What Causes Belly Fat: Foods that Cause Belly Fat and Other Causes of Belly Fat

8 Foods to Avoid to Keep Belly Fat Away

Belly fat in men and women can cause a number of chronic health problems. Some of the worst foods that cause belly fat include sugary foods, refined carbs, trans fats, and alcohol. Also, not getting enough exercise, stress, and lack of sleep can result in a big stomach.

Losing weight is one of the best ways to get rid of upper belly fat. This means that foods that help you lose belly fat must be low in calories and trans fats but high in fiber. You can also avoid gaining belly fat by exercising regularly and staying active.


In this article, you will find out what causes belly fat. You will also learn about the worst foods that cause weight gain in the stomach area.

What is Belly Fat?

Abdominal obesity, or belly fat, is a buildup of fat around the stomach that results in a larger waist circumference.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that there are two types of fat that can result in a large stomach. These are subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. (1)

Subcutaneous fat is found in the deepest layer of your skin and is necessary for energy, insulation, and to protect your muscles. Although having too much subcutaneous fat around your middle isn’t good, this type of fat isn’t as dangerous as visceral fat tissue. (2)

Visceral fat that causes you to have a big stomach is dangerous to your general health. Doctors say that visceral fat accumulates around your organs and can increase your risk of various chronic diseases. (3)

Why Belly Fat is Dangerous

Having a larger than normal waistline due to belly fat can put your health at risk from a number of conditions.

According to the British Journal of Radiology, central body fat affects a number of processes in the body that impact on health. Weight gain around the stomach increases the risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer. (4)

Some studies show that central obesity tends to affect more men than women. Both age and weight are factors that can result in an accumulation of abdominal fat with its associated health risks. (4)

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that belly fat in women is common after the menopause. A drop in estrogen levels can result in gaining belly fat even if you don’t put on weight. (5)

The good news is that losing belly fat and excess weight can help to reduce your risk of disease. Researchers say that even moderate weight loss can help to lose a substantial amount of belly fat. (6)

Foods That Cause Belly Fat (Worst Foods for Belly Fat)

One of the best ways to lose your lower belly pooch is to avoid foods that pile on the pounds around your waist.

What foods should you avoid if you want to lose belly fat? Here are some of the worst culprits:

Sugary Foods Cause Belly Fat

Consuming too much sugar in beverages and foods result in weight gain and a larger belly.

The Journal of Nutrition reports that people who consume sugary drinks every day have, on average, 10% more belly fat than those who avoid sugar-laden sodas. (7)


Other studies on the effects of sugar on abdominal obesity have found that fructose increases belly fat in adolescents. The greater amounts of visceral soft tissue in the stomach also increased the risk of cardiovascular disease. (8)

In fact, research points to the fact that fructose (a type of sugar from plants) is worse for you than glucose (a simple sugar). Foods sweetened with fructose tended to cause belly fat gain more than glucose sweeteners. (9)

Many scientists say that reducing your intake of sugars can help to lower your risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. (10)

One of the dangers that sugary drinks can cause is that they contain a lot of calories but don’t make you feel full. (11)

To find out how to avoid sugary foods that cause belly fat, it’s important to know how sugar is “hidden” in food. Learn about the worst ingredients in food that can affect your health.

Fruit juice can be a sugary beverage that causes belly fat gain

Even seemingly healthy foods such as fruit juice can contain enough sugar to cause upper belly fat.

According to data provided by the United State Department of Agriculture, 100 ml of raw orange juice contains 8.4 grams of sugar. However, the same amount of regular cola contains 10.8 grams of sugar. (12, 13)

Unlike commercially-produced sodas, fruit juice contains vitamins that are good for you. However, fruit juice is still a sugary drink that can cause belly fat even though it is a natural food, so it should be consumed in moderation.

Trans Fats Cause Belly Weight Gain

Trans fats found in foods such as fried foods, margarine, pastries, and some frozen products are some of the worst foods for belly fat.

The American Heart Association says that trans fats are mostly found in processed foods. Apart from trans fats being bad for your heart, they also negatively impact on your general health. (14)

Scientific research indicates that saturated fats and trans fats cause weight gain in the belly. (15)

One intervention study involving 52 overweight women found that increasing the intake of trans fats resulted in body fat increase around the waist. (16)

Surgeons have also noted that obese individuals who undergo bariatric surgery have a higher percentage of trans fats around their abdominal region. (17)

It is good to remember that not all fats are created equal. While a small amount of saturated fat is a necessary part of a balanced diet, trans fat should be avoided. Also some studies point to the fact that adding olive oil to your diet is better for weight loss than undertaking a low-fat diet. (18) What’s more, consuming olive oil has many benefits for your heart. (19)

Learn more about the many ways that olive oil can boost your health and help you get rid of belly fat. There are also studies showing that coconut oil can help you lose weight when consumed in moderation.

Too Much Alcohol Can Cause a Big Stomach

Consuming too much alcohol can be a reason why your belly is so big.


There is some evidence that moderate amounts of red wine have some benefits for your heart. (20) However, too much alcohol consumption can lead to organ damage and chronic inflammation. (21)

Alcohol also contains a lot of calories that can lead to weight gain. There is also some evidence that weight gain from alcohol tends to accumulate around the stomach. This is one of the reasons for the term “beer belly.” (22)

Lean why alcohol is one of the habits that can damage your liver and how long alcohol stays in your system.

Low-Protein Diets Can Result in Gaining Belly Fat

One way to help prevent weight gain and having a large lower belly pooch is to get enough protein in your diet.

Protein is essential for losing weight because it helps keep you feeling fuller for longer. Some studies show that increasing protein by 15% in your diet can help to lower calorie intake. This also has a beneficial effect on hormones that are connected to body fat and obesity. (23)

Protein also contains many amino acids that are essential for good health. Researchers have also found that consuming high-quality protein helps to reduce abdominal fat. (24)

A cohort study involving over 42,000 men and women over a 5-year period found that high protein intake was directly related to lower waist circumferences. (25)

Healthy foods high in protein include chicken breast, oats, broccoli, and almonds. You can also find out why eating eggs is very healthy for you and can even help you reduce weight gain.

To help to get rid of belly fat quicker, you can find out which are the best sources of plant-based protein to include in your diet.

Processed and Refined Carbs

To help avoid weight gain around your belly, it’s important to restrict your consumption of unhealthy carbohydrates.

The worst carbs to consume if you want to get rid of belly fat are simple carbs. These are foods such as white bread, pasta, pastries, and sugar.

Researchers in 2015 found that consuming refined carbohydrates causes an increase in abdominal fat. High-carb foods also affect the hunger hormones and can leave you feeling hungry after eating. In the end, this can lead to greater weight gain, especially around your middle. (26)

Other studies have shown that consuming too many processed carbs has more health implications than just a fat stomach. Diets high in refined carbs and low in micronutrients can lead to chronic inflammation. (27)

However, it is good to remember that not all carbohydrates are bad for you. Foods that are rich in complex carbs and fiber contain vitamins and minerals and are good for keeping your digestion healthy.

If you want to lose weight and prevent belly fat gain, find out about the benefits of a low-carb diet.

Low-fiber foods can increase weight gain in stomach

If you want to lose belly fat you should eat foods that are high in fiber.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that reducing your intake of refined grains can help to prevent belly weight gain. Switching to whole-grain foods resulted in less fat accumulating around the stomach area. (28)


According to the journal Obesity, increasing fiber in your diet along with increased exercising help to lose belly fat on a long-term basis. (29)

To help get rid of a large tummy, find out about more changes to your diet that reduce abdominal fat.

Other Causes of Belly Fat

Although there are many unhealthy foods that cause excess belly fat and make your stomach big, there are some other reasons for excess belly fat.

Stress Can Cause Belly Fat in Men and Women

One reason why your stomach is too big is if you are under a lot of emotional or psychological stress.

Scientific studies have found a direct link between stress and an accumulation of abdominal fat. Stress can be dangerous because it can cause an increase in both visceral fat and subcutaneous fat around the belly. (31)

Stress causes a hormone called cortisol to be released. One study found that stress can cause men to gain belly fat due to an increase in cortisol levels. (32)

Some researchers have found that getting a fat belly can also cause stress. This can then make it more difficult to get rid of belly fat. Coping with stress better was seen as an essential part of a weight-loss strategy to reduce stomach size. (33)

Gaining belly fat is just one way that stress affects you. Learn about more ways that stress seriously impacts your health.

Not Getting Enough Sleep Causes Excess Belly Fat

Sleep deprivation could be one reason for excess belly fat.

Many studies indicate that a lack of sleep can cause weight gain in people of any age and gender.

One study involving over 68,000 women over a 16-year period found that those women who slept less than 5 hours a night experienced greater weight gain. Scientists concluded that lack of sleep is connected with future weight gain in women. (34)

Other studies have shown that older people who sleep less than 5 hours a night have more belly fat than similarly-aged people who sleep for 8 or 9 hours. (35)

One study in the U.S. found that sleep deprivation was a reason for increased unhealthy abdominal fat in people under the age of 40. (36)

Excess abdominal weight can also result in sleep apnea which can cause metabolic changes that exacerbate further weight gain. This can make it difficult to lose weight and contribute to complications associated with obesity. (37)

To help get to sleep faster, you can find out about some of the best foods to eat before bedtime to improve your sleep quality.


Smoking is not just bad for your overall health but will also cause weight gain around your stomach.

One observation study found that smoking tends to cause fat accumulation around the abdominal region. Scientists reported that smoking doesn’t cause weight loss but affects the distribution of fat in the body. This is why smokers tend to have a bigger belly than nonsmokers. (38)


Some studies indicate that male smokers are at more of a risk of abdominal obesity than female smokers. (39) However, other studies have found that both men and women who smoke tend to have larger waistlines than people who don’t smoke. (40)

Apart from causing you to have a fat stomach, find out what else smoking does to your body.

Menopause Can Cause Women Gain Belly Fat

Body fat around the waist tends to increase in women after the menopause. The changes in hormone levels create a shift in body fat distribution.

One observation study over a 4-year period found that in their 40s, women tend to accumulate subcutaneous abdominal fat. However, during and after the menopause, visceral belly in women becomes more of a problem. If these increases in abdominal belly fat aren’t addressed, the result can be a battle with obesity. (41)

One study on 55 obese women found that after the menopause, central obesity becomes a major health issue in females. (42)

If you are going through the menopause, you can find out about some of the best home remedies for hot flashes and night sweats.

Inactivity and Lack of Exercise Cause Weight Gain in Stomach

A sedentary lifestyle can promote belly fat gain.

Researchers have found that not getting enough exercise and consuming too many calories are linked to excess belly fat. (30)

One simple way to increase your daily exercise is to walk more. Find out how much you have to walk to notice a change in your weight. You might be able to shift stubborn belly fat if you start a high-intensity interval training exercise.

Genetics Can Predispose You to Abdominal Obesity

One of the reasons why you may have weight gain in only your stomach is to do with your genes.

Although lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise greatly influence belly fat gain, genetics also play a role. One study found that some people are predisposed to obesity and its associated complications. (43)

Avoiding foods that cause belly fat and exercising regularly can help you get rid of belly fat naturally.

How to Lose Belly Fat

What can you do to burn fat that has built up around your belly? Here are some of the best ways to deal with abdominal obesity.

Exercise More to Get Rid of Belly Fat

One of the best ways to lose your belly quickly is to increase your daily physical activity.

Losing weight and burning off abdominal fat requires that you burn more calories than you take in. Researchers have found that exercise training helps to burn off fat around the abdomen. (44)

One study found that walking for 70 minutes a day on 3 days in the week helped to prevent abdominal fat accumulation. The increased physical activity helped to reduce both subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. (45)

You can help lose your beer belly by doing some of these exercises designed to flatten your stomach.

Related: Why Walking is One of the Best Forms of Exercise

Enjoy a Healthy Well-Balanced Diet

Making dietary changes by reducing unhealthy carb intake and increasing fruits, vegetables, and protein may help you eliminate unhealthy fat from your waist.

One study found that restricting carbohydrates helped to shift fat distribution and reduce obesity. (46)

If you want to get rid of your belly fat for good, find out what are the best foods to eat every day for a slim waist.  Another way to get rid of excess belly fat is to increase your fluid intake. Find out some delicious recipes to make your own flat tummy water.

If you are trying to eat healthily to lose weight, then you can safely add bananas to your weight-loss diet. Contrary to popular belief, bananas aren’t among the foods that cause belly fat.

Although cutting back on unhealthy carbs can help lose some belly fat without exercise, increasing your physical activity will help to speed up your weight loss.

A belly fat diet should also avoid fried foods, refined carbs such as pastries, and limit alcohol intake.

Related: Proven Foods to Burn Belly Fat Based on Science

Deal with Stress to Address Upper Belly Fat Issues

Finding better ways to cope with stress can help to increase the effectiveness of exercise to melt belly fat away.

Scientists have found that stress management helps to reduce cortisol levels and speed up weight loss. Some studies on animal subjects found that high levels of cortisol are directly related to belly fat gain. Stress reduction is viewed as an important tool in any weight-loss program. (47)

Find out some effective ways to deal with stress so that you can lose belly fat. You may find that essential oils can help you relax and alleviate feelings of anxiety.

Get More Sleep to Lose Belly Fat

Getting to sleep faster and improving your sleep quality are an important tools in your battle against central obesity.

One study found that sleeping less than 5 hours a night increases the risk of abdominal obesity. Increasing sleep duration to at least 7 hours a night can help to make your belly slimmer. (48)

Find out which are the best essential oils to get a better night’s sleep and help prevent abdominal weight gain.

Find more information on how to lose your belly without counting calories or starving yourself in my e-book “Blast Your Belly Fat” – this is the ultimate guide for losing belly fat.

Related article:

Healthy and Natural World