6 Worst and 4 Best Foods for Fighting Belly Bloat (2023)

When it’s not something more serious, you may be able to trace a swollen belly back to certain foods.

6 Worst and 4 Best Foods for Fighting Belly Bloat (1)

ByMoira LawlerMedically Reviewed byKelly Kennedy, RDN


Medically Reviewed

6 Worst and 4 Best Foods for Fighting Belly Bloat (2)

Do you know which foods contribute to belly bloat?

Although it’s a common complaint, belly bloat isn't always a bad thing. (And you certainly shouldn't feel embarrassed if your belly is a little swollen.) In most cases, bloat is the result of extra gas in your system because you've swallowed air or eaten certain foods, according to theNational Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

It's normal to feel bloated after a big meal, but bloating that doesn’t deflate or comes with other symptoms like vomiting or fever may be cause for concern. “It could be a sign that something is out of whack with your gut health and digestion,” saysRachel Doyle, RDN, the owner of RAD Nutrition in Chicago, who focuses on gut health. The underlying cause could be a number of things, from a digestive issue or liver disease to gastritis or cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

If this sounds like you, consult your doctor to find out what may be behind your symptoms.

But if your bloating is only occasional and you aren’t noticing other physical red flags, there are steps you can take to feel more comfortable. Simplediettweaks in particular can keep the bloating at bay. It’s important to know, though, that every body is different. “A food that causes bloating for your friend might not do the same for you and vice versa,” Doyle says. “That being said, there are some common culprits.”

Here are six foods that may contribute to belly bloat and four that may help you avoid it.

6 Foods That Cause Bloating

6 Foods That May Contribute To Belly Bloat

6 Worst and 4 Best Foods for Fighting Belly Bloat (3)

1. Processed Foods

6 Worst and 4 Best Foods for Fighting Belly Bloat (4)

Enemy No. 1: sodium. “Sodium holds onto water,” saysPam Fullenweider, RD, the founder of Fully Mediterranean in Houston. When that happens, you’re left dealing with swelling or bloating, Doyle says. Sodium is an essential mineral that you need to consume regularly — so you cannot and should not avoid it entirely — but where your sodium comes from and how much you get matters, Doyle says. Sodium found in unhealthy packaged andprocessed foods, such as fast food, dressings, sauces, canned soups, deli meat, and baked goods like bread, bagels, and doughnuts, is the kind to avoid, Doyle says. For general health, you’ll want to limit this kind of fare anyway.

2. High-Fat Foods

6 Worst and 4 Best Foods for Fighting Belly Bloat (5)

Foods that tend to be high in saturatedfatinclude baked goods, processed meats, andcheese. High-fat foods all take quite a bit longer to digest than other foods, saysKristin Gillespie, RD, a certified nutrition support clinician and nutrition adviser with Exercise With Style in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “Because these move more slowly through the GI tract, they can result in bloating,” she says. Take a conservative approach when it comes to saturated fat: TheAmerican Heart Association recommends limiting it to 5–6 percent of your daily calories, so no more than 120 in a 2,000-calorie diet. In other words, try not to exceed 13 grams (g) of saturated fat per day.

3. Dairy

Dairy in its various forms — including milk, ice cream, and cheese — can lead to tummy trouble for some because of lactose, which is the natural sugar in cow’s milk. Many people have trouble digesting lactose, especially older adults and those of African, Native American, or Asian background, according to theInternational Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders. If you find that dairy bothers you, but you can’t give up dairy, try taking an enzyme supplement like Lactaid before you eat dairy foods to help your body break down lactose, Doyle says. An exception here is yogurt, which may fight belly bloat (more on that below).

4. Apples

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While an undeniably healthy food,applesare high in fructose, and too much fructose can cause bloating, according toJohns Hopkins Medicine. Apples are also considered a high-FODMAP food, and these may lead to bloating in some people, Doyle says. FODMAP is an acronym for sugars that the small intestine absorbs poorly (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), according toJohns Hopkins Medicine. People with IBS may benefit from alow-FODMAP diet, saysMonash University, the institution that created this diet plan. Onions,garlic, kidney beans, and cashews are other healthy high-FODMAP foods that people with IBS should be mindful of. Doyle notes that a low-FODMAP diet should be followed only temporarily and under the guidance of a registered dietitian.

5. Legumes

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Legumes, such as beans and lentils, can cause bloating because of theirfibercontent, Doyle says. Nonetheless, theseplant-based foodsare low in saturated fat and sodium, and they are nutrient powerhouses, Harvard Health notes. Fiber specifically is one of the nutrients in legumes that you don’t want to skimp on. “[Fiber] fills you up, keeps the digestive tract running smoothly, and feeds the beneficial bacteria in yourgut microbiome,” Doyle says. You may be able to avoid excessive gas and bloating if you gradually increase your fiber intake, such as by slowly adding more lentils to your diet versus diving into a big bowl of bean chili, Doyle says. Products such as Beano can help reduce belly bloat when you're upping your fiber intake. Drink plenty of water, too, while you're at it.

6. Cruciferous Vegetables

6 Worst and 4 Best Foods for Fighting Belly Bloat (9)

Cruciferous veggies includebroccoli, cauliflower, cabbage,kale, arugula, and Brussels sprouts — some of the healthiest foods out there, according to theAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But large amounts can cause excess gas to build up, leading to bloating, Doyle says. These veggies contain a sugar called raffinose, which can cause gas, according to the International Foundation forGastrointestinalDisorders. Raffinose is also found in beans.

As mentioned, these vegetables are salubrious, with nutrients such as folate and vitamins K, C, and A, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Rather than cutting these out completely, try eliminating one of them at a time to see if your symptoms improve,” Fullenweider says. “Once you’ve determined your trigger foods, try incorporating some back into your diet in smaller amounts rather than eliminating them completely.”

4 Foods That Help With Bloating

4 Foods That May Help Reduce Belly Bloat

6 Worst and 4 Best Foods for Fighting Belly Bloat (10)

1. Cucumbers

Crunchy cucumbers are 96 percentwater, and water-based foods are key to soft stools and smooth digestion, according toCleveland Clinic. Cucumbers also contain a flavonoid called quercetin, notes theCanadian Academy of Sports Nutrition. Quercetin has stronganti-inflammatory properties, so it could reduce swelling in your belly, though more studies in humans are needed to confirm this effect.

2. Yogurt

6 Worst and 4 Best Foods for Fighting Belly Bloat (12)

Yogurt can keep your tummy happy. “Yogurt is pretty widely known for its positive impact on gut health,” Gillespie says. “With probiotics, which help to regulate digestion and improve overall GI health, yogurt can help prevent bloating.” Doyle suggests looking specifically for the words “live, active cultures” on the label when shopping for probiotic-rich foods. Also, opt for plain varieties, as added sugar may also contribute to bloating.

Kefir, a fermented milk drink, also containsprobiotics, according toprevious research, so it, too, may flatten your tummy.

3. Asparagus

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The most common association ofasparagusis with urine and the way the spring vegetable can make your pee smell, but you’ll also be peeing more frequently after eating it. This is due to the diuretic properties found in asparagus’s asparagine, according to theNational Institutes of Health (NIH). Diuretics help your body flush out salt and water, according to Mayo Clinic, which could, in turn, decrease bloating.

4. Bananas

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Bananas fight bloat and discouragewater retentionbecause of their potassium content. “Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte that is important for regulating sodium levels in the body,” Doyle says. “Therefore, potassium-rich foods can help decrease water retention.” In addition to bananas, you can find potassium in acorn squash and dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes, and raisins, according to the NIH.

If you overdid it and want to reduce bloating, try drinking water, taking a walk, or following any number of these and other bloat-reducing steps.

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