No matter if you're about to slip into a swimsuit or just on your way to a meeting, there's never a good time to feel bloated. But, crazy as it sounds, you can eat and drink your way to a flatter belly, starting with these foods and drinks.
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You might not buy the root on the reg, but fresh ginger can come in handy when you're sidelined with tummy trouble. "It helps with any of the GI issues—bloating, nausea, digestive issues, gas, any of those," says Ashvini Mashru, R.D., owner of Wellness Nutrition Concepts, LLC. According to Indian researchers, ginger's gingerols and shogals make it a carminative, which means it helps the stomach release gas. Even just 1/2 teaspoon of freshly chopped ginger should do the trick, Mashru says. Boil it with tea leaves, strain it, and sip your way to a less puffy stomach. (For more, check out New Flat-Belly Foods to Eat for Your Best Abs Ever)
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Asparagus is a natural diuretic thanks to an amino acid called asparagine, says Cara Harbstreet, R.D., of Street Smart Nutrition. Diuretics make you pee more often, so you'll be trading those bloated feelings for odd-smelling asparagus pee, but we say it's worth it. There's no rule on exactly how much you need to eat to reap the benefits, so start by adding a serving of asparagus to your lunch and dinner. "Try grilling asparagus at your next cookout, or roasting it with other veggies on a sheet pan," Harbstreet suggests. Then, chop the spears into one-inch pieces and pile them onto your salad or into your grain bowl.
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The secret belly-deflating ingredient in peppermint tea is methanol, which helps move things along inside your digestive system, Mashru says. But that's not all: "Peppermint is also very good at curbing your cravings at night," she says. Which just so happens to be the time when many of us reach for high-sodium chips and cookies that lead to bloating. "So peppermint tea actually kills two birds with one stone: It curbs cravings, and it helps with the bloating," Mashru says. Start with one nightly mug of peppermint tea to see the effects.
Cilantro and Parsley
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Need a reason to start an herb garden? Consider this: Parsley and cilantro can help you de-bloat. "Both contain beneficial enzymes and phytonutrients that can serve as a natural remedy for common GI complaints," Harbstreet says. Parsley also acts as a diuretic and alleviates bloating by pushing excess water through your system, says Beth Warren, R.D.N., founder and chief executive officer of Beth Warren Nutrition. Plus, since salt is enemy No. 1 when you're trying to de-bloat, the herbs make it easy to add flavor without adding sodium. Make a Tabbouleh salad with a high-fiber grain like quinoa or a spicy chimichurri sauce to use as a marinade, dip, or dressing, Harbstreet suggests.
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You know yogurt is good for your gut, but kefir is even more of an all-star thanks to its sky-high probiotic content, Harbstreet says. The fermented dairy product has a smoothie-like consistency and packs up to 12 billion colony-forming units (a measurement of good bacteria) in one eight-ounce serving. "This is considerably higher than yogurt, so you get a much better bang for your buck," Harbstreet says. Loading up on probiotics is a good idea since they keep your digestive system running smoothly, which means you won't be bogged down by gas and bloating, Warren says. See for yourself by adding a serving of kefir to your morning smoothie. (Here, more health benefits of kefir milk.)
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What's the secret to flushing out your body's extra salt content? More water, or water-based vegetables. You can't beat cucumbers, which are 96 percent water. "The water in it helps with digestion and hydration, and it helps get rid of the uncomfortable feeling since it's so simple and fresh," Mashru says. Throw a half cup of diced cucumber into your salad or slice up one-third of a cucumber and dip it into hummus for a light afternoon snack.
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Melon, like honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon, also score high on water content, so lean on them to boost your hydration and help you de-bloat. Mashru says to make a point to reach (or exceed) your five recommended servings of fruit and vegetables a day, especially when you're feeling bloated. Enjoy one cup of melon with your breakfast, and you'll be well on your way before you even head out the door.
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Potassium found in bananas regulates your body's hydration and electrolyte levels, essentially countering the negative effects of overly processed foods. "Sodium retains all of the water in our bodies whereas potassium has the reverse effect," Mashru says. A study published in the journal Anaerobe asked 34 healthy women to eat a banana, drink a banana-flavored drink, or drink water twice a day before a meal. The banana group saw a 50 percent reduction in bloating, way more than the other two groups. (P.S. Here's why you should eat a banana before your next workout.)
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Pineapple contains a digestive enzyme called bromelain, which helps your body break down protein that otherwise could cause stomach issues, Harbstreet says. The stem and core of the fruit have a higher concentration of the enzyme than outer bites, so try juicing the core and sipping it solo or adding it to your favorite smoothie mix to tap into the de-bloating benefits, Harbstreet says.
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Mashru says she routinely reaches for coconut water when she needs to de-bloat. "I use it regularly because it has the potassium content like bananas so it helps regulate electrolyte levels and keeps fluid levels regular in our bodies," she says. One cup of coconut water, for instance, has 600mg of potassium, which beats a banana's 422 and just tastes better than plain ol' water. (Adjusted your diet and still feeling the bloat? See: 8 Weird Causes of Bloating.)