Why Some Veggies Make You Bloated & Exactly What To Eat Instead
Whether they're plant-based, paleo, or something in between, pretty much all healthy eating experts agree: Vegetables should constitute the core part of any healthy diet. But what do you do when the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet leave you feeling gassy and bloated? If you've ever downed a kale salad or munched on some cooked cauliflower, you likely know what I'm talking about.
Why some veggies can make you bloated.
Why does something so healthy have such a negative impact on immediate symptoms? Well, there could be a few factors at play, according to experts. One thing to try? Staying away from FODMAPs. "FODMAPs stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Basically, fermentable sugars," says Will Cole, D.C., an mbg Collective member and author of Ketotarian. "These are not fully digested in your gut and are excessively fermented by your gut bacteria, which releases hydrogen gas that causes digestive distress and symptoms like gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and pain." Cole recommends getting SIBO labs to see if FODMAPs are an underlying cause of bloat for you.
It could also be how you're preparing your food. "According to ayurveda, raw vegetables are more difficult to digest because of their fibrous cell walls," explains Sahara Rose, an ayurvedic expert and author of Eat Feel Fresh. "Cooking them helps break down the fiber and makes it much easier for your system to digest." A simple rule to follow from an ayurvedic perspective? "The harder a food is to chew, the more difficult it will be to digest."
Finally, bloat can come from how you're actually eating your food. "I don't think it's so much about which vegetables you're eating, as much as it's about the time and state of mind you give to the act of eating and digestion," says Ellen Vora, M.D., mbg Collective member and founder of EllenVora.com. She recommends cultivating a state of calm when you're eating. "Put down the phone, stop working, and be present and awake for the meal. Chew, chew, chew."
According to Vora, the mellow vibes should extend after mealtime as well. "Stay relaxed while you're digesting—maybe even take a brief walk," she says. "A walk after a meal used to be called a 'constitutional' because it helps with your constitution (i.e., your digestion and the state of your body)."
The best veggies that won't make you bloated.
If you do find that you're struggling with FODMAPs, stick with low-FODMAP veggies like cooked dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard. Vora recommends choosing soluble fiber versus insoluble fiber—think sweet potatoes instead of raw broccoli. Like Rose, she's a fan of pre-digesting your food by cooking, blending, and puréeing it.
Adding in some healthy fat is recommended from an ayurvedic perspective. "The oil helps make it even smoother for the digestive system," explains Rose.
Finally, you can focus on veggies that have diuretic properties, and thus actually help your body de-bloat. "Cucumber not only has fiber, but it is also a diuretic, making it the perfect no-bloat veggie," says Allison Gross, M.S., RDN, CDN, and founder of Nutrition Curator. "The fiber keeps digestion (read: bowel movements) regular, and the diuretic effect helps us get rid of any excess water we may be holding on to."
Stephanie Middleberg, M.S., R.D., CDN, and founder of Middleburg Nutrition, recommends asparagus and fennel to her clients. "Asparagus is incredible because it is both high in potassium and a natural prebiotic, so it is wonderful for the gut," she says. "Fennel tea is wonderful for digestion and eases gas and cramping. Plus, they both act as natural diuretics."
The best course of action? Pay attention to your own body. Everyone has different digestive reactions, so keeping track of your own symptoms and the foods that cause them is the most surefire way to tackle your own bloat.
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.