If you're afraid to wear a bikini this summer because you're worried about a bloated belly, these foods may be the secret culprits. By Jane Bianchi, REDBOOK.
"The more sodium you eat, the more water you'll retain," says Ruth Frechman, RD, founder of the nutrition consulting service On the Weigh and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. When it comes to sodium, some of the worst offenders are soups; packaged deli meats; processed fare, such as cereal, crackers and pretzels; and frozen foods, plus surprising eats like ketchup, tomato sauce, and bread. Dietary guidelines suggest limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams per day or less-stay below 1,500 milligrams per day if you're 51 or older, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. Other strategies that help: working out, since you sweat out salt, and eating potassium, which helps your body excrete sodium.
Beans are high in fiber, which can make you feel gassy-especially if your body isn't used to eating much of the nutrient. "They also contain a sugar that's not broken down by the stomach or small intestine," says Jodie K. Labowitz, a gastroenterologist with Arizona Digestive Health in Phoenix. "It's not digested until it gets to the colon, so it can cause bloat." If you're going to chow down on beans, or bean products like tofu or soy milk, take an over-the-counter enzyme called Beano with your first bite. It'll help your body digest this particular sugar before it reaches the colon.
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For every gram of carbohydrates you eat, your body stores two to four grams of water. This helps keep you hydrated, but if you overdo it on foods such as rice, bread, pasta, or sweets, you'll end up carrying excess water in your body, says Frechman. Dietary guidelines recommend that 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories come from carbs, meaning they should take up about half of your plate at any given meal. If you're planning to indulge in a heap of spaghetti for dinner, consider skipping grains and legumes at lunch to balance it out.
Chugging cola, seltzer, root beer, ginger ale, orange soda, or any other type of fizzy drink causes you to swallow small air bubbles. "This is likely to trigger gas," says Labowitz. Instead of reaching for, say, a diet soda, try a bubble-free summer beverage, like iced tea, lemonade, juice, or water with lemon or lime, which will help you avoid that uncomfortable, overfull feeling. To lower the sugar content of a sweetened beverage, pour yourself only half a glass and fill the rest up with ice.
Hard, raw vegetables are chock-full of fiber and contain a lot of roughage. Make no mistake: Vegetables are some of the best foods you can eat, since they help with digestion and are packed with nutrients. But they can lead to bloat, according to Labowitz. So if you want to eat raw broccoli, cauliflower heads, celery, peppers, green beans, radishes, asparagus, carrots, or cucumbers, have only one serving at a time, and drink a glass or two of water while you chew on them in order to lessen gassiness.
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You might think that you're making a wise decision by ditching high-sugar foods and drinks, since that strategy reduces the number of calories you consume and prevents blood-sugar spikes. The problem is that many sugar-free products contain sweeteners called sugar alcohols, all of which end in "ol"-malitol and sorbitol are common ones. "Like the sugar found in beans, these sugar alcohols are not broken down by the stomach or the small intestine' but in the colon' so they can cause cramping, bloating, gas, and even diarrhea in some people," says Labowitz. Analyze food labels carefully, and try not to eat anything that contains sugar alcohols. If you're craving something sweet, add half a tablespoon of honey to a cup of hot tea. Some research suggests that the natural sweetener may actually aid digestion-plus it contains antioxidants that help prevent cancer.
"Ever eat fried chicken and French fries that are dripping in oil and then have that feeling of bloat hit you like a ton of bricks?" asks Frechman. You might experience a similar reaction when you have a doughnut for breakfast. That's because fried food is loaded with sodium, a main offender when it comes to bloating. Beyond that, it also contains a ton of fat-usually saturated "bad" fat-and calories. For example, a breast and a drumstick of "extra crispy" chicken from KFC and a side of potato wedges totals 940 calories and 54 grams of fat. That's about half a day's worth of calories and a full day's worth of fat-definitely enough to poof out your tummy.
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There's nothing more delicious than a side of macaroni salad at a barbecue, but watch out. One serving of packaged deli-style macaroni or pasta salad has 400 milligrams of sodium, or 17 percent of your daily value. Prepared foods are often high in sodium because salt improves taste and preserves them for longer. Asian-style dishes are also can also contend with your bikini plans-partly because of the noodles, such as soba or ramen, and partly because of the peanut and soy sauces they're usually cooked in. For example, the chilled shrimp and soba noodle pasta from Panera contains 1730 milligrams of sodium, or 75 percent of your daily value.
Eggs, milk, yogurt, ice cream, and cheese
Dairy products can cause bloating among those who suffer from lactose intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome. So if you notice that you start to feel digestive discomfort after eating an omelet, a bowl of cereal, or a sandwich with cheese, talk to your doctor about trying a temporary elimination diet to see if cutting out dairy makes you feel better. Or ask your doctor about taking lactase, an over-the-counter enzyme that helps you digest the lactose found in dairy.
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