If the thought of swimsuit season makes you cringe in fear, don’t panic: the reason behind a bulging midsection may not be excess fat, but could be because of bloating and indigestion. Millions of Americans experience uncomfortable stomachaches, bloating and cramping every day because of the foods they eat. New research is showing that certain foods are especially beneficial when it comes to beating the bloat and can have transformative effects on digestion when eaten regularly.

Try incorporating these five flat belly foods into your diet the next time you eat a heavy meal or feel discomfort in your stomach; avoid foods like processed snacks, refined sugars, heavy fats and artificial sweeteners, all of which cause weight gain in addition to irritability and indigestion.

Flat Belly Foods to Try:

Yogurt: We all know yogurt is a good source of calcium, but did you know it could also help pave the way to flatter abs and less bloating? The live and active cultures found in yogurt increase the amount of bacterial flora that lines your gut, making digestion easier on your stomach. When it comes to picking yogurt, however, not all varieties are the same: Many yogurts are sweetened with artificial sweeteners or packed full of added sugar, making this seemingly healthy snack pretty unhealthy in reality. Stick with plain unflavored yogurt and add your own fresh fruit on top for a boost of sweetness instead.

Berries: With such a wide variety to pick from, berries are a delicious way to satisfy your sweet tooth, all while keeping your waistline slim. Rasperries, blueberries and strawberries are packed with fiber and Vitamin C. One cup of raspberries weighs in at only 52 calories but supplies 45% of your daily value of Vitamin C and over seven grams of fiber. If you have sweet tooth, ditch the sugary coffee drinks or candy bar and grab a bowl of berries instead. Their high water content makes them easily digestible.

Water: H20 is the way to go when it comes to keeping your tummy flat. Water is an easy way to flush out toxins from the body, promote good digestion and prevent constipation, all of which can cause serious bloating. Aim for drinking a minimum of seven cups a day or more. To maintain hydration all day, keep a reusable water bottle in your purse and at your desk and refill it whenever it’s empty. If you want to add some flavor to your water without extra calories, consider adding freshly cut lemon slices, chopped mint and sliced cucumbers to your reusable bottle for added taste.

Avocados: An avocado a day keeps the doctor away? This superfood is not just delicious with chips and salsa, but is also a great source of monosaturated fat, a plant-based fat that is proven to improve heart health and protect against heart disease. Though many people shy away from avocados for their high fat content, when eaten in moderation they are filling and keep you full for longer so you don’t consume excess calories. Avocados also contain protein and potassium, the latter being a nutrient that prevents water retention in your cells.

Green tea: Who knew a cup of tea could help you lose weight? This refreshing beverage can be enjoyed hot or cold and contains antioxidant compounds called polyphenols that have many protective health benefits. Green tea also contains catechin, a polyphenol that’s been attributed to weight loss. Green tea is a natural diuretic, meaning it promotes the excretion of water from the body. Remember that green tea does have caffeine, so try to limit your intake to a maximum of five cups a day.

Tummy-Bloating Foods to Avoid:

Artificial Sweeteners: They may save on calories, but artificial sweeteners are not flat belly friendly when consumed regularly. Often found in diet sodas, chewing gum and some baked goods, artificial sweeteners contain sugar alcohols like sorbitol that cause serious bloating because your stomach has difficulty digesting them. Avoid diet drinks and other products with artificial sweeteners as much as possible and opt for natural sources of sugar like fruit instead.
Alcohol: Alcohol is one of the more commonly known culprits for bloating and discomfort, especially when consumed in excess. Sixty percent of your body is made up of water, and drinking alcohol seriously dehydrates your body, robbing it of essential fluids and electrolytes. This causes your body to retain the water that’s left in its cells, causing a sudden swelling of the stomach that’s commonly referred to as “beer belly.” If and when you drink, be sure to balance out each alcoholic drink with a glass of water to rehydrate.

Salty Snacks: You may recognize sodium best in its purest form as table salt, but sodium is actually hidden in a lot of snack foods, condiments, canned goods, soups and more. Excess sodium causes your body to retain water in its cells, giving off the appearance of bloatedness in your abdomen, face and joints. That being said, sodium is an essential mineral needed for optimal bodily function; try to keep your intake to 2,000 mg per day, equivalent to roughly one teaspoon. When you think about all the foods salt is high in like chips, popcorn, soy sauce, pizza, ketchup and processed meats, you begin to realize how much excess salt you really consume. Try not to add salt to your food and choose salt-free or reduced sodium snacks and condiments.