Best and Worst Foods for Bloating

Keep your digestive system humming along by avoiding foods that cause bloat and eating foods that can help.

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If you've ever felt like your abdomen is tight and full, you've probably been bloated. Bloating is common, and several factors contribute to bloating, such as constipation, swallowing air, overeating, and weight gain.

Additionally, some conditions can further aggravate your digestive system and cause bloating like:

Certain foods can also cause bloating. If you feel uncomfortably bloated after meals, it might be time to look at the types of foods you are eating. Here are some of the best and worst foods for bloating.

Worst Foods for Bloating

Here's what you need to know about the foods that may be causing or worsening your bloating.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Kale, broccoli, and cabbage are cruciferous vegetables and contain raffinose, a sugar that produces gas and makes you bloat. However, eating them more often may help in the long run.

"Consistently eating nutrient-rich, high-fiber foods leads to having a stronger, healthier digestive system that's less prone to bloating," said Cynthia Sass, RD, Health contributing nutrition editor. So you can keep eating green vegetables.

To help digestion, you can try steaming the vegetables: "Cooking any vegetable softens the fiber and shrinks the portion as some of the water cooks out, so it takes up less space in the GI [gastrointestinal] tract," explained Sass.

It won't eliminate or prevent bloating altogether, but it may make your veggies easier to digest.

Legumes

Beans—along with lentils, soybeans, and peas—are known as gas-causing foods. Although they contain more than enough protein, they also contain sugars and fibers your body can't absorb. This leads to gas and bloating.

Combine legumes with easily digestible whole grains, like rice or quinoa, and drink plenty of water. Your body will eventually get used to fiber-rich foods, which may reduce your symptoms.

"If you eat fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, and beans often, they won't bother you as much as if you eat them sporadically," noted Sass.

Dairy

You may be lactose intolerant if you feel gassy after a few slices of cheese or a bowl of cereal with milk. People who are lactose intolerant lack the necessary enzymes to break down lactose (the sugar found in dairy products). When that occurs, it can cause gas to form in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which may trigger bloating.

So before all that gas gets to you, steer clear of dairy products and opt for the many lactose-free or nondairy alternatives out there. You can also try lactase tablets like Lactaid, which help people digest foods that contain lactose.

FODMAP Foods

Some foods pack a lot of carbohydrates, which can contribute to excess gas that causes your stomach to feel tight. That's because your body cannot digest some of the carbohydrates found in those foods.

Those carbohydrate foods are known as FODMAP foods. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. FODMAP foods have carbohydrates that your small intestine cannot entirely absorb. There, the undigested carbohydrates accumulate, pulling in excess gas and liquid—the culprits of bloating.

Here are some examples of high-FODMAP foods:

  • Fruit such as apricots, cherries, and peaches
  • Watermelon
  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Peas

Apples

High in fiber, apples contain fructose and sorbitol—sugars found in fruits that many people can't tolerate, Sass said, which can lead to gas and the inevitable puffy feeling.

However, apples are a great snack, so don't give up on them altogether. "Eating apples specifically has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and respiratory problems, including asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema," explained Sass.

Salty Foods

Eating high-sodium foods can trigger water retention, which can balloon you up. Avoiding sodium isn't as simple as not using the saltshaker. About 90% of Americans consume more sodium than is recommended. The recommended sodium amount is:

  • 2,300 milligrams per day for most adults
  • 1,500 milligrams per day for adults aged 50 years or older and adults with diabetes and high blood pressure

Sodium sneaks into most processed and packaged foods, including soups, bread, and other surprisingly salty fast foods. That makes it difficult to avoid.

Check the nutrition labels for the level of sodium. When you end up eating a lot of salty food, you can drink a lot of water to help flush out the salt.

Foods That Contain Gluten

Some people who have celiac disease experience an autoimmune response (when the body's immune system accidentally attacks itself) after eating gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Other people may have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, meaning they are sensitive to gluten but don't have celiac disease.

People with celiac disease and people with gluten sensitivity can both experience digestive issues, including bloating.

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are packed with soluble fibers called fructans. The body is not incredibly good at digesting foods containing fructans, which may lead to several digestive issues.

Some people have a fructan intolerance. Like non-celiac gluten intolerance, when fructans ferment in the bowels, they attract water into the colon, which causes bloating and gas.

Watermelon

Some fruits often cause bloating because of their high fructose contents. Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar that your body does not easily digest, sometimes causing excess gas. Watermelon is high in fructose—containing about 10 grams in just one slice.

Some people may also have conditions like hereditary fructose intolerance or fructose malabsorption. Both of these conditions can cause bloating after ingesting fructose. Foods that have high fructose contents also further aggravate symptoms of IBS.

Instead, try fruits that have low fructose content:

  • One avocado has 0.1 grams of fructose
  • One orange has about three grams of fructose
  • One cup of blackberries contains about four grams of fructose

Best Foods for Bloating

Try low-FODMAP foods that may help alleviate bloating. Here are some foods that are best for bloating.

Cucumber

People use cucumbers to reduce puffiness under their eyes—and you can eat them to do the same thing for your belly. The vegetable contains quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant that helps reduce swelling, according to Sass.

"Cucumbers have been shown to inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes," added Sass. So slice it up, eat it as is, or swap sugary drinks with a glass of cucumber water.

Asparagus

Asparagus is an anti-bloating superfood—one half cup contains about 63 grams of water which can hydrate you, help you to urinate, and flush all that excess water to relieve any discomfort and bloat.

It also contains prebiotics, which helps support the growth of "good" bacteria. This helps maintain a healthy balance in your digestive system to prevent or reduce gas.

Rice

Limiting starchy vegetables—like potatoes and corn—is key to eating healthily and reducing bloating. The only starch that does not cause gas is rice.

If you want to add starch to your diet, choose rice over corn or potatoes to avoid feeling gassy and bloating.

Bananas

One medium-sized banana contains 9% of the recommended daily amount of potassium. Foods rich in potassium prevent water retention by regulating sodium levels in your body and can thus reduce salt-induced bloating. Here are some other potassium-rich foods:

  • Raisins
  • Dried apricots
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Oranges
  • Lentils

Bananas also have some fiber, which can relieve or prevent constipation. "Bloating can also be caused by constipation," noted Sass. "If you're not able to eliminate waste in the GI tract, you become 'backed up,' so to speak, which can lead to a bloated look."

Papaya

Papain (the enzyme in papaya) helps break down proteins in your GI system, which makes digestion easier.

Sass explained that tropical fruit also has anti-inflammatory properties and fibers that support a strong digestive tract. Eat papaya whole and fresh or blended into a smoothie.

Pineapple

Also, tropical fruits, like pineapple, are mostly water, which combats bloating by keeping your body hydrated.

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapples, promotes digestive health by helping break down proteins. According to research, bromelain is one of the most effective enzymes for breaking down collagen.

Yogurt With Probiotics

Probiotics, which are good bacteria in your gut, help regulate digestion and champion the overall health of your digestive tract. You can take probiotic supplements, but you may as well get a breakfast out of it.

So, eat your bloat away with yogurt that has active cultures. If you want to add some sweetness, use a little honey, jam, or granola.

Fennel Seeds

Fennel does wonders for your digestive tract—especially since you can benefit from multiple parts of the vegetable. The seeds have a compound that relaxes GI spasms, which allows gas to pass and relieve bloating, according to Sass. You can also chew on the seeds directly or sip a fennel tea at the end of a meal.

Ginger

Ginger contains the digestive enzyme zingibain, which helps your digestive system break down protein. The compound potentially helps food digest more efficiently, reducing bloat, gas, or constipation.

If you already feel bloated, you probably don't want to eat—so instead, sip homemade ginger tea: Steep a few slices of sliced ginger in a mug of hot water for five to 10 minutes.

Peppermint and Chamomile Teas

If you feel puffy after dinner, sip on a hot cup of peppermint or chamomile tea. Both kinds relax GI muscles to help dissipate the gas that causes your stomach to bloat.

Aside from improving digestion, chamomile can also soothe and relax, which can help ease any sort of stomach discomfort.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a spice that packs a lot of antioxidants that may help get rid of excess gas. According to research, people have traditionally used cinnamon for thousands of years to treat digestive issues like bloating.

A Quick Review

There are many causes of bloating, but sometimes, it may just be the food you eat. If you're experiencing bloating, take a look at your diet. You may want to swap out foods like apples, dairy products, or cruciferous vegetables with foods like bananas, carrots, and yogurt.

If switching up your diet doesn't do the trick, contact a healthcare provider to determine the cause of your bloating.

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