Foods That Bloat Your Belly and Increase Belly Fat - dummies

Foods That Bloat Your Belly and Increase Belly Fat

By Erin Palinski-Wade, Tara Gidus, Kristina LaRue

Many foods and nutrients can be powerful belly-fat fighters, helping to shrink and slim your waistline. However, there are just as many, if not more, foods and nutrients that can bloat your belly and pack on belly fat. And these foods don’t all work in the same way.

Some of these foods are weighed down with trans fats and simple sugars, which can trigger your body to store excess belly fat, expanding your waistline over time. Others can increase gas production in your stomach and intestines, causing your abdomen to look and feel distended. Although this condition is only temporary, it can still be an uncomfortable feeling and a less-than-desirable look.

Sugar alcohols

Sugar alcohols are sugar substitutes that can only be partially digested by the body. They’re found in sugar-free foods such as gums, candies, and snack foods like sugar-free cookies. Because these nutrients are only partially digested, they provide fewer calories per gram than regular sugar.

However, because sugar alcohols are only partially digested, they can cause gastrointestinal side effects such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. And when that happens, all the gas and bloat caused by these alcohols leads to your stomach looking distended. To prevent this, you’re better off avoiding sugar alcohols completely or consuming them in limited quantities.

If you’re not sure if a food contains sugar alcohols, look for them listed on the Nutrition Facts panel, which will list the grams of sugar alcohols in a food, or look at the ingredients list where sugar alcohols are listed under names such as xylitol, sorbitol, and maltitol.

Soft drinks

You may call it pop, cola, soda, or even tonic, but whatever name it goes by in your neck of the woods, consuming large quantities of soft drinks can really bloat your belly. These drinks contain carbonation, which draws gas into the stomach and intestines, causing distention of the abdomen for an instant belly bloat, and the belly-expanding impact of soft drinks can be permanent for another reason: sugar!

Soft drinks, depending on the variety, contain sugar in some form, whether it be corn syrup, cane juice, or another liquid sweetener. Regardless of the form the sugar comes in, it has the same impact on your belly: It increases it! The high sugar content of soft drinks instantly raises blood sugar levels, which leads to a spike in insulin. This sends a signal to your body to begun storing excess sugar as fat in the most convenient location, right in your belly!

Diet soft drinks aren’t always a better solution. Sure, they’re typically sugar free, but they still contain belly-bloating carbonation. On top of that, the artificial sweeteners in diet soft drinks act as a foreign chemical to your body, which can trigger inflammation when consumed in large amounts. Inflammation can increase your risk for disease as well as widen your waistline.

If you love carbonated drinks, your best bet is a naturally flavored seltzer. But nothing beats a glass of water — you can even flavor it with a splash of lemon or lime juice!

Ice cream

“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” But do you know what really screams after you indulge in this frozen treat? Your waistline! Ice cream can bloat your belly in a few ways. It’s rich in sugar, which triggers an increase in blood sugar followed by an increase in insulin levels, which promotes an increase in fat storage in your midsection.

In addition, ice cream is made from cow milk, which means that it contains lactose, the form of sugar found in milk. If you have an intolerance to lactose, which many individuals suffer from, you can have difficulty digesting and absorbing it, which leads to excess gas, bloating, and even diarrhea. Even if you can tolerate lactose just fine, foods that are extreme in temperature (whether it be very warm foods or foods that are very cold, like ice cream) can cause stress in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to cramping and bloating.

Before you feel too disappointed about the belly-bloating abilities of ice cream, remember that it’s fine to enjoy this treat on occasion, just as with any food that isn’t the best for your belly. When you do choose to have ice cream, moderate your portion by limiting your serving to 1/2 cup to 1 cup and avoid having ice cream more than once every other week. If you suffer from lactose intolerance, look for lactose-free varieties to cut down on bloat as well.

Hot dogs

They may be a ballpark classic, but hot dogs can be a major belly bloater. The fatty meat of hot dogs is loaded with inflammation-triggering saturated fat, which can not only clog arteries, but also increase belly fat storage. In addition, hot dogs are typically high in sodium. Foods rich in sodium can trigger your body to retain water, making you look and feel bloated, especially in your midsection. Couple this with the high caloric content of hot dogs, and you have a recipe for increased belly fat.

If you love hot dogs, choose lower-fat alternatives such as all-white-meat turkey hot dogs or vegetarian hot dogs. (Just keep an eye on the sodium content.) These options are lower in unhealthy saturated fats, but they typically contain just as much sodium as traditional options.

White pasta

If you love spaghetti, you’d better watch out! Although pasta can seem innocent enough, eating too much of it is a recipe for waistline disaster. That’s because white pasta is made from white flour, which has been refined and stripped of the outermost and innermost layers of grain, removing most of the fiber, nutrients, and even proteins.

That means that it will be digested rapidly, creating a cascading effect of increased insulin levels, increased fat storage, and an increased waistline. In addition, the low fiber content of white pasta won’t leave you feeling very satisfied, which can often lead to eating more calories than you really need.

The good news is, you don’t need to say goodbye to pasta forever. Instead, choose 100 percent whole-grain options when choosing pasta, such as whole-wheat pasta and brown-rice pasta. You can also make your bowl of pasta seem bigger by adding steamed veggies or lean protein to it!

Sugar-free gum

You may be saying, “Seriously? Gum isn’t even a food! How can it possibly expand my belly?” Sugar-free gum is virtually free of calories, so it doesn’t seem like it could cause weight gain. And that’s true: Sugar-free gum won’t increase the number on the scale. But that doesn’t stop it from bloating your belly. Sugar-free gum is packed full of sugar alcohols, which are partially digested sugars that can increase intestinal gas and bloat, distending your midsection.

In addition, when chewing gum, you swallow air. Although swallowing air won’t hurt you, the more air you swallow, the more air accumulates in your digestive system, which can lead to pressure, bloating, and belly expansion. Now, if you love gum, there’s no need to give it up entirely. In fact, sugar-free gum can even be beneficial.

For instance, some research suggests it may help prevent against dental cavities. Just limit yourself to chewing a few pieces of gum per day, and if you have an event coming up where you want the flattest belly possible, skip gum for a few days beforehand.


Cabbage offers many health benefits, but it can be a little rough on your digestive system. During digestion, cabbage can increase gas production in the gastrointestinal tract. So, after eating large amounts of cabbage, you may notice that you feel a bit bloated and see your waistline expand. This bloat is only temporary, but it can be quite unpleasant, especially if you’re heading out to a day at the beach to show off your new slimmed stomach.

To help aid the digestion of cabbage, try cooking it. Gas-producing vegetables are easier to digest and tend to cause less gas production when eaten cooked instead of raw. If you love raw cabbage, however, there’s no need to avoid it. Just plan accordingly and skip the cabbage on the day you want your stomach to look its smallest.

Deep-fried vegetables

Eating more vegetables is one of the keys to successful weight loss. However, the way in which those vegetables are prepared is just as important as which vegetables you eat. Although vegetables contain many belly-slimming nutrients, eating vegetables that have been deep fried can not only cancel out the health benefits, but also turn vegetables into belly-fat gainers instead of belly-fat fighters.

Fried vegetables are typically breaded in white flour, a food that increases belly fat by triggering an increased insulin response. In addition, the fat in which vegetables are deep fried often contains the most dangerous type of fat for your health and waistline: trans fats! Trans fats trigger belly fat — storing inflammation; even 1 g to 2 g per day can increase your risk of heart disease. So, take a pass on onion rings, French fries, and jalapeño poppers, and get your vegetables in their natural form (or cooked in a healthy fat such as lightly sautéed in olive oil or peanut oil).


It’s easy to look into a bakery window and start drooling over the delicious options displayed in front of you. But think about these words: trans fats, lard, enriched flour, sugar, corn syrup. Are you still drooling? Many of these words make up the main ingredients in commercial pastries.

And this means that you may be taking in a large amount of inflammation — producing nutrients if you indulge in pastries on a regular basis. And because inflammation packs on the belly fat, eat too many pastries and watch your waistline expand.

You don’t need to say goodbye to pastries for good, but you do need to focus on moderation. Reserve them for special occasions or an occasional treat. Consuming pastries more than once or twice a month can start to sabotage your weight — loss efforts.

Refined grains

Some grains can flatten your belly, while others can expand it. Whole grains such as 100 percent whole wheat flour or 100 percent rye can help to maximize fat loss from the midsection. However, if you make the wrong choice in grains, be prepared to say hello to an increased pants size. Refined flour (think white flour) elevates blood sugar and increases insulin, telling your body to store more and more fat, right in your belly.

You may already know to avoid refined grains, but are you sure you’re actually doing it? Choosing bread can be confusing. A bread listed as wheat bread may actually be a refined bread in disguise. When choosing breads, make sure to look for the word whole in the ingredient list. The first ingredient listed makes up the majority of the food. If the first ingredient is wheat flour that could mean it’s a refined flour made from wheat flour. But if you see whole wheat flour, you know the bread is made with the whole grain, which is the best choice for your health, and your waistline.