Three types of dietary fat are linked to inflammation and thus contribute to excess belly fat: Trans fats, saturated fats, and omega-6 fats. You might be thinking, “Haven’t trans fats been banned from food?” Yes and no—the Food and Drug Administration has rules on the books to eliminate the fat, but the deadline keeps getting extended. For some products, the deadline is January 1, 2019 (but anything made before that date could contain the fats). Some manufacturers have petitioned the FDA for extensions—they’ll still be able to use trans fats until 2021. And then there are the exceptions to the trans fat ban—some uses of refined oils are still allowed under the ban, which means the fat can turn up processed foods. Finally, zero doesn’t actually mean zero: A food label can read “0 trans fats” and still have under a half-gram of trans fats per serving.
The fact that trans fats are still around is an issue beyond belly troubles. For example, experts at the Mayo Clinic explain that trans-fats, commonly found in baked goods and fried foods, can increase your risk of heart disease. Dr. Romm says that good quality fats like olive oil and avocado are ideal. These fats, she explains, are not only beneficial for healthy cellular function but play a role in keeping you from overeating.
Found in: Packaged foods (trans fats); processed and high-fat cuts of meat, full-fat dairy, some candy (saturated fat); corn oil, grape-seed oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil (omega-6 fats).
Though tasty, processed meats are very high in calories and saturated fats. It’s not only bad for your stomach, but it can also lead to heart disease and stroke. “Processed meats are very difficult for many people to digest. They can sit in the intestines for longer because they are difficult to break down,” says, warns Julie Rothenberg, RD, a licensed dietitian nutritionist based in Florida. They don’t contain any fiber, so they aren’t good for digestion.
Found in: Cold cuts, hot dogs, ground meats.
Fried food tends to overwhelm the stomach, resulting in acid reflux and heartburn. Rothenberg says that fried foods sit in your stomach similarly to processed foods. It takes the body much longer to digest fried foods due to their high-fat content, making them foods that cause belly fat.