If sit-ups and planks aren’t flattening your tum or, no matter what exercise you do, you suffer from a bit of a pot belly, don’t worry – there are some easy ways to deflate your tum and it’s all down to your diet.
We asked a range of nutritionists for their top tips on which foods and drinks you should and shouldn’t eat for a flatter belly.
1. Limit cruciferous vegetables on your plate
Cruciferous vegetables - that’s broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage - are known for causing bloating and excess wind. “For some people these vegetables are not digested completely in the small intestines maybe due to a lack of enzymes,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
“It means that when they reach the large intestines, bacteria in that part of the gut can cause gas and bloating when breaking down those foods.”
2. Cut down on your stone fruits
“Stone fruits like plums are packed with sugar alcohols which can ferment, causing bloating and gas,” adds Marilyn.
3. Think twice about dairy too
Nutritionist Cassandra Barns explains: “Some people don’t produce the enzyme lactase, which helps them breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk. You need this enzyme in your body in order to break down the lactose, otherwise it ferments in the gut causing pain, gas and bloating.”
4. Croissants, cookies and pasta are out
Say au revoir to that morning croissant and bye-bye to a biscuit with your cup of tea.
“Refined carbohydrates will have a higher glycemic index (GI) than unrefined carbs so they are broken down into glucose (sugar) more quickly which can cause bloating and gas,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville.
“They can also often contain wheat, which can be a problem for people with IBS symptoms. Wheat is also one of the grains excluded on the FODMAP diet, which aims to reduce the amount of fermentation happening in the digestive system [by cutting down the intake of certain sugars].”
5. Spice, not so nice
“Some spicy foods can stimulate the release of stomach acid, which can cause irritation and others can ferment in the digestive system causing bloating,” Marilyn adds.
6. Go easy on gassy foods
Some foods like beans, pulses and root vegetables are known for causing bloating and wind. Cassandra suggests choosing salad vegetables instead as they are less likely to bloat you.
7. Chew food thoroughly and take your time
Meal times should be relaxed – none of this eating on the go if you want a flat tum.
Try to chew each mouthful until the food is liquid. Cassandra explains that this not only makes sure food is then properly digested, but it encourages you to eat slower too.
She adds: “When you take more time to chew and taste your food, your snack or meal becomes more satisfying and will prevent you from over-eating.”
8. Eat less but more often
Swap a big meal for lots of smaller ones – like four to six meals spread throughout the day. This will help you ultimately eat less calories, trust us.
9. Fizzy drinks? Just say no
One of the easiest ways to deflate your belly is to cut out fizzy drinks and replace them flavoured water; pop a lime, lemon or cucumber in yours to give it a bit of flavour.
Cassandra comments: “They might be low in calories but the fizzy bubbles in carbonated drinks can cause gas to get trapped in your stomach and cause bloating.
“Fruit flavoured waters and peppermint tea are great alternatives. They’re bloat-free and will help to cleanse and detoxify the body too.”
10. Don’t chew chewing gum
“It might keep your mouth busy and stop you reaching for the biscuit tin but chewing gum can also lead to swallowing air, which can cause bloating,” explains Marilyn.
“It can also stimulate your digest enzymes to expect food, which can then stimulate hunger. If you do have to snack, it's better to graze on a healthy, high-fibre snack like oatcakes, carrot batons or low-fat popcorn.
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11. Watch your salt intake
Cassandra warns: “Never add extra salt to your food - not only is this bad for your heart and your blood pressure but especially for dieters, salt actually increases the amount of water that the body retains and can therefore make you look more bloated and heavier.”
12. Avoid sweetener
Put simply, too much sugar bloats a stomach.
“Many people suffer from bloating because they consume too much sugar alcohol in artificially sweetened foods and drinks, and so it’s important to avoid these as much as possible,” says Marilyn.
13. Take a probiotic
You want to try and rebalance your gut’s good bacteria, as it supports digestion and reduces any symptoms of lactose intolerance.