Nutrition
foods that cause belly fat

9 Worst “Healthy” Foods That Cause Belly Fat & Love Handles

There are a lot of so-called healthy foods out there that are actually in disguise. Most people just don’t know these are actually some of the worst foods that cause belly fat.

Belly fat isn’t only physically unattractive, but it is also a serious sign of health problems whether they’re there yet or not.

Deep visceral belly fat is linked to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

Visceral fat is the fat surrounding the liver and organs in your abdomen while subcutaneous fat is the right underneath your skin.

Even if you’re in a normal weight range your belly fat could still mean you have an increased risk of health problems.

Check out my article on the best belly fat burning foods you can find that really work to slim you down quick.

Now let’s dig into these “healthy” foods masquerading as being good for you when they’re actually some of the worst foods you can be eating that cause belly fat.

“Healthy” Foods That Cause Belly Fat

Carbs Carbs Carbs

carbs cause belly fat

There was a shift in the past few decades where the government led us down the path of eating more carbohydrates.

They told us fats were the enemy and eating more refined carbohydrates should have made up the bulk of our diets.

Turns out this was completely wrong all along.

It turns out the truth is these refined carb dense foods were what was actually causing us to gain weight along with many other health problems.

This 2011 study published by The Endocrine Society found cutting down on carbs promoted deep belly fat loss regardless of your weight.

The researchers found an 11% reduction in belly fat when carbs were lowered in the participants diet even though calories remained the same.

Many of these refined carbs and grains should be avoided completely or at least drastically minimized.

A long-term Harvard study found those who ate french fried gained an extra 15 pounds of belly fat every 4 years.

Instead, try eating more vegetables and if you need to then I’d eat more sourdough bread as it’s actually quite good for you.

Margarine (Trans Fats)

margarine trans fats cause belly fat

I remember vividly when I was a kid my Mom buying margarine because we all thought it was healthier than butter.

Turns out margarine is made up of trans fats, which is one of the absolute worst foods you can eat.

Trans fats are created by food manufacturers by adding hydrogen to unsaturated fats to increase their shelf life.

Turns out the same trans fats are linked to higher body weight, increases bad cholesterol, lowering of good cholesterol and cancer.

In Obesity they found trans fats caused weight gain and extra visceral belly fat build up along with increases in insulin resistance.

Finally, in June 2015 the FDA banned trans fats but gave food manufacturers 3 years before they had to be completely off the shelves.

Another study found trans fats were significantly linked to causing inflammation, insulin resistance and heart disease.

And here’s one more crazy study…

At the end of 6 years researchers discovered monkeys fed an extra 8% trans fat diet gained weight and had 33% more belly fat gains than those fed an 8% monounsaturated fat diet despite both groups getting enough calories to maintain their weight.

There are more and more studies proving just how bad trans fats are for us, but thankfully they’ll be completely gone soon.

Fruit Juice (Fructose)

fruit juices are not good for you

It’s a shame how so many people believe drinking lots of fruit juice is good for them. Yes, there are a lot of nutrients in fruit juices but there is just way too much sugar to make it worth it.

Fruit juice is essentially just another sugary beverage in disguise. Heck, even unsweetened fruit juice has a ton of sugar in it.

This study found fruit juice led to increases in insulin resistance and belly fat gains.

We all know by now how bad sugar is for us and how it’ll cause excess belly fat along with many other health problems.

Of course, eating real fruit is going to be much better for you than the just the juice.

Real whole fruits have lots fiber to help slow the absorption of the natural sugars in it. You most likely won’t be consuming near as much sugar eating the fruit than you would from the juice.

Instead use a blender and make a smoothie so you can keep the pulp which will slow your absorption of the sugar.

Most also don’t know sugar is made up of 50% fructose and high fructose corn syrup is made up of 55%.

Heck, even agave nectar is thought to be healthy but it’s mostly fructose.

If you’re having trouble with sugar withdrawals then I’d take a look at my post with the best ways to overcome it.

Saturated Fats

saturated fats abdominal fat

Much of the hate on saturated fats is overblown yet there’s no doubt eating too much of it can cause you to gain belly fat and love handles.

Eating more healthy unsaturated fats such as avocados and olive oil is going to be way better for your health and waistline than refined carbohydrates.

Our bodies need saturated fats for proper hormone production yet for many people they eat just way too much of it.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily calorie intake to just 5-6% from saturated fats. So if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day then you should only eat 16g of saturated fats.

This is one of the reasons why eating pizza can be so bad for you. Not only is it super high in refined carbohydrates but it’s also high in saturated fats.

One slice of pizza alone is packed with almost 5g of saturated fats.

The University of Maryland Medical Center conducted a study using muffins to see the difference between saturated and polyunsaturated fats .

Both of the muffin groups experienced similar weight gains but the group with the saturated fat muffins had more visceral belly fat than the group with polyunsaturated fats.

Researchers theorize the reason saturated is so bad for our waistlines is it might turn off your natural belly fat burning hormones while turning on the ones that tell your body to store more abdominal fat.

You don’t have to completely give up your saturated fats. In fact, giving them up could lead to health problems. You need some saturated fats for healthy cholesterol levels too.

Just keep them in moderation while trying to get the bulk of your fats from unsaturated foods such as almonds, salmon, olive oil and avocados.

Red Wine (Alcohol)

red wine causes belly fat

We all know some of the good things drinking a little bit of red wine can do for us including helping to lower the risk of heart disease.

But drinking too much alcohol can also lead to inflammation in the body. This is one of the big causes of chronic health problems and the buildup of belly fat.

Alcohol suppresses your fat burning engines while the excess empty calories you get from drinking alcohol are stored as belly fat.

This study in Epidemiology and Health found high alcohol intake was directly associated with a high waist circumference.

If there’s not a chance you’ll never drink booze again then I’d take a look at some of the best and worst alcohol for weight loss to minimize the damage.

Keep in mind it’ll be better for you to minimize your drinking throughout the week than to binge on the weekends.

One study found daily drinkers who had less than one drink per day had the least amount of belly fat while the group that had 4 or more drinks on “drinking days” had increases in belly fat.

Splenda (Artificial Sweeteners)

splenda causes belly fat

More people are thankfully finding out how bad artificial sweeteners like Splenda are for their waistlines and health.

Artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame have technically zero calories yet they can still lead to belly fat gains.

Researchers theorize this is because artificial sweeteners are way sweeter than sugar. When there aren’t any calories to back it up your body responds with hunger to get those calories.

This leads to people overeating more and more.

Even diet soda can cause belly fat regardless of it being a zero calorie beverage.

This long-term analysis clearly showed a relationship between number of diet sodas one drinks daily and increases in abdominal obesity.

They also found artificial sweetener consumption led to more health problems such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.

The researchers found an increase of 3.16 inches in the bellies of those who drank diet soda daily. While the non-drinkers only had a 0.8 inch increase over the 9 year period.

If you have to use some kind of sweetener in your diet then I’d highly recommend going with stevia as it’s been found to be healthy for you to use in moderation.

I’ve even named stevia to my superfoods list because it’s a much better choice than many of the alternatives out there.

Low Fiber Diets

low fiber diet bad for you

Most just aren’t getting enough fiber in their diets and it’s causing a big problem with their waistline.

Fiber is important in your diet since it’ll make you feel fuller, help to stabilize hunger hormones and can even reduce calorie absorption from foods.

This study published in Obesity with over 1,000 men and women discovered soluble fiber intake was associated with the lowering of belly fat.

For each 10 gram increase in soluble fiber the researchers found a 3.7% decrease in belly fat accumulation.

Some great examples of soluble fiber are:

  • avocados
  • berries
  • coconuts
  • figs
  • artichokes
  • peas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • nuts
  • lentils
  • black beans

You’ll not only slim your waistline by increasing your fiber intake, but you’ll also improve you gut health and improve your bowel movements.

This study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found those eating high fiber whole grains resulted in lower belly fat while those who ate low fiber refined grains had increases in belly fat.

I know this goes against what I said earlier about reducing your carb intake to lower belly fat.

The truth is if you have to eat them than high fiber whole grains will be significantly better for you than low fiber refined carbs.

Erythritol (Sugar Alcohols)

erythritol sugar alcohols bad for you

Most people are completely unaware how eating hidden sugar alcohols can cause you to gain belly fat.

Sugar alcohols have been a long favorite replacement for sugar as they have fewer calories with supposedly fewer negative health effects.

Xylitol, Erythritol, Sorbitol and Maltitol are all sugar alcohols. They’re essentially hybrids of sugar and alcohol molecules.

This study found higher blood levels of erythritol is associated with increased belly fat and weight gain in young adults.

The researchers also found higher levels of fructose in blood plasma associated with increased abdominal fat.

Even though some studies have found sugar alcohols to beneficial to your dental health it’s just not worth eating too much of it.

Xylitol is also poisonous to dogs so it’s important to be careful with it if you have any in your house.

It’s best to minimize your intake of sugar alcohols to keep your belly fat free.

High Sodium Foods

high sodium foods bad for you

There’s a good chance you already know eating too much sodium can cause your blood pressure to rise and for you to retain water.

When your body is retaining too much water from eating too much sodium it can cause your belly to look bigger than it actually is.

Sodium is in a lot more foods than you think such as bagels, muffins, cereals, beef jerky, deli meats and canned foods.

A recent study has linked high sodium intake with increases in obesity so much just cutting back on it can help to lower your belly fat.

Even though eating high sodium food can cause you to gain belly fat doesn’t mean you have to give up the milk. Does milk make you fat? No way!

Also try eating more high potassium foods as this essential mineral will help to draw the sodium out of your blood.

Some high potassium foods are:

  • bananas
  • potatoes
  • salmond
  • acorn squash
  • dark leafy greens
  • beans

Instead of using traditional table salt on your foods consider using Himalayan pink salt.

himalayan pink salt

Himalayan pink salt contains over 84 minerals and trace elements making it vastly superior to refined table salt.

Conclusion

You can clearly see how some of these so-called healthy foods are misleading you into thinking they’re good for you.

In actuality, the science and research has proven they’re linked to increasing your belly fat and love handles.

Unwanted stomach fat isn’t just something that’s physically unattractive but it can also lead to some serious health problems.

Losing your stomach fat can feel like the hardest part of the weight loss journey, but a lot of the time you’re just eating the wrong foods.

This explains why some people are able to lose weight but they still can’t get rid of their belly fat.

I would highly recommend staying away from these foods and instead use my Flat Belly Formula system to discover healthier food choices that will improve your quality of life while also flattening your belly.

It’s best to completely cut out or at least minimize your intake of the foods above to slim your waistline.

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18 Comments


  1. Shan

    September 21, 2011 at 5:12 am

    Hey Josh, what do you use for beverages? I’ve been drinking almond and coconut milk (unsweetened). What products do you recommend for baking? What is you thinking on Stevia or agave nectar? When you absolutely need bread, what do you reach for?

    Reply

  2. franco

    September 21, 2011 at 6:50 am

    Thoughts on ezekiel bread?

    Reply

    • Josh Schlottman

      October 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm

      Hey Franco, I like it but I would eat it sparingly if you have a lot of weight to use. But it’s a great alternative to other breads.

      Reply

  3. Sunny

    February 18, 2012 at 4:27 am

    hey josh im 16 this year and i have really bad self esteem issues -- i actually hate the way i look. could you please recommend a diet, foods to eat, exercise routine becuase im not quite sure how i should go about it. and i want to be happier and more atractive:) please reply, cheers. by the way, if this helps, i weigh 67 kg and im 5’8. OR 5’something -- im short

    Reply

    • Josh Schlottman

      February 20, 2012 at 8:33 am

      Hi Sunny, keep your head up! If there was any one program I would recommend it would have to be my Flat Belly Formula system. Hope this helps you out.

      Reply

  4. MKJ

    April 11, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Hi! I cook with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil when I prepare things like scrambled eggs, sauteed spinach/broccoli, or cook lean protein such as chicken. Is olive oil a problem included in vegetable oil? If so, what do you recommend using to cook?

    Reply

    • Josh Schlottman

      March 8, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Olive oil is actually higher in omega-3 fatty acids so you’re good. Just make sure you don’t get the pan too hot because olive oil has a low smoking point. I also like to use macadamia nut oil if you can find it.

      Reply

  5. nancy

    April 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    hi josh im a stay at home mo im 20 years old
    weigh 160 and 5’0” ft i dont have time to go run or work out
    im usually stressed out so i turn to eating junk food or
    eat out of porportion…. i wanna lose 40 pounds but i don’t
    knw where to start help me please!!!

    Reply

    • Josh Schlottman

      April 30, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Hey Nancy, you have to first focus on nutrition and reducing your stress levels. Start eating healthy throughout the day and as you get better start implementing workouts. If you need help check out my Flat Belly Formula program.

      Reply

  6. Alexia

    May 7, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Hey Josh, I’m an 18 year old female and I was wondering what your best tips are for losing lower belly fat. I weigh 122 and Im happy with the rest of my body it’s just I’m self concious of my stomach. Ive tried almost everything and it’s so stubborn. I need some help, please.

    Reply

  7. Louis

    October 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Hey Josh, you are the man!…I am learning so much from your site, keep up the good job.

    Reply

  8. Nicole

    December 8, 2012 at 10:48 am

    when you say fructose, do you really mean fructose or HFCS because I’ve done a lot of research on the two and they differ greatly, and fructose is actually a quite effective sweetener, as well as quite healthy in the case of natural sugars. This would put a huge difference between, say, Minute Maid and Naked drinks.

    Reply

    • Juanita

      December 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Fructose is a healthy sugar, but if fat loss is your goal, you want to stay away from it.

      Reply

    • Josh Schlottman

      May 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Hi Nicole, if you need to lose a lot of fat than I would stay away from fruit that’s high in fructose. Any kind of sugar is going to raise your blood sugar (obviously fructose is healthier than HFCS). Try some low sugar berries to satisfy a sweet tooth.

      Reply

  9. Collin

    December 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Such a great and helpful post. This will really help people to lose weight as well as lose belly fat. Eating nutritious foods along with proper exercise will also help to achieve a good body.

    Reply

  10. Cedric

    February 22, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    hi,
    if heated vegetable oil isnt good for cooking, what oil should I use? I usually only use sunflower for cooking and virgin olive or linen oil for salads…

    Reply

    • Josh Schlottman

      July 27, 2016 at 4:16 pm

      I’ll personally use macadamia nut oil or avocado oil when I’m cooking for their high smoking point. Virgin olive oil is fine for salads but it has a low smoking point so it’s not ideal when cooking.

      Reply

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About Josh

josh-and-dog

Hi, I’m Josh and my life mission is to help 100,000 people achieve their goals in health and fitness.  I’m a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with a degree in Nutrition, and over 10 years experience personal training. I’m looking forward to giving all I can to help you reach your goals.