Some foods are worse than others when it comes to causing weight gain, in particular, fat stored around your middle. Here are six foods that turn straight to belly fat...
See also: Men and belly fat: Eight ways to bust your gut
See also: The secret to getting rid of a 'muffin top'
1. Carb-dense crackers, bread and rice cakes
Think rice cakes will make you slim? Think again! Refined, carb-dense foods cause a spike in blood-sugar, which triggers the production of insulin – a hormone that encourages the development of visceral adipose tissue (the dangerous kind of deep tummy fat that sits around your internal organs).
Worse, carb-dense foods can also change the balance of your tummy's gut flora, causing inflammation.
Foods are considered carb-dense if they have a high ratio of carb grams relative to their weight. A small potato weighing 170 grams is mostly made up of water – less than a quarter (23%) of it is carbohydrate. Whereas a plain rice cake is around 80% carbohydrate! Avoid white crackers, bagels and bread and satisfy your appetite by eating protein, such as lean chicken, low-fat cottage cheese and eggs.
Fed up with belly fat? Stop eating crisps! The fried potato snack is the worst culprit for abdominal weight gain, according to Harvard researchers. As well as being high in calories and covered with salt, which causes bloating, they are one of the least satisfying foods out there – which explains why "once you pop, you can't stop."
One study found that people who eat crisps every day gain two pounds of fat every four years. Cut out crisps, and you could start to lose belly fat, even if you change nothing else about your diet.
Pizza is one of the biggest contributors of saturated fat in the Western diet, second only to cheese itself. You know that saturated fat can clog your arteries, but did you know that it's also linked to inflammation and thus contributes to excess belly fat? Combine greasy cheese with a thick wedge of carbs, and it's a recipe for weight gain.
4. Fruit juice
They might taste healthy, but even natural varieties of fruit juice are packed with sugar. Most of the sweetness in juice comes from fructose, a type of sugar associated with belly fat. Switch to water flavoured with low-sugar squash or just a dash of real fruit juice.
5. French fries
Eaten in moderation, there's no need to cut potatoes out of your diet – but be careful how you eat them. Mashed or boiled is fine but stay away from the deep fat fryer. Another Harvard study found that people who regularly ate chips put on three pounds every four years – adding up to 15lbs over the 20-year course of the study.
6. Ice cream
As an occasional treat, ice cream is fine, but have a bowl a few times a week and your waistline may soon expand. Ice cream is packed with sugar, which causes a spike in blood-sugar followed by an increase in insulin levels, which causes fat to be stored around your middle.
Ice-cream made from cow's milk also contains lactose. Lactose is known as a FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-Di Monosaccharides and Polyols) – a type of rapidly fermentable carbohydrate that can aggravate the gut. Many people have trouble digesting lactose, particularly as they get older, and this can lead to a bloated tummy – as well as weight gain.
See our pick of the 20 best weight loss aids and fitness gadgets...