There is nothing worse (OK, this is a little dramatic, but it really sucks!) than being bloated. We’ve got the remedy. Enter: anti-bloat foods.
Whether you’re headed to a tropical vacation (hopefully soon!) or you’re simply at home watching Netflix, it doesn’t matter—bloat is something we want to avoid. Forget about how bloat looks on us, what’s worse is how it makes us feel.
I want you all to feel great, which is why we’re going to talk about what causes bloating, how to avoid bloating and what to eat when you’re already bloated (AKA when it’s time to add “non-bloating foods” to your plate).
RELATED: How to Stop Bloating in 5 Easy Steps
Why You’re Bloated
So, what is bloat, exactly?
A little nutrition 101 for you: Bloat is a buildup of gas in the abdomen, usually caused by digestion or swallowed air. Being bloated is a result of an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. This bacteria ferments food, creating gas that causes bloating. In other words, you feel like you’ve been blown up like a balloon.
Water retention is similar to bloating. You know the feeling: You can’t get your rings on, and your eyes look like you’ve been in a brawl. This lovely (not!) symptom is usually caused by consuming foods high in salt (beware of processed foods). High levels of sodium cause your body to hold onto extra fluid.
Not only can bloating and water retention be uncomfortable and less than attractive, they can be downright painful. If you plan on debuting your new bikini but feel puffier than the Michelin Man, I’m here to offer tips for beating the bloat. My favorite anti-bloat foods can help with both of these troublesome problems.
How to Avoid Bloating
If you’d rather stop the bloat before it happens and avoid it altogether, I’ve got you covered. Here are some common causes of bloating that can contribute to the buildup of gas I mentioned earlier:
- Chewing gum
- Drinking through a straw
- Carbonated or fizzy beverages
- Foods with high FODMAP content
- Eating too quickly
What to Eat When You’re Feeling Bloated
This long and lean veggie contains inulin, a prebiotic fiber that aids in digestion, promotes nutrient absorption and helps lower the risk of colon cancer. Add some lemon juice and fire up the grill to turn these tasty veggies into an easy and slimming side dish. Another fave is to simply blanch ’em and use as an in-between-meals filler instead of carrot sticks. Or try this raw asparagus salad with broccoli rabe.
This favorite green fruit has been shown to increase microbial diversity and support gut health. It’s an excellent source of potassium, folate, vitamin B6 and healthy fats. One-third of an avocado provides around 250 milligrams of potassium to help balance the bloat after eating a little too much salt or high-sodium foods. Try this delicious kale, avocado and blood orange salad.
Bananas are high in potassium, which can help balance out the fluid buildup that happens when you consume a lot of sodium. Less ripe bananas help contribute to the formation of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which promote good gut health.
For a bloat-busting treat that can also sub as a meal, try this avocado banana smoothie.
Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries
These colorful berries are considered low FODMAP when you exercise portion control. In case you’re wondering, FODMAPs are difficult-to-digest carbs that can cause a slew of gastrointestinal symptoms in the millions of people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Strawberries are low in FODMAPs (they were recently reclassified from no FODMAP to having some), and contain antioxidants and fiber to help promote gut motility and alleviate inflammatory symptoms. (To explain why portion size sometimes matters with FODMAPs, there’s a threshold you hit when you eat a certain amount of a food that makes it “higher” FODMAP.)
These crunchy veggies act as diuretics, helping you to flush out the excess water you’re retaining. (Buh-bye, bloating.) Celery also has about 100 milligrams of potassium in every stalk and is a good source of fiber, vitamins C and K, and calcium. Pair that with its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phytonutrients (such as luteolin and quercetin), and you have several excellent reasons to add more celery to your diet. Toss some in your salad for extra crunch or snack on celery with spicy salsa.
RELATED: Is Celery Juice Good For You?
Citrus Fruits, Melons, Cucumbers
Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit, melons such as honey dew and watermelon, and veggies such as cucumber and iceberg lettuce have high water content to help get things moving in your system and reduce the buildup and bloat.
These fruits and veggies are no slouches when it comes to nutrition either. Citrus fruits are not only high in immune-supporting vitamin C, but they’re also solid sources of fiber and low in calories.
With just 40 calories per cup, watermelon is particularly rich in lycopene (the antioxidant that lends it the lovely pink hue). This is good for your skin, heart and brain.
Iceberg lettuce has fiber, potassium, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin K, all while being very low in carbs and calories (10 calories for ⅙ of a medium head of lettuce).
Cucumbers are wildly low in calories (30 calories per medium cucumber) and a good source of potassium, magnesium, fiber, and vitamins A and K.
Garlic is known to have prebiotic compounds that help feed our gut, contribute to a diverse microbiome and promote healthy digestion. Although garlic doesn’t sit well with everyone (it does contain FODMAPs), for those who can tolerate it, garlic has been shown to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. The allicin in garlic also acts as a natural diuretic.
Garlic, olive oil and lemon zest give these green beans just the right flavor and dose of nutrients.
This anti-inflammatory root also has anti-spasmodic qualities. Studies show that it has de-bloating properties too. According to this review, ginger appears to be safe and its effects are mighty and amazing in its many applications. Try grating it into your favorite marinade, topping a simple piece of grilled fish to add a little zing, or add it to your lemon water.
Kimchi, Kefir, Sauerkraut
Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and kefir are rich in probiotics and bioactive peptides which contribute to their digestive-supporting and anti-inflammatory properties. Kefir has over 35 strains of bacteria and yeast that help reduce inflammation and relieve your upset tummy.
Not only is kiwi a good source of potassium, zinc and fiber, it also contains actinidin. This enzyme may increase the gastric emptying rate, improve gastrointestinal motility (which is the movement of food through the digestive tract) and provide faster relief from feeling overly full. A small randomized trial has shown that two peeled kiwi per day improved chronic constipation and was better tolerated than other natural remedies (psyllium and prunes). Both green and gold kiwi are considered to be low FODMAP foods, which we know can be consumed without causing bloat for most individuals.
This sweet treat has a powerful enzyme called papain, which aids digestion and the breakdown of protein. It works so well that it’s sold as a supplement to treat bloating and heartburn. Papaya is also high in fiber, helping to keep you regular and avoid constipation. Worth noting: This tropical fruit can trigger a histamine reaction in sensitive individuals and should be eaten with caution if on a low-histamine diet.
Thinly slice papaya and couple it with grilled chicken for a mini meal. Or cut it into cubes and top with shredded coconut for a sweet fix.
Peppermint or Chamomile Tea
These teas can help food to pass through the stomach and relieve gas. Dried chamomile flowers are packed with good-for-you plant compounds like flavonoids and can help relax intestinal muscles and reduce bloating. The key to peppermint’s bloat-busting success is likely thanks to a cooling compound found in its leaves: menthol. Menthol helps relax the intestinal tract and relieve bloating.
Sip on your choice of iced or hot tea with a slice or two of lemon or ginger. Or give bloat the boot with these other teas known to relieve GI symptoms.
Not just for piña coladas, this tropical fruit contains bromelain, a digestion-promoting enzyme. Toss some freshly-sliced pineapple rings on a hot grill to dress up a chicken breast or eat them as a healthy dessert. We also love this light and hydrating pineapple cucumber lime salad to banish bloat.
Ground red pepper contains capsaicin, which has been shown to relieve abdominal discomfort including gas. One study found that regular red pepper ingestion in the form of enteric-coated pills helped reduce bloating for patients with IBS. If going the spice route, remember that dried spices lose potency over time. So, toss them if they’ve been sitting in your pantry for more than a couple of years.
Spinach is no slouch in the nutrients department. In fact, educating yourself on the health benefits of spinach may make you want to eat it all the time. One cup of cooked spinach provides 157 milligrams of magnesium, which can help balance electrolytes and reduce fluid retention. This is similar to the foods that are good sources of potassium.
These grains are typically easier to digest and more friendly on your stomach than whole grains, plus they have been found to have higher nutrient bioavailability as an added bonus.
These orange (and sometimes purple!) potatoes are another great source of potassium and promote good gut health and SCFA production. Specifically, sweet potatoes stimulate production of butyric acid which may have potential benefits for reducing pain and inflammation in the gut.
Looking for ways to incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet? Here are 17 surprising ways to do just that!
Tomatoes provide fiber and prebiotics to feed the good gut bacteria and have also been shown to help increase probiotic activity for better gut health overall. One small tomato provides 216 mg of potassium, so be sure to add them to salads or cook them to increase lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.
Curcumin, the active polyphenol in turmeric, has strong anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce the enzymes that contribute to inflammation. Studies have shown curcumin to be beneficial in reducing GI symptoms, including bloating, for those with digestive diseases such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Regardless of choosing whole-fat or low-fat (we recommend whole-fat, low-sugar), yogurt gives you a dose of beneficial bacteria, which helps keep your digestion efficient. If you still don’t like the idea of plain yogurt, get creative and add canned pumpkin, natural peanut butter, or shredded coconut. Here are 5 super easy yogurt recipes to get you started.