You're not going to like hearing this, but Stahl recommended limiting your sugar intake to reduce belly fat (sorry, deliciously-frosted donut!). Studies show that eating excess sugar can lead to an increase of fat storage in the belly and in the liver. This in turn can cause insulin resistance, which makes it hard to lose weight. So if you've been eating good-for-you foods, but also eating sugar, ditching it could be the one healthy habit that makes a huge difference in your waistline.
These foods also affect your insulin levels. Jason Fung, MD, a nephrologist (kidney specialist), explained in a previous interview that sugary foods and foods made with refined flour like cookies, crackers, and white bread spike your insulin levels. By not eating sugar and refined carbs, it'll keep your insulin levels low, which will help reduce your overall body fat percentage,helping you lose belly fat.
Sugar elevates insulin levels, which block leptin (the hormone that signals to your body that you're full), and overload your dopamine receptors, which leads to insatiable cravings, explained Susan Peirce Thompson, a psychology professor with a PhD in brain and cognitive sciences. In her book Bright Line Eating, she explained that this is why you eat cookie after cookie and still want more — eating sugar makes you crave it. Since sugary foods are so high in calories, and you tend to overeat them, it's no wonder eating sugar leads to weight gain and belly fat.
While enjoying these foods every once in a while is fine (and necessary for your sanity!), find healthier ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. "I find it handy to keep fruit on hand when sugar cravings hit," Stahl said. "Fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can help reduce inflammation throughout the body." You can also turn frozen fruit into ice cream. Noshing on these lower-sugar, lower-calorie foods is an easy habit to help with your lean-belly goals.