Purple Carrot Nutrition
The new tradition is Caribbean nutrition
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Banish the Bloat - Tips for Carnival

by Janelle Zakour RD

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It’s Carnival time and most of the country is busy preparing for the biggest fete in the world! I'm definitely an anti-diet dietitian whose goal is to promote body acceptance and general wellness, but I will make an exception just this once.

While it’s too late in the game to lose body fat, there are some tricks that you can use to appear leaner for the road. Reducing the bloat is a big one.

Bloating is the basically the condition where your body feels swollen especially after eating. Say you’ve just enjoyed a lovely meal and you’re ready to move on with your day. Then it happens… your pants feel tight, your tummy area is twice its size, you feel ‘gassy’ and you possibly experience cramps, belching and even the dreaded flatulence.

Simply put, bloating is the result of excessive solids, liquids or gases in your digestive system. 

Some underlying health conditions can cause bloating but it is actually a common occurence that is easily fixed with a few dietary changes. Here are a few:

1. Reduce the consumption of gassy foods.
Note that this is not a one-size-fits-all list and any food containing carbohydrates, proteins and fats can trigger bloat in any individual. But some have a bit more of an effect than others. It can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to see a difference. The following list contains the most common gas triggers:
Beans and lentils
Apples, watermelon, pears, peaches, mangos
Dairy: milk, yogurt, cheese
Cruciferous veggies: cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale
Onions and garlic
Rye and wheat products
Sugar alcohols (found in sugar-free products)
NB By no means am I suggesting that you cut these foods out of your diet. But reducing intake on the days leading up to Mas will reduce the likelihood of bloating.

2. Avoid fatty foods
High-fat foods take a long time for your body to digest. Think of that tummy-swelling, pants-unbuttoning feeling after Christmas lunch.  It is best to limit anything that is deep-fried, processed and refined to avoid saturated and trans fats, which are some of the main culprits for digestive issues. Choose nuts, seeds and avocado over high-fat meats and cream sauces.

3. Prevent water retention
This involves staying fully hydrated and reducing the amount of salt consumed. Too much salt in the long run can cause many health conditions. But in the short term, it can cause water retention, which leads to bloating. Flavour foods with herbs and sodium-free spices, reduce the amount of packaged foods consumed and choose high-potassium foods like bananas and tomatoes. Drinking lots of water paradoxically reduces water retention; it sounds ironic but keeping your body hydrated aids liver function and prevents your body from holding on to excess fluids.

 4. Avoid swallowing air and gases
Sodas and carbonated drinks (even club soda) are some of the leading causes of bloating. Drinking these beverages causes a buildup of carbon dioxide in your stomach and cause bloating especially if they’re consumed quickly.  Reduce intake of colas, sodas and beers. Plain water is the best choice. Add lime wedges, mint and cucumber if you fancy flavour without the bloat. Chewing gum, drinking through a straw and eating while talking also leads to increased amounts of swallowed air.

5. Eat slowly
Taking your time while eating not only reduces your overall food intake, but it can prevent you from swallowing air and causing gas retention.

6. Don’t eat too much at one time
People who experience bloating often have an increased sensitivity to food so eating smaller meals throughout the day can be useful.

7. Try some probiotics or a gas-busting supplement
Probiotics especially those containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains can regulate the good bacteria in your gut, which can decrease bloat. This is not an instant fix, but more for prolonged use. You can find probiotics in capsule form or in fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut. You can find gas supplements like a-galactosidase with can prevent belching, flatulence and sometimes bloating.

8. Watch your fibre content
While high fibre foods are healthier than their refined counterparts, they can make some people produce large amounts of gas. If you are used to consuming refined grains, maybe just before Carnival is not the best time to switch to whole grains if you are avoiding the bloat. Try replacing one product at a time after the season to see how your body reacts.

9. Avoid constipation
Constipation can exacerbate bloating. Try including soluble fibre sources like psyllium husk and chia seeds along with lots of water to relieve this.

Enjoy the prep time leading up to J'ouvert. The road awaits!