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The #1 Worst Food for a Bloated Belly, Says Dietitian

Avoid this unlikely culprit, a favorite of dieters everywhere.

A bloated belly can make you feel fat and lethargic even if you normally are thin and energetic. Remember how you felt the last time you ate a chimichanga? This combo of beans, rice, greasy meat, and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep-fried ticks all the boxes for producing a bloated belly for most people.

The classic gas and bloat producers are all there: beans with their indigestible oligosaccharides, refined carbohydrates in the tortilla, dairy (cheese) for the lactose intolerant, and fats from the meat and frying, which slow down digestion.

Even good-for-you foods like apples and prunes and vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts contain starches that can cause gassiness, and the high-fiber content of whole grains can trigger bloating, too. And what makes one food worse than another really depends on the individual, says registered dietitian nutritionist Sydney Greene, RDN, a member of our medical review board.

"One ingredient to avoid across the board for bloat is artificial and natural non-nutritive sweeteners," says registered dietitian nutritionist Sydney Greene, RDN, a member of our medical review board.

artificial sweetener coffee

Artificial sweeteners like aspartame contain compounds that are not easily digested and can cause gas and bloating. Stevia, a natural sugar substitute, is often paired with sugar alcohols like the low-calorie sweetener sorbitol in foods and beverages to reduce the calorie count. But sorbitol does not digest fully in the small intestine, so it's fermented by bacteria in the large intestine which causes gas and bloating. Artificial sweeteners are everywhere, which makes them the number one belly-bloating food in Greene's opinion.

"These artificial sweeteners are in chewing gum, keto desserts, caffeinated beverages, and other 'diet foods,'" says Greene. Carbonated beverages made with artificial sweeteners deliver a double-shot of gas production from the carbonation. "Once my clients cut these out of their diets, bloating decreases."

Besides avoiding these bloat-builders, Greene suggests other natural ways to control gassiness such as drinking fennel tea to help relax the gastrointestinal muscles, making sure to slow down when eating, chewing your food thoroughly, eating smaller meals throughout the day, and gentle stretching.

If you'd like to try a supplement to alleviate bloating, there are commercial remedies containing digestive enzymes that break down proteins, fats, and carbs. To learn more read Best Supplements for Relieving Gas.

Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff