The 9 Worst Foods for Bloating

Young woman with freckles drinking orange juice
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Overview

You can change your outfit 20 times, but there's not much you can do to look and feel better once bloating hits. Thankfully, you can prevent a bloated belly by steering clear of certain foods in your everyday diet. Here are nine bloat-triggering foods, beverages and ingredients to cut down on — or avoid altogether — so you can feel your best.

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Close View of Three Bean Chili with Lentils
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2. Legumes

Beans, chickpeas and lentils are excellent sources of protein and minerals like iron, magnesium and zinc. Not to mention, they're a key factor in some great chili recipes! But these little powerhouses are also high in fiber and contain oligosaccharides (a FODMAP compound), natural sugars that can't be digested, according to the U.S. Dry Beans Council (USDBC). They can not only cause your tummy to inflate, but may also cause flatulence. Research suggests eating beans just a couple of times a week may lessen gas and bloating. You should also rinse beans under hot water to soften them and then use fresh water for cooking.

Read more: The Side Effects of Beans

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Close view of broccoli as an example of foods that cause bloating
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3. Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous veggies — like cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli — are rich in vitamins and minerals and full of cancer-fighting phytonutrients. But these foods also contain raffinose, an indigestible complex sugar that makes your body release gas and causes bloating, per Harvard Health Publishing. To fit in these health-boosters without the unwanted effects, Essner recommends starting with smaller portions and working your way up. "You can also steam, sauté, roast or add them to soup to break down the sugar," she says. "The powerful benefits of cruciferous vegetables far outweigh the bloating issues you may experience. If all else fails, take simethicone, like Gas-X."

Read more: Does Drinking Water Reduce Bloating?

Ice pops that contain sucralose as an example of foods that cause bloating
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4. Foods with Fructose or Sucralose

If you choose fruits, drinks or processed food containing fructose, or "diet" treats sweetened with sucralose, you may be setting yourself up for belly bloat. Fructose, a simple sugar, often challenges your gut's absorption ability. And about 85 percent of consumed sucralose (like Splenda) — a zero-calorie artificial sweetener — isn't absorbed at all, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation. To sidestep this effect, become a staunch label sleuth. Fructose is found in juices, apples, grapes, watermelon, asparagus, peas and zucchini as well as many processed foods containing high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, molasses, maple-flavored syrup, palm or coconut sugar or sorghum. And sucralose may be lurking in foods you wouldn't even expect, like cereal, bread, gum, dairy products and condiments.

Read more: How to Read a Nutrition Label

Soy Milk and Soybean Products Arranged On An Aqua Tray
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5. Soy Proteins

Soybeans are the only vegetable food that contains all eight essential amino acids and are a good source of vitamins, but they also contain galacto-oligosaccharides, a FODMAP compound, per Harvard Health Publishing. This kind of carb can cause a bloated tummy and abdominal pain. You may have to give up things like soy milk, tofu and certain yogurts if you realize you have an intolerance. But if you're still soy-persistent, "Try reaching for fermented soy, like miso, natto and tempeh," Essner suggests. "Due to the fermenting process, these products generally don't cause GI distress. Soy protein isolates (SPIs) are pretty much pure protein and also don't cause bloating. SPIs are generally found in protein powders and protein bars."

Read more: Is Soy Milk Good or Bad For You?

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Yogurt and fruit as an example of foods that cause bloating
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6. Dairy

While it's hard to think of having a bowl of cereal without milk or skipping ice cream at a picnic, know that dairy can cause gastrointestinal distress for some people. Dairy products like cow's milk and cottage cheese contain lactose, another FODMAP compound. "Lactose is a form of sugar, and for people who are sensitive or intolerant, it can cause a host of stomach issues, including bloating," explains Jenny Champion, RD, CPT, creator of the 7-Day Cleanse. "If your body isn't able to break down lactose, it'll ferment in your colon and you'll notice gas, bloating and stomach pain whenever you consume it. Almond or hemp milk might be good substitutes if you're a chronically bloated milk drinker." And if you're feeling daring, try some avocado ice cream!

Read more: The Best Dairy-Free, Plant-Based Substitutes for 7 Popular Dairy Products

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A glass of sparkling water
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7. Carbonated Drinks

Soda and sparkling water are drinks of choice for many, but they're also top contributors to belly swell. The fizz in these drinks can bubble up in your digestive tract, and because of all that excess gastric air, belching, bloating and gas will occur, per the American College of Gastroenterology. And because a lot of these drinks contain artificial sweeteners, your belly is hit with a double whammy. For a flavorsome way to hydrate without the bubbles, Champion says, "Water with lemon or water with frozen berries or cucumber is really refreshing with zero carbonation." You can also experiment with your own combinations, like mint or ginger with pineapple or other fruit, or freezing bits of fruit and herbs or spices in ice cube trays to drop into a tall glass of H2O.

Assorted bagels as an example of foods that cause bloating
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8. Gluten

Bread, pasta, bagels, cereal — you love eating them, but you hate how you feel after a carb-fest. It turns out, you have good reason to be so torn: These foods can bloat your midsection, and the reason is two-fold. People can have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which is exactly that — a sensitivity to the protein found in gluten that can cause gas, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea, as well as other symptoms associated with celiac disease, according to Beyond Celiac. But wheat, rye and barley also contain fructans, a FODMAP compound, which again, cause gas and bloating, and people with a fructan intolerance may be affected just the same. The good news is that it's suggested not to eliminate gluten and fructans altogether, per The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. You should avoid them for a couple weeks, then slowly reintroduce the foods that you love to determine your individual intolerance.

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