Let’s get one thing straight: When we say “flat belly” we’re talking about a belly that isn’t experiencing the discomforts of bloating—all tummy sizes are beautiful!
What is bloating?
“Bloating can happen when either air or gas builds up in the GI tract. Certain foods produce gas when we eat them or others might just not be fully digested, both of which can cause bloating,” says Sammi Haber Brondo, RD, MS.
Chelsea McCallum, RD, and IBS nutritionist adds that bloating can also occur after you eat, especially after eating a big meal or drinking a lot of fluids.
“Physically, bloating can make your stomach appear bigger and can cause pain, discomfort, or that general ‘stuffed’ feeling. Anyone can experience bloating, however, it’s more common that individuals who have GI issues such as IBS will face extreme cases of bloating, especially after eating specific ‘trigger’ foods,” she says.
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Why do certain foods make us bloat while others don’t?
The truth is different foods will cause different people to bloat. As McCallum points out, it largely depends on your body as well as your digestive system. For example, if you have a food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity, your stomach will bloat since your body has a harder time digesting the food.
RELATED: What’s the Difference Between a Food Allergy, a Sensitivity, and an Intolerance?
“Some high-fiber foods can produce large amounts of gas in the stomach which will also cause bloating,” she says. “Sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners are known to cause digestive problems that can result in bloating. One non-food-specific reason you might bloat shortly after eating is that you are eating too quickly and swallowing a lot of air.”
What’s the best food to eat to avoid bloating if you have IBS?
McCallum says there are several foods you can eat to beat the bloat and get you a flat belly. Here are just a few examples, and for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Freshly cooked rice and potatoes
“Avoid cooking, cooling, and reheating starches like potato and rice,” says McCallum. “This can increase the resistant starch—a type of fiber—in the foods which can contribute to bloating in people with a sensitive tummy.”
“They are high in fiber and contain an enzyme that can help to keep you regular and keep the bloating at bay,” says McCallum.
“Chia pudding made with almond milk, maple syrup, and strawberries. This combination is high fiber, and low in fermentable fiber known as FODMAPs,” says McCallum.
For context, FODMAPs stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. Foods that are low in FODMAPS won’t cause you to bloat as much.
Low FODMAP veggies
“Veggies like carrots, red bell peppers, parsnips, kabocha squash, and choy sum are all great veggies that are FODMAP-free,” says McCallum.
In general, what is the best food to eat for a flat belly?
Brondo says insoluble fiber is great to help anyone debloat.
“This type of fiber helps move food through the GI tract and includes foods like whole grains, fruit, and vegetables,” she says. “An easy way to add these foods to your diet is with a bar like Nature’s Bakery Baked-Ins. They’re organic and made with whole grains, real fruit, and veggies and have 3 grams of fiber per bar, plus they taste like soft baked banana bread, which doesn’t hurt!”
McCallum also suggests keeping track of what foods you’re eating, that way you can see which ones are causing you to feel bloated more so than others. You can then try temporarily removing these foods from your diet and see if you notice any improvements.
In general, she says these foods cause bloating for most people:
- Gluten and wheat products: wheat, spelt, barley, and other grains
- Dairy and lactose: Milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream
- High-fiber veggies and fruits
For more, be sure to check out 19 Foods That Cause Bloating And Gut Discomfort.