These 7 Fruits and Vegetables Are the Most Likely to Cause Bloating
Bloating is that uncomfortable feeling of fullness in the middle of your tummy. If you have a lot of bloating, your abdomen may be visually distended, and it may be hard to zip up your pants. It’s not uncommon to develop a little bloating after eating a heavy meal, especially if you eat too quickly, but some people have it frequently and when they eat certain foods.
As you might expect, bloating is often caused by diet, including food intolerances, and some of the healthiest foods can cause it. When confronted with bloating, most people focus on the obvious culprits — foods containing gluten and dairy. But many vegetables can expand your tummy with gas and make you feel uncomfortable. Let’s look at the most common culprits for bloating in the produce department.
There are few vegetables that are healthier than broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable linked with anti-inflammatory activity. Scientists also point out that broccoli contains compounds called glucosinolates that your body converts to sulforaphane. Some laboratory studies show that sulforaphane slows the growth of certain cancers.
The downside to broccoli is it can cause bloating, especially if you eat it raw or eat too much before your intestinal tract has a chance to adapt. Broccoli contains a sugar called raffinose that your digestive tract can’t break down. But when gut bacteria get a hold of raffinose, they ferment and turn it into gases that cause bloating.
Kale is another cruciferous vegetable that has similar benefits and problems that broccoli does. This green, leafy vegetable contains the sugar raffinose that bacteria feed on and convert to waistline-expanding gas. If you love kale but it causes bloating and gas, you still have a recourse. According to dietitians, marinating kale in lemon juice for 8 hours breaks down the raffinose that causes you to bloat. The lemon also provides extra vitamin C too.
Add cabbage to the list of cruciferous vegetables that contain raffinose. Although cabbage is rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, it can be a belly expander if you eat too much of it. So, eat it in smaller amounts and cook it beforehand. Bonus points for buying red cabbage; it contains purple pigments called anthocyanins with anti-inflammatory activity.
Onions are another gas-forming vegetable, but not for the same reasons as broccoli, kale, and cabbage. Onions contain fructans, a type of fiber that triggers bloating in some people. People vary in their susceptibility to fructans, but you’ll also find them in other foods, including garlic, wheat, and leeks. It doesn’t take much onion to cause bloating either. One way to reduce bloating from onions is to cook them before placing them on your plate.
Apples are one of the healthiest fruits there is, and also high in fiber. However, apples contain a copious amount of a sugar called fructose that some people have a hard time breaking down, but bacteria love it and produce gas when they munch on it. They also contain a sugar alcohol called sorbitol that can cause bloating. Still, apples are a nutritious snack and are better for you than any type of processed snack you can buy.
Yep! Pears contain fructose too, which makes them a fruit likely to cause bloating, along with apples. Of the two fructose-rich fruits, apples have a slight nutritional advantage. They contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, and several key phytonutrients, like quercetin, with anti-inflammatory activity. Overall, they’re a bit more nutritious than pears. Plus, more studies have looked at the health properties of apples than pears. For example, a 2011 study linked a diet rich in apples with lower rates of a number of cancers, including cancer of the prostate, breast, ovary, colon, oral cavity, and esophagus.
Beans aren’t exactly a vegetable, but they are a plant-based food that causes bloating. The reason? Beans contain carbohydrates called oligosaccharides that your digestive tract has a hard time breaking down. To break down the oligosaccharides in beans, you need an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase that your body can’t make. On the plus side, you can get this enzyme from an over-the-counter product called Beano sold at many pharmacies. Bean lovers pop a Beano before eating beans to reduce their gas-forming tendency.
Another trick: Soaking beans overnight in water and discarding the water before cooking will reduce their ability to form gas. Another tip is to cook beans with kombu, type of dried seaweed. Kombu contains the alpha-galactosidase enzyme you need to break down oligosaccharides in beans.
The Bottom Line
Now you have the lowdown on the fruits and vegetables likely to cause gas, and can adjust your diet accordingly. If you have persistent bloating despite making dietary changes, consult your healthcare provider. There are also medical causes of bloating, some of which are serious.
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PopSugar.com. “Use This Flat-Belly Hack to Eat Kale Without Bloating”
FoodStruct.com. “Pear vs Apple – Health impact and Nutrition Comparison”
Ganiats TG, Norcross WA, Halverson AL, Burford PA, Palinkas LA. Does Beano prevent gas? A double-blind crossover study of oral alpha-galactosidase to treat dietary oligosaccharide intolerance. J Fam Pract. 1994 Nov;39(5):441-5. PMID: 7964541.