Feeling bloated is kind of the worst. It can not only make you physically ill, it can take a toll on your mental state. This feeling of discomfort in your stomach is caused by food that stays in your digestive tract longer than it should, and surprisingly, it can be caused by healthy foods, too. That's why we decided to delve deeper into the vegetables that cause bloating. After all, who thought that eating healthy could make your stomach feel like it's going to pop?
According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, Americans should be consuming about two to two and a half cups of vegetables per day. But certain vegetables are more likely to cause bloating, and get this—if you increase your intake of vegetables and your body isn't used to eating that many veggies, that can add to the problem. "That's because vegetables contain lots of fiber, which is fermented by bacteria in the colon (known as the intestinal microbiota), producing gas in the process," says Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, CDN. "The more fiber you consume, the more gas and bloating may occur." In order to limit the vegetables that cause bloating, you need to know what they are. Keep reading to see which items are the culprits making it uncomfortable to zip up your favorite pair of jeans.
You probably already know that legumes like beans and lentils are some of the worst vegetables for bloating. The reason they can make us feel uncomfortable is because, although they're packed with protein, they contain both sugars and fibers that our body isn't able to process. When they head into the large intestine, bacteria feeds on them, causing bloating. The good news is that tolerance can be built. "If you eat fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, and beans often, they won't bother you as much as if you eat them sporadically," says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD.
Try having a few spears less of this vegetable if you're already feeling bloated. Broccoli contains a sugar called raffinose, which your body doesn't fully digest. The good news is there may be a way to make it a little less difficult on your stomach (after all, this veggie is believed to have cancer-fighting properties). Robynne Chutkan, a gastroenterologist at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., says that adding some lemon juice to veggies containing raffinose will help kick your digestive enzymes into gear.
Peas may make a nice addition to your salad or pasta carbonara, but maybe not so much to your stomach. That's because like beans, these legumes aren't fully absorbable. Pro tip: When you pair the vegetable with whole grains that are well-digested—think rice or quinoa—it becomes easier for your body to process, too.
Cauliflower is an awesome substitute for carbs—we like it as pizza crust, rice, and even in the form of gnocchi (the latter keeps selling out at Trader Joe's, so you know it's good). Like broccoli, cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family and also can't be easily processed. The good news is that when you cook veggies, they instantly become easier on the digestive system. "Cooking any vegetable softens the fiber and shrinks the portion as some of the water cooks out, so it takes up less space in the GI tract," says Sass.
Similarly to beans, mushrooms contain the same sugar that causes issues with digestion. "Mushrooms contain an indigestible sugar called raffinose that can become fermented in the large intestine, which contributes to gas and bloating," says Serena Goldstein, a naturopathic doctor in New York City. Eventually, the gas that's absorbed leaves the body as an intestinal gas.
Corn pairs perfectly with your favorite salsa or chili, but your body may have more trouble processing this veggie than others. "Corn contains a type of carbohydrate that is difficult for the body to break down," says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN, founder of The NY Nutrition Group. "This can lead to GI bacteria fermentation and trapped air and gas, which causes bloating."
The next time you go to a build-your-own salad spot, you may want to switch to a different green. Spinach, when raw, contains a lot of soluble fiber that will keep you full but will also give you a stomachache. And that's not it: The natural oligosaccharides (a type of carbohydrate) also make it a challenge for digestion. Instead, try adding it to your morning smoothie since the blending process will help break down some of the hard-to-digest parts.
GREEN BELL PEPPERS
Did you know that green peppers are just unripe and will eventually turn red, orange, or yellow? Because they haven't reached their full maturity, they have a certain bitterness that renders them more difficult to digest. Plus, it's worth mentioning that generally speaking, the veggie's skin can be hard for the body to break down.
Many people stay away from onions because they don't like the taste or they hate how it makes their breath smell (seriously—try going into a meeting after eating them without a strong mint and the whole room will turn around). But the vegetable meant to add flavor to dishes can also add pain to your stomach because it contains fructans, or a certain type of sugar your body can't process. "Fructans can contribute to bloating, gas, and pain," says Moskovitz.
Now that you know all about the vegetables that cause bloating, read about some of the bloat-fighting foods you can add to your diet.