java a protein boost with skim or soy milk.

5

Sip on probiotic-rich beverages.

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You may already know that probiotics help keep your digestive system in tip-top shape—but were you aware that these friendly bacteria may also play a role in your body composition? Emerging research has suggested that specific types of bacteria may not only affect weight loss and maintenance, but also help shrink abdominal fat. A 2013 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that the Lactobacillus gasseri bacteria, in particular, had this effect.

Lactobacillus can be found in a number of fermented foods, including yogurt (which can be added to smoothies) and kefir—a drinkable yogurt. Whenever buying these products, always look for the words "live and active cultures" on the label to make sure they still have plenty of health-promoting probiotics.

Rebecca Strong
Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance health/wellness, lifestyle, and travel writer. Read more about Rebecca