What to eat to help you lose weight and regulate belly fat, according to research

How to diet to hack your body's hormones, reduce belly fat, up satiety and lose weight

Overweight man and woman jogging
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Getting rid of belly fat is hard. You could spend hours on the treadmill and only see a very small decline in weight. The old adage "you can't outtrain a bad diet" is absolutely true: in order to lose weight effectively, you have to change your diet and eat the stuff your body really needs, not the highly-processed foods which give your brain large doses of reward chemicals.  

That's often theorised as to why there are so many of us who are considered overweight or obese: we're addicted to modern, packaged junk food. You could learn to cook with the best health grills and best air fryer, but if you're still eating lots of junk in between in order to give your brain that "hit" of happy hormones, you're unlikely to lose much weight.

Fortunately, you can manipulate your body the other way around, and create favourable conditions to encourage it to release hormones which are conducive to less fat storage and more fat burning. 

Aubergine and couscous, part of a Mediterranean diet

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Recent research published by the Endocrine Society examined levels of ghrelin, a hormone found in higher quantities in slimmer individuals. Ghrelin does guard against cardiovascular disease, but is also associated with increased levels of hunger. 

The researchers studied participants who followed the "green Mediterranean diet", which was like the traditional Mediterranean diet of fish, olive oil, salads, pulses, tomatoes and whole grains, with some changes. It included a leafy vegetable called mankai, plenty of green tea, and no red meat.

The researchers found increased amounts of ghrelin in the participants who followed this diet, even against those who followed a normal "healthy" balanced diet. This suggests the green Med diet guards reduces risk of cardiovascular disease and controls belly fat storage in addition to fuelling your body.

However, you're likely to get quite hungry as ghrelin, known as the "hunger hormone", is also very closely involved in regulating appetite. Fortunately, the omega-3 in the Mediterranean diet from the fish and olive oil can help modulate and reduce appetite according to research, but ensuring you get plenty of protein and fibre can have a favourable effect on satiety – if you're cutting out red and processed meat, our best protein powders for weight loss could be a good place to start. If you're looking for a good deal on protein supps, you're in luck –the Black Friday protein deals are almost upon us.

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.