No one likes the discomfort that comes with a bloated belly. And while we all know the common culprits that lead to bloating — sparkling beverages, which release bloat-inducing carbon dioxide, and salty foods, which make you retain water — unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. There are a number of other foods that can cause your stomach to balloon, many of which are actually diet-friendly. So, the next time your stomach isn’t as flat as you like, take inventory of your diet and see if you might be sensitive to some of these common bloating culprits.
Chewing gum is bad for multiple reasons. First, when you chew gum you swallow air, which will leave you feeling bloated. Things are exacerbated if you opt for sugar-free gum, since it usually contains sorbitol and xylitol, which are fermented by bacteria in the gut, causing more bloating.
2. Dairy products
There’s good reason many nutritionists suggest avoiding dairy. Dairy contains lactose, which many (in fact most!) adults can’t digest. Milk tends to be the biggest offender here, but cheese, yogurt, and ice cream can all cause bloating as well. Try almond, coconut, or rice milk instead and see if your bloating subsides (though it’s a common dairy replacement, try avoiding soy, which may have negative consequences particularly for men).
3. Fruits and vegetables
While fresh produce is an undeniably important part of anyone’s diet, a number of fruits and vegetables contain complex sugars and starches that are hard to break down and may lead to bloating. Try limiting your consumption of apples, pears, bananas, raisins, asparagus, prunes, carrots, apricots, potatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli. Cooking the produce first — as opposed to eating it raw — will help ease the digestive process. Or mix in non-bloat inducing fruits, such as berries, pomegranates, and passion fruit, and vegetables, such as dark, leafy greens, spinach and kale.
4. Beans and lentils
Similar to the bloat-inducing produce just mentioned, beans and lentils contain a sugar called oligosaccharide, which is not easily digestible and requires methane-releasing bacteria to be broken down — subsequently causing bloating. Fiber and protein-rich beans and lentils aren’t things most of us want to completely avoid, so try soaking them before you eat them, which will help lower the amount of oligosaccharide without affected the nutritional value.
5. Fatty and processed foods
Fat slows down digestion, giving food more time to ferment. This is especially problematic if you’re opting for highly processed fatty foods, which are likely loaded with sugar and salt as well. Our bodies aren’t equipped to properly digest these foods.
6. Artificial sweeteners
In addition to artificial sweeteners being common ingredients in sugar-free gum, artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol and fructose, are common ingredients in sodas, candy, and low-calorie foods. You’ll want to avoid these as our bodies are either unable or have a hard time digesting them.
As a result of the gluten-free craze, wheat has been getting a lot of attention lately. It can, in fact, be hard to break down, which may lead to bloating. Opt instead for quinoa, buckwheat, pure oats, almond flour, or coconut flour. Also note that eating too many carbs in general can cause water retention, which leads to a bloated belly.
8. Spicy foods
Eating spicy foods will trigger the release of stomach acid, which can cause bloating.
In addition to skipping the mentioned foods, there are other ways to avoid bloating. Drink plenty of water, opt for a high-fiber diet, and eat slowly. Also make sure to eat smaller meals more often — versus three big meals every day — since bloating often comes with large meals.