Worried that you’re harbouring dangerous belly fat?

Your waist circumference tends to be related to the amount of visceral fat you have, a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found. The American Heart Association recommends keeping your waist below 101cm. To check, wrap a measuring type snugly around your bare abdomen, just above your hip bones. Relax, exhale, and measure. If your number comes up a little elevated, here’s what you need to do to target visceral fat.

Quit the fructose

A diet packed with fructose can make your belly bulge. In fact, adolescence in a Georgia Health Science University study who consumed the most fructose had about 20% more visceral fat than those who ate the least. Your move: avoid fruit juice or foods that have added sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Don’t worry about whole fruit, though. It accounts for less than 20% of the fructose in the typical American’s diet, say Emory University researchers.

Sweat the cardio

Resistance training is great for adding lean body mass, but cardio is better for burning visceral fat. In a Duke University study, people who train on treadmills, elliptical trainers, and stationary bikes for eight months (at the cardio equivalent of jogging 20km a week) lost about 8% of their visceral fat. Those who performed equally intense resistance workouts saw no change in visceral fat.

Eat wholegrains

Foods like barley and quinoa do more than just help fill you up. In a 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate three or more daily servings of whole grains had 10% visceral fat than those who ate hardly any or no wholegrains, even when the researchers adjusted for other lifestyle and diet factors. One benefit, they speculate, might come from prebiotic compounds that feed beneficial bacteria in your gut.

Sleep smart

The right amount of shut-eye is key. A study in the journal Sleep showed that people who logged six to seven hours a night had the lowest levels of visceral fat. Above or below the range was associated with more visceral fat, with the worst numbers going to those who slept less than five hours. Over a five-year span, these sleepers put on visceral fat about five times faster than the healthy sleepers did.