Ah, summer. The days of beaches, bathing suits, beer, and, surprise, bloating! (Hate you, happy hour.) So it's a buzzkill when you're planning to be on the water all weekend—or just want your bod to reflect your generally amazing dietary choices—and you feel puffy. (I mean, as much as we roll our eyes when fitness instructors tell us to work for a "beach body," who doesn't want one?)
That's why we tapped New York nutritionist Stephanie Middleberg for healthy foods that help reduce bloating. "Ideally, start eating them a few days before your beach trip," she says. "And hydrate with room temperature water, not cold. You'll absorb it better."
Dandelion greens are a prebiotic. And while they may be a tad harder to find than asparagus (also a prebiotic), they’re worth a second lap of the farmer’s market.
“Dandelion greens are extremely nutrient dense, and have been used medicinally as an anti-inflammatory for years,” Middleberg says. “The dandelion root stimulates production of gastric enzymes, so it’s a great digestive aid, while the greens are what act as a diuretic.”
Use the dandelion root and leaves in a tea, or try sprinkling the greens into your daily lunchtime salad.
Ginger is Middleberg’s go-to food for a bloated belly, because it’s an anti-inflammatory and a powerhouse digestive aid. Plus, it’s super easy to include in your regular diet. You can add fresh ginger to smoothies and salad dressings. And Middleberg suggests making a homemade tea for extra bloat-fighting power, or sipping it in a ginger lemonade. (Wakaya ginger powder dissolves easily in water.)
Try drinking it in warm water after each meal to de-bloat and curb sugar cravings. Lemon also helps you go to the bathroom, Middleberg claims, so she advises her clients to drink it first thing in the morning to get things moving.
There’s a reason why people use cucumber to reduce swelling under their eyes. “It’s high in silica, caffeic acid (the skin), and vitamin C, which reduce swelling and aid in the prevention of water retention,” Middleberg says. So, just like cucumber helps your eyes de-puff, it will help your stomach de-bloat, too.
Slice it and put it into water for a simple fix, or make a chilled cucumber soup to sip for a few days leading up to your next beach trip.
As you may have read, fitness expert (and former model) Amanda Russell likes to down a teaspoon of Angostura bitters when she feels bloated. But if you’re not down with her liquor-based remedy, Middleberg suggests a shot of multitasking apple cider vinegar. “It stimulates the production of gastric enzymes, which help break down food, so you can more easily digest it,” she says.
Down a tablespoon (diluted with a little water, if you must) the morning of a beach day. But if that’s too intense for you, try mixing it into a salad dressing for a more muted taste over the week prior.
In addition to boosting your metabolism, green tea’s been shown to decrease belly bloat, Middleberg says. But stay away from ordering an “iced” one on your next Starbucks run. “Ice causes spasms in the digestive tract, making the body put a lot of energy into digestion,” she says. A warm green tea is anti-inflammatory, and it won’t increase gas, as some experience with other caffeinated drinks.
It’s still an un-sung hero for digestion in the West, but fennel’s got a great track record in the East. It helps relax GI spasms, which occur most often right after a meal and cause gas and bloating, Middleberg says. Try chewing it in seed form or drinking a cup of fennel tea at the end of a meal, or add it to a tea, juice, or meal.
It’s probably the best known natural diuretic, so that’s why many people sip it to banish bloat, Middleberg says. However, in those who are caffeine sensitive, coffee can actually lead to bloating. Either way, Middleberg suggests an espresso or a “tall” size.
And most importantly, be careful what you’re putting in it. Artificial sweeteners can wreak havoc on your stomach, she says. “The body doesn’t recognize them, and so a lot of people will experience bloating and gas.”