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A Diet Rich in MUFA's Can Reduce Belly Fat

By January 13, 2008

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Fat that accumulates around the abdomen increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Doctors recommend that people who are heavier in the midsection, reduce this area with diet and exercise.

According to a study that appeared in Diabetes Care, a journal published by the American Diabetes Association, a diet rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFA) may help reduce abdominal fat better than a carbohydrate rich diet.

When test subjects ate a carbohydrate enriched diet, they tended to accumulate fat in the abdomen. When they ate a diet that had more MUFA, abdominal fat concentration decreased, even without exercise.

What are some foods that are MUFA rich?

  • Olives and olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Nuts and nut oils (peanut, walnut)
  • Seeds and seed oils (sesame, flaxseed)
  • Grape seed oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Avocados

It's important to remember that a MUFA rich diet should still be a calorie-controlled diet. The USDA recommends an approximate 2,000 calorie a day diet to maintain a healthy weight, depending on age, gender and activity level.

Photo courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld/Getty Images

January 24, 2008 at 4:52 pm
(1) JANE says:

So where is the diet plan to use these products? I already follow south beach which uses most of these oils and nuts. Can you tell me why my belly fat seems to be increasing?

February 7, 2008 at 10:41 am
(2) Musicgrrl says:

You have to use these fats in moderation mixed with healthy meals. For example, make a salad with lots of veggies and add oil and vinegar dressing, avocado and some pumpkin seeds and you have 3 MUFAs right there. You still want to keep your carb intake low in the evening. I try to avoid carb heavy dinners like bowls of rice and pasta and potatoes. Have those things for lunch.

And don’t forget the most essential MUFA that isn’t listed: DARK CHOCOLATE. mmm.

February 11, 2008 at 10:12 am
(3) daliac says:

My diet has always consisted of too much salts, pastas and white bread. I’m actually starting the Flat Belly diet and not so much to loose weight but to see if it will actually reduce my abdominal fat and if it works I’ll implement its teachings into my daily eating habits, because I’m telling you the moment you hit 30 the metabolism just flat out dies. Arrr.

February 21, 2008 at 2:34 am
(4) WebRunner says:

I’m quite interested in this diet, but I’m allergic to chocolate and nuts. How can I make this plan work for me?

February 23, 2008 at 2:44 am
(5) Deb says:

I’m allergic to some nuts also, so I focus on the choices I’m not allergic to. Mainly olives, olive oil, canola oil, sesame seeds, soy beans and avocados.

February 23, 2008 at 4:32 pm
(6) Jay says:

I am unemployed and can’t afford to buy books, diet plans, etc. Is there a simple daily menu I can follow?

February 24, 2008 at 10:29 am
(7) diabetes says:

Hi Jay,

I guess the first place to start would be with watching portion sizes, and cooking more meals at home, limiting fast-food and snacks, and focusing on increasing your consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Make meat choices lean.

Current wisdom says 5-9 servings of vegetables/fruits a day. Whole grains include oatmeal, and breads and cereals where whole grains are listed as the first ingredient.

Try to limit foods that are deep-fried, creamy or overly sugary or sweet.

Substitute water for sodas and other soft drinks.

Use olive oil or the other recommended oils for cooking. Snack on nuts instead of packaged chips. (although watch portions with nuts because they are high in calories.)

Exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Walking is good, and totally free.

Keep track of calories and portions with a free diet website like Calorie-count Plus. All of this is good for a start. Check back and let us know how you do.

February 24, 2008 at 5:33 pm
(8) Mrs. Polly says:

I like a tablespoon of macadamia nuts (110 cal/tablespoon) to finish off a meal. Keep them in the freezer, measure out your tablespoon before you eat, they’re thawed by the time you finish. Or,I’ve heard that eating MUFAs 20 minutes before a meal takes the edge off your hunger and raises a hormone(CPCK?)that tells you you’re full.
Either way, it’s a decent way to live. Anyone who’s tried to live on severely restricted calories and has only gallstones to show for it can’t help but marvel at how easy this is.

March 24, 2008 at 2:42 pm
(9) mslone says:

Is coconut a MUFA?

March 25, 2008 at 12:23 am
(10) diabetes says:

Coconut is a saturated fat.

April 6, 2008 at 9:08 am
(11) J says:

Coconut is a Tropical Oil, like Suntan Oil and is very bad for you.

Not sure if it is the Olive Oil which is great for U, if it is not heated in any way or it is just that people in this study did not eat Carbs(Wheat)!

Wheat, Corn. & Cheese are the 3 biggest things that people over 35 should not eat or eat in very ‘tiny’ portions.

Lastly ‘Nature’s Plus’ Mega 1200 CLA does have some effect when consuming Carbs so that is does not turn to belly fat.

April 14, 2008 at 1:59 pm
(12) V says:


Who told you Coconut oil is bad? It has MUFA and is actually excellent. Same with Red Palm Oil. There are lot of articles written about these wonderful foods.

July 6, 2008 at 10:48 pm
(13) Sydd says:

MUFA’s? More like MUFAs.

August 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm
(14) sharon says:

has anyone tried the flat belly diet

September 7, 2008 at 7:22 pm
(15) tmarie says:

My husband and I just finished the 4 day jumpstart. I lost 6 pounds and he lost 4. He deviated a bit.

October 1, 2008 at 2:57 pm
(16) Bruno says:

canola oil is a genetically modified rape seed and if you do the reasearch isn’t supposed to be good for you…the name stand “Canadian oil”…the rest seems like great advice…thanks

October 29, 2008 at 9:17 am
(17) beverly says:

What is the jumpstart? I’ve ordered the book, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

November 3, 2008 at 2:05 pm
(18) Caroline says:

Could someone please post the “Jumpstart”? I do not have money for the book, and would appreciate if someone who does have it sould be kind enough to post it. Thank you in advance.

November 25, 2008 at 12:03 am
(19) Sunshine says:

If you go to Flatbellydiet.com, it is posted there. Oce you go to foods, skroll down a tad and it’s under “Sample Meal Plans”. Hope it helps, I’ll be starting after the holidays.

November 25, 2008 at 12:17 am
(20) diabetes says:

About.com does not endorse the flat belly diet, or any other commercial diet plan.

December 13, 2008 at 12:58 pm
(21) Trent says:

Well… At least not the diets the don’t pay About.com TO endorse. :-X

December 21, 2008 at 11:33 pm
(22) Jan says:

I’ve added 2 Tbsp of dry roasted almonds to my mini meals 1-4 and after meal 5 I have decadent dark chocolate. Until now I have been exercising, limiting calories to 1400 daily and avoiding high carb foods after 7PM. I had lost 10 lbs in 3 moths and had plateaued off for at least 3 wks. The nuts and chocolate added another 800 calories which brought daily total to 2200, yet I still dropped 3.5 more lbs in only 10 days! What’s more is I can see those lbs came off my gutt. I’m stoked, this seems too good to be true…..somebody pinch me.

January 8, 2009 at 7:11 pm
(23) Sue Rarick says:

My husband and I are in the fourth day of the jumpstart bellyfat diet. He feels great. Second day I lost 2 pounds, 4th day I gained a pound. Have not cheated or varied from the menu except by the fourth day the sassy water was too much to take so switched to plain water. Am disappointed by will see what the scale says tomorrow morning. Anyone else have this problem?

February 10, 2009 at 10:27 pm
(24) moo says:

the only way that worked for me to loose 30lb in 2 months is to run up and down flight of stairs for 6-8 hours/day 4 days week, with couple pounds weights in hands.
Also while at that only had simple salad w/o meat just tomatoes and spinach with vinaigrette dressing for lunch and occasional small portion of pea soup for dinner.
Moderation in food and portions is a must to any weight loss.
Fasting or juice fasting may also be an option for obese, since it helps body to dip into the already existing energy source for survival – excess body fat – that if done smart can be burned off without harm done, and to give rest to digestive system. You must consult your doctor first though and use common sense. Pills do not work, and exercise alone won’t cut it, so pick your diet and stick to the goal, and lot of cardio.
Treat your body with love, make a home spa, mask up, dance!
Good luck!

February 18, 2009 at 2:37 pm
(25) Crystal says:

What is Sassy water?

March 3, 2009 at 11:50 am
(26) Michelle says:

Sassy Water
The Recipe:
2 liters water (about 8 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 medium cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
12 small spearmint leaves

March 8, 2009 at 4:14 pm
(27) Justin says:

Ok. I don’t know what happens if you just eat them without exercise, but for me it works better with exercise. Just don’t eat to much of it.

March 20, 2009 at 8:28 am
(28) Susan Honig says:

I find you must definitely change the sassy water if you don’t finish it all; it tastes like it is going bad if you go two days with it. Plus it tastes like the ginger, cukes and lemons are blanched pretty bad. It tastes best when it is fresh, after 4-5 hours of chilling. Otherwise, it gets pretty gross and too much to drink.

April 15, 2009 at 2:07 am
(29) Michelle says:

MUFAs worked wonders for me; without exercise. I swear by them. I ate too many green olives, and had to deal with the high sodium intake; however, I will continue to have at least 1 MUFA per meal. I snack on raw almonds, dark chocholate chips, cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Canola oil, and use avacado on my salads and sandwiches.

Like Jan said, “somebody pinch me!”

I will definitely be wearing a 2-piece this summer!

May 27, 2009 at 11:31 pm
(30) Lisa Hannigan says:
June 13, 2009 at 10:40 am
(31) coolhead says:

Hi, I’m using Rapeseed oil, its Energy value(from the bottle’s label) as follows(100g(=110ml)), 1.carbohydrate-0g 2.Protein-0g 3.fat-100g [ saturated fatty acid-7g, MUFA-66g, PUFA-27g, cholestrol-0g ]. Kindly advice me, can i proceed with this oil for my cooking ? Because i cannot find canola oil in my place…Pls reply.Thanks in Advance.

June 17, 2009 at 4:02 pm
(32) Edwarda says:

Try the Flat Belly Diet book, it spells out in Detail How Much MUFA’s to eat at each meal with meal plans etc. its a great book

August 5, 2009 at 10:09 am
(33) MUFA lover says:

I just started the MUFA diet 2 days ago, and I have already lost 4 pounds with a slightly noticeable slimming of my tummy. This is an easy enough diet and it’s rewarding because you see the results almost instantaneously! Sprinkle crushed walnuts over yogurt in the morning, throw some black olives in your wrap for lunch, eat some pumpkin seeds mixed with kashi cereal for a snack, and cook with olive oil for dinner. No sassy water for me, just lots of plain water (I still don’t get the 8 glasses a day, usually 4-6) and I walk my dog about a mile every day.

So far, I’m loving it. Slightly decreased calorie intake, plus the exercise I was doing before, and adding yummy MUFAs to combat visceral fat. Goal: bikini (lose 15 pounds) by next summer!

August 20, 2009 at 4:54 pm
(34) Jan says:

I do have mint growing in my garden but it is not spearmint. Does that make a difference? Isn’t the added ingredients to the water mainly to get people to drink more water or does it have a specific purpose in shedding excess water thus excess pounds to jump start the fat burning/ridding process?

January 13, 2010 at 6:45 am
(35) Rob says:

Why eat MUFAS at every meal? I mean are they like antioxidants in that they “attack” or protect the body from saturated fats?? I’m curious how they work in the body?

January 13, 2010 at 10:10 am
(36) diabetes says:

Hi Rob,

Good question. The results of the study say… “An isocaloric MUFA-rich diet prevents central fat redistribution and the postprandial decrease in peripheral adiponectin gene expression and insulin resistance induced by a CHO-rich diet in insulin-resistant subjects.”

I interpret this to mean that changing your diet from a carb rich diet to one that has more MUFAs in it will reduce belly fat, because a carb rich, saturated fat diet seems to put the fat around the middle which appears to increase insulin resistance which is one of the hallmarks of metabolic syndrome and prediabetes. It’s how the body handles the food you eat. A Mediterranean diet has more MUFAs in it. That’s why doctors say that a Mediterranean diet is good for you. More concentration of healthy fats, less on processed carbs and saturated fats. This is especially good for people who already are insulin resistant. Insulin resistance appears to intensify the concentration of belly fat in a carb-rich diet, which kind of suggests a vicious cycle, of increased belly fat leading to increased insulin resistance leading to increased belly fat… according to this study.

January 13, 2010 at 5:58 pm
(37) Rob says:

Here’s another question. Does eating MUFAS need to be only with meals or can u have MUFAS anytime?

January 13, 2010 at 10:45 pm
(38) diabetes says:

It might be easier to have MUFAs that are oils as part of a meal, such as in a salad dressing or drizzled over vegetables. Walnuts, other nuts or seeds make a good snack. But watch the portions. Nuts are high in calories. As with any healthy eating plan, calories still count and eating more calories than your body needs will still cause weight gain, no matter what the source of the calories.



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