There is nothing worse (okay, this is a little dramatic, but it really sucks!) than feeling bloated. Enter: anti-bloat foods.
Whether you’re headed to Turks & Caicos (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).
Why You’re Feeling 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. Feeling bloated can result from 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!) feeling 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 help. 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 favorite green fruit has been shown to increase microbial diversity and support gut health. One-third of an avocado provides around 250mg of potassium to help balance the bloat after eating a little too much salt or high sodium foods.
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.
Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries
These colorful berries are considered low FODMAP in reasonable amounts (strawberries have NO FODMAPs at all!), and contain antioxidants and fiber to help promote gut motility and alleviate inflammatory symptoms. (To explain this, there’s a threshold you hit when you eat a certain amount of blueberries/raspberries that makes them “higher” FODMAP)
Celery and Fennel
These crunchy veggies act as diuretics, helping you to flush out the excess water you’re retaining. (Buh-bye, bloating.) Toss celery in your salad for extra crunch or snack on some with spicy salsa. Roast fennel as a change from broccoli or make it the star of your next crudite.
This long and lean veggie has certain compounds that act like probiotics (healthy bacteria), which aid in digestion. 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.
Citrus Fruits, Melons, Cucumbers
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, honey dew melons, watermelons and cucumber have high water content to help get things moving in your system and reduce the buildup and bloat.
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.
This anti-inflammatory food also has anti-spasmodic qualities. Studies show that it has debloating properties too. 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, it also contains actinidin, an enzyme that may increase the gastric emptying rate, improve gastrointestinal motility and provide faster relief from the overly full feeling. Both green and gold kiwi are considered to be low FODMAP foods, which we know can be consumed without causing bloat for most individuals.
Peppermint or Chamomile Tea
These teas can help food to pass through the stomach and relieve gas. Sip on your choice of iced or hot tea with a slice or two of lemon or ginger. And make it a daily ritual.
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.
One cup of cooked spinach provides around 157mg of magnesium, which can help balance electrolytes and reduce fluid retention (similar to the foods that are good sources of potassium).
These grains are typically easier to digest and more friendly on your stomach, plus have been found to have higher nutrient bioavailability as an added bonus.
These orange 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.
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 216mg of potassium, so be sure to add them to salads or cook them to increase the lycopene content even more.
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!), yogurt gives you a dose of beneficial bacteria, which helps keep your digestion efficient. If you still you don’t like the idea of plain yogurt, get creative and add canned pumpkin, natural peanut butter, or shredded coconut.
This sweet treat has an enzyme called papain, which aids digestion and the breakdown of protein. Thinly slice this fruit and couple it with a thinly sliced piece of grilled chicken for a mini meal, or cut it into cubes and top with shredded coconut for a sweet treat.
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 delish and healthy dessert.