If you are anything like me, the success and happiness of your day may at times center around how bloated you appear. While some of that may be out of our control (thanks for the visit, Aunt Flo) the big finger of responsibility should usually be pointed at what we are eating. It may be tough to decipher what is true bloat and what is pesky belly fat as the American diet of processed foods, aka high sugar, fat and grains is a major contributor to visceral fat. But the reality is you know your body enough to recognize what is reality and what ventures into the realm of unacceptably puffy. There are several dietary triggers that encourage bloat. And while you may not like that I am not going to list things like liver or sea urchin, you should appreciate a short list to naturally smooth things out in three days or less.
- Sweeteners Many artificial sweeteners (those ending with -ol) can't be digested. Fructose is another culprit that can be found in many processed foods and sports drinks. Fructose is also the main sweetener in the halo food agave nectar. It is not only difficult for most people to digest, but promotes weight gain and cravings, and can mess with your metabolism. And since we are on the subject, it's best to limit your fructose intake to fruit to add helpful fiber while will moderate the spike to your blood sugar.
- Dairy While you may insist dairy isn't a problem since you aren't lactose intolerant, the truth is that over 70% of the world's population has a sensitivity to dairy and don't even know it. As a home grown Cheesehead, this one was tough. However, the results of reducing dairy in my diet were shocking. I now opt for intense, aged cheeses that only require a small serving to satisfy and limit my overall dairy to one or two servings a day.
- Beans/Lentils This may seem obvious but we tend to forget that healthy items like hummus are made with beans. The reason these foods cause bloat is because of their indigestible sugars, which must be broken down in the intestines. It's best to keep these servings small anyway because anything more than 1/2 cup can raise your blood sugar and promote the crash cycle and weight gain.
- Grains Grains represent the majority of America's fiber intake. And while that may sound like a good thing, this form of fiber (soluble) is indigestible. And if you aren't getting enough insoluble fiber in your diet to move things along, you end up with gas, bloating and constipation. Water helps, but go a step further and increase your insoluble fiber intake by eating more vegetables and fruits and you will reduce the risk of constipation.
- Salt Sodium promotes water retention and most people notice a general puffiness if they have consumed a high sodium meal. A diet rich in whole foods significantly reduces sodium intake and can reduce water retention.