We’ve all experienced belly bloat in one way or another. And, while sodium and hard-to-digest foods may be the most likely the culprits for our protruding tummies, it’s difficult not to eat said foods when they taste so yummy. Since we don’t plan on giving up take-out Thai food or late-night pizza anytime soon, we reached out to nutritionist therapist Alissa Rumsey and dietitian Lisa Moskovitz to learn how to get rid of belly bloat with the help of anti-bloating foods.
First, you'll need to determine if your bloat is water-retention or a digestive issue, says Moskovitz. "In those cases, it helps to rule out any digestive disorders or diseases with a specialist, or gastroenterologist. In the meantime, consider making some tweaks at home to your eating habits." She notes that getting enough exercise will encourage movement along the digestive tract and help get rid of excess water through sweat.
While Rumsey cautions against eating salt, drinking carbonated beverages, and indulging in alcohol, as all of the above can cause bloating, she is quick to offer natural remedies to reduce it. Some of which include eating smaller portions to prevent an overly “full” feeling, avoiding straws to reduce digestive upset, and last but not least, eating foods that have been proven to reduce belly bloat. Check out these expert-approved foods that help ease bloating.
Meet the Expert
- Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS, is a nutrition therapist and certified intuitive eating counselor. She is also the founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness P.C., which offers nutrition coaching and consulting services.
- Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, is the CEO of NY Nutrition Group and a medical expert board member for Eat This Not That.
"If your bloating is mostly fluid-retention based, consider filling up on naturally hydrating foods like green vegetables," Moskovitz suggests. "These not only provide key nutrients your body needs for proper fluid balance, but it offers vitamins and minerals that can directly compete against high sodium levels that cause bloating." Made of 95% water, cucumbers are a hydration MVP and help keep things moving in the GI tract.
"Hydration is paramount for staying bloat-free," says Moskovitz. "It may seem counter-intuitive, but the more water you drink the less your body will hold on to."
If you are looking to reduce signs of bloating, Rumsey suggests reaching for a fresh slice of pineapple. According to studies, bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples aids in digestion by breaking down proteins while also reducing signs of swelling. It's also a high water-content fruit, which will help reduce water retention.
According to Moskovitz, incorporating more magnesium- and potassium-rich foods can do wonders for bloating. "Potassium can help flush out excess water build-up that can make you feel more swollen and magnesium can naturally fight against bloat-causing constipation," she explains. Avocados are naturally high in both minerals and are full of antioxidants. They're also a great source of fiber, which is integral for proper digestion.
"In some cases, bloating is a sign of dysbiosis, or an imbalance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria," says Moskovitz. "Adding in more healthy bacteria, in the form of probiotics, may be the answer to your belly bloat issues."
If you’re looking to beat bloat with the help of yogurt, you need to make sure you’re eating the correct kind. Rumsey recommends yogurt containing live and active cultures. These specific probiotics have been proven to move digestion along and decrease bloating. However, if you're lactose intolerant, opt for a dairy-free alternative like Daiya Greek Yogurt.
Moskovitz suggests sipping on digestion-easing herbs and teas for bloating. "Dandelion tea can act as a natural, safe diuretic," she says. "Tea is also a great way to relax your mind and body that can automatically settle your belly."
A great way to beat water retention bloating is to eat protein, as it acts like a natural diuretic helping your body get rid of extra water. According to Moskovitz, protein also fights against bloat caused by higher-carb diets. "Carbs don't directly cause weight gain, but when they are stored they bind onto water molecules that can lead to swollen sensations," she explains. Adding more nutritious proteins can prevent this from occurring by balancing out the carbs. Moskovitz suggests whole eggs as a great source of protein, vitamin D, B-vitamins, and iron.
Another stellar source of protein, this superfood grain is also full of fiber—a combo that will keep you full and satisfied. As Moskovitz puts it: "A diet with a sufficient amount of fiber is imperative for a bloat-free body. Fiber regulates digestion and keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time. This can manage any extra-eating that can lead to more bloat."
Moskovitz suggests taking some deep breaths, "Stress can lead to breathing that is quicker and more shallow—this leads to more trapped air in our belly. Deep breathing is not only a good way to fight against belly bloat, but it is also a powerful mental health tool."
Another place to turn for probiotics besides yogurt? Fermented food and drinks. Sauerkraut, aka pickled cabbage, works similarly to yogurt when it comes to decreasing belly bloat. The probiotics from the fermented cabbage may facilitate efficient digestion while also decreasing gas.
Sauerkraut is a love it or hate it kind of food and not everyone is crazy about the idea of downing a jar for a flatter belly. A second way to try fermented cabbage and get all the probiotic benefits is kimchi. A Korean cuisine staple, kimchi makes a great main dish or a side to noodles, rice, or soup.
Kombucha is another popular fermented option but in drink form. The fermented tea is known for a list of purported health benefits. It's full of antioxidants, antimicrobials, and—you guessed it—probiotics, which are wonderous little bacteria for a healthy gut and improved digestion.
Rumsey says that salt causes water retention, which can cause bloat and stomach distention. Potassium is a superhero when it comes to flushing out excess sodium and water, which can then lead to reduced bloating. Bananas are one of the most potassium-rich foods you could imagine and do wonders when it comes to combating a ballooning belly.
Like dandelion tea, chamomile is easily digestible and soothes the stomach. This calming herb relaxes the GI muscles, which helps alleviate gas blockages that can cause bloating. Chamomile flowers contain terpenoids and flavonoids, adding to their many medicinal assets. In traditional medicine, the herb is used to treat inflammation, ulcers, gastrointestinal ailments, and hemorrhoids.
Any water-packed foods you can get your hands on will do wonders to flush out excess salt and reverse water retention. And watermelon is nearly entirely made of water, making it a top pick diuretic for kicking bloat to the curb. Plus, they're just plain tasty.
Speaking of hydrating foods, Moskovitz suggests adding more of this fluid-filled veggie to your plate to reduce bloat. Watercress is nutrient-dense and may aid in digestion by way of hydration (it's 95% water, after all), fiber, and antibacterial properties. However, de-puffing the gut is only one potential benefit of this leafy plant. It's also abundant in compounds and antioxidants that may protect against certain types of cancer, lower blood pressure, and combat inflammation.
The amino acid asparagine that's found in asparagus goes quick to work as a diuretic to reduce water retention and resulting bloat. Asparagus also makes a great complement to probiotic foods with its helpful prebiotic fiber. These nourish and aid the probiotics on their mission to keep digestion running smoothly.
Post-meal mints aren't just for freshening the breath. Traditionally, mint has been used as a digestive aid after meals and has been the commonly sought-after treatment for upset stomachs for generations. The antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties found in mint may work to soothe bloating pain and reduce stomach inflammation.
Blueberries are full of fiber and water—the Achilles heel of a bloated stomach. This combo will keep digestion smooth and get rid of excess salt, all while delivering a healthy dose of antioxidants. "As a leading source of antioxidants among the whole fruit family, berries not only fight against inflammation but offer immune-supporting vitamin C and potassium that fights against water retention," says Moskovitz.
There's a reason everyone seemingly overnight hopped aboard the celery juice train (though we're talking about eating the actual vegetable here). Celery has an impressive resumé when it comes to combating bloat and water retention. The veggie is 95% water and full of potassium and anti-inflammatory flavonoids.
"Whether they are in the form of black beans, kidney beans, or soy beans, beans are a powerhouse of nutritional value," says Moskovitz. They'll fill you up, but keep you feeling light and healthy while delivering the body plenty of potassium, magnesium, fiber, protein, and iron. However, beans are harder to digest, so Moskovitz suggests limiting your intake if you have IBS or a sensitive stomach.
For inflammation-related bloating, turmeric may be your answer. Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, is a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that can be used to treat and prevent chronic inflammation. The spice has also been found to help soothe upset stomachs and symptoms of IBS.
Moskovitz gives an honorable mention to kale, as a naturally hydrating and nutrient-dense veggie. Incorporating more of this leafy green in your diet will help to regulate the passage of fluids in your system and supply mountains of essential vitamins and minerals. There is also a bit of protein and fiber found in kale that may contribute to bloat-banishing.
Sweet potatoes are not only a nutrient-packed alternative to regular potatoes, they're likely to help ease uncomfortable bloating too. With plenty of potassium and fiber, you can sweet potato your way to reduced water retention and thriving digestive operation. Plus, these root veggies are not stingy on the vitamins or antioxidants.
Lettuce is a super simple means to boost hydration, which makes sense because the vegetable is over 95% water. Plain romaine lettuce is also high in magnesium and potassium, giving it great bloat-fighting potential. Not only does it serve as a crunchy and filling salad base, but the leaves can be used in place of bread, which can cause bloating for people who are sensitive to gluten.
Like lettuce, spinach is a naturally hydrating food. This is thanks to the fact that it is mostly water at about 91% (ever watched a heaping pile of spinach cook down to nearly nothing?). It also contains an abundance of antioxidants, potassium, and fiber to fight inflammation and ease digestion.
These tiny little fruits are fibrous and practically bursting with H20. Grape skin contains high amounts of a compound called resveratrol, which is effective in reducing inflammation and is a powerful antioxidant (it's also thoroughly studied in the context of cancer treatments and prevention). Whatever the culprit of your stomach discomfort—be it maldigestion, water retention, or inflammation—you're in good hands with a palmful of grapes.
Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh is a powerhouse for both probiotics and protein (and it's a great vegan one at that). This means tempeh has a dual action of expelling bloat fluids and balancing gut bacteria, allowing an environment for a happy and healthy tummy. Additionally, because tempeh is fermented, it's easy to digest, making it a good alternative to regular beans.
Beets are the unsung hero of potassium-dense foods for reducing water bloat. Sure, bananas are always a top choice, but one cup of beets is extremely comparable to one medium banana in its content of this mineral, with a difference of only about 2%. And the beet actually comes out on top with more potassium. Not to mention they also have more protein and fiber, and fewer carbs and calories.
Honeydew is mostly water, making it easy to get hydrated and reduce bloat. As a diuretic, it'll also increase urination and rid the body of excess sodium—a process that's aided even more by the potassium found in honeydew. The melon contributes to your daily intake of fiber as well, making it helpful in alleviating digestive issues.
Like honeydew and watermelon, cantaloupe is another ultra-hydrating melon that comes in handy for reducing belly bloat. There's also more potassium in cantaloupe than in other melons, so this one is a winner when it comes to excreting extra salt from the body. The fruit's fiber content will also prevent constipation and encourage a healthy digestive tract.
Chocolate is probably not first in mind when thinking of foods that help with bloating and digestion. But this savory dessert is full of sneaky health benefits when consumed with high cocoa content. Regarding stomach issues specifically, rich dark chocolate comes with a healthy portion of soluble fiber. In fact, there are 11 grams of fiber per 100-gram bar of 70-85% cocoa chocolate. Any excuse to eat more chocolate is totally supported here.
In general, you can expect to get a good amount of your daily fiber from fruit. However, many fruits like mangos and pears have a pretty high sugar content, which can be difficult to digest and create gas. Raspberries, however, supply lots of fiber while being one of the lowest sugar fruits, with only about 5 grams per cup. They're also water-rich and very low in calories.
Green tea has been thoroughly studied for its exorbitant list of health benefits. It's full of antioxidants and disease-fighting compounds, and studies have demonstrated its potential in preventing gastrointestinal disorders and infection by bacteria that can cause stomach pain and bloating. The tea has been used for centuries in traditional medicine as a remedy for a number of stomach ailments, however, it's best to keep consumption to no more than two cups. It's a highly caffeinated tea (matcha, anyone?), so too much can actually cause discomfort in the stomach.
Another miracle digestion tea? Ginger. There's a reason so many "flat tummy" and debloating teas on the market are chock-full of green and ginger teas. They work. Ginger is another ancient herbal medicine that's highly regarded for its anti-inflammatory properties, which helps soothe the stomach for easy passage of food. Ginger has also been found to be an effective treatment of gastrointestinal problems including bloating, nausea, indigestion, and cramping.
Feeding your dog or cat pumpkin puree is a common fix for when they have issues like constipation or diarrhea. But this trick can be applied to issues of the human tummy as well. Pureed pumpkin is first, easy to digest, and it contains lots of soluble fiber and potassium while remaining low in sugar and starch. Together, you've got a powerful cocktail to fight bloating in more ways than one.
Like many leafy greens, arugula has impressive water content. At 90% H2O, eating this vegetable is a huge help in mitigating fluid retention and the corresponding bloat. Arugula is low in calories and remarkably nutrient-dense, serving up a hearty dose of magnesium to combat constipation-related bloating.
Just one cup of butternut squash holds a whopping 582 milligrams of potassium to encourage fluid balance, as a good bloat-buster should. It's also high in calcium, which makes it an easy alternative for dairy products, which can cause that uncomfortable puff in the stomach for some. Butternut squash also contains a bit of magnesium and fiber, further contributing to its resumé of bloat-reducing capabilities.
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