Most of us understand that excess body fat is not healthy, but we may not know all the reasons why, or even that there are different kinds of fat. Today we will take a closer look at the fat that resides inside our bellies… omentum fat.
What is it?
The Greater Omentum is inside the belly and hangs underneath muscles in the stomach, down to the pelvis and attaches to the transverse colon. You can see omentum fat walking around: beer belly, pot belly, spare tire, etc. Dr. Oz said it best, the reason those beer bellies are hard as a keg is because it is under the muscle. Unlike subcutaneous fat (which is under the skin), omentum fat is a type of visceral fat (surrounds the organs).
Why is it a problem?
According to Dr. Oz’s book YOU: On A Diet, omentum fat’s close proximity to our internal organs makes it their best energy source. It’s like going to the gas station around the corner instead of the one across town. The fat released from the omentum quickly goes to our livers, which in turn is shipped to our arteries and can contribute to heart disease. Subcutaneous fat (like around our thighs) does not travel as fast. Our livers are super-efficient; they take in nutrients and toxins, sort them, detoxify them and send those products where they need to go in our bodies. Did you ever hear of “apple” body shapes being more harmful to health than “pear” body shapes? This is the reason why. Subcutaneous fat is not directly seeping into your organs putting you at risk for metabolic diseases.
However, all is not lost! Studies and lab values show that when we eat healthy and exercise, our omentum fat decreases and we become healthier. Our blood pressure, cholesterol and high blood sugar levels all decrease way before we ever notice any physical changes.
Think they’re healthy? Think again!
Some foods have developed such a healthy façade. Pull the claims and buzz away and you’re left with foods that aren’t as healthy as they seem.
Nutrient enhanced waters: The only prominent “nutrients” these waters give are sugar and empty calories-not the type of nutrients consumers were thinking of. The small amounts of B and C vitamins does not negate the sugar amount in these waters. Those vitamins are found in the foods we eat. One medium orange provides over 110% of our daily value of vitamin C plus fiber and other nutrients.
Having nutrient enhanced waters on hand if you have low blood sugar and need a quick burst of glucose is not a terrible idea. But drinking them instead of eating healthy fruits and vegetables for nutrition is a mistake. Stick with water for hydration and healthy foods to provide you with your vitamins.
Bran, corn, fruit muffins: When looking at the ingredient list of these muffins (white refined flour, sugar, butter, oil) they are no healthier than a cupcake without the frosting. Yes, some muffins have “fruit” in them, but more often than not the “fruit” is really sugary dried fruit. Bran sounds healthy and is healthy, but white flour is always the predominant source.
If eaten as a meal, muffins are unbalanced (all carbohydrate) which can spike blood sugar and then have it come crashing down. Also, let’s not forget about portion sizes. That healthy bran muffin can cost you anywhere from 500-700 calories! Aim for a healthier alternative: whole wheat English muffin with natural peanut butter. Or if you love muffins, surf the web for 100% whole wheat mini muffin recipes.
Pretzels: Pretzels are made from white flour, which is stripped of bran and vitamins. The ingredient list is not long. It is , however, devoid of any real nutrition. Each handful of pretzels is like eating a slice of toasted white bread which can spike blood sugar and leave you feeling hungry minutes later. Instead, find a whole grain brand or choose whole wheat crackers instead.
Nutrition Bars: According to Joy Bauer RD. “They’re (nutrition bars) certainly convenient, but some popular brands are high in saturated fat and added sugar, and some contain partially hydrogenated oils and loads of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Plus, they often contain the calorie equivalent of a candy bar. If you’re not active enough to burn off their heavy calorie load, energy bars can actually sabotage your weight loss.” 1
“You can get the same mix of carbs and protein by snacking on an apple with peanut butter or a cup of grapes with a low-fat string cheese. If you do want a “smart” nutrition bar, keep calories under 200 and saturated fat at 2 grams max (2 or more grams of fiber is a bonus).” 1
Granola: Sure, granola is filled with nutrient dense foods like whole grain oats and fruit. The only problem is both are often coated in sugary syrup -something has to make those little clusters. In addition, many granola brands also have hydrogenated oils attached to their ingredient list which are harmful to your health. Forgo granola as your cereal; the portion that is poured into bowls is often double the recommended serving size. Instead, mix granola with a lower calorie whole grain cereal, sprinkle a tablespoon on your Greek yogurt or have a small handful as a dessert option in place of high fat, high sugar treats.
Fruit Flavored Yogurt: The fruity yogurt that is on the shelves of our grocery stores are nothing more than yogurt mixed with jelly providing you with lots of sugar. While there are natural lactose sugars in yogurt which are roughly around 12 grams per 6 oz serving, many yogurt labels show around 26 grams revealing added sugar. Certain brands that market the fact that they can improve your digestive health are exploiting probiotics that are found naturally in all yogurt. In addition, these brands often fund their own research leaving question as to their validity. Your best bet is to go plain, preferably greek with fresh fruit mixed in.
Going forward, think twice before grabbing that “healthy” food, it will impact your omentum fat and ultimately YOUR HEALTH!
1. Roizen, Michael F., and Mehmet Oz. You, on a Diet: The Owner’s Manual for Waist Management. New York: Free, 2009. Print
Bauer, Joy. “7 Health Foods That Really Aren’t” TODAY.com. NBCNews, n.d. Web