Everywhere you turn – in magazines, talk shows, social media, diet plan and product recommendations – there are so many contradictory claims about eating healthy, you may find it difficult to know what to eat and what to avoid. You may be like others who find it all so confusing that you want to just throw your hands up too! Are you so baffled that you wonder “why even try?”
It’s important to remember that one person’s medicine may be someone else’s poison! Even foods that are healthy can cause you to experience a reaction! For some people the reaction might be considered minor. For others, a reaction can be very serious. Even deadly!
But let stick to a reaction of lot of people suffer and often ignore: bloating!
Do you ever get bloated?
Bloating is a signal from your body, letting you know it disagrees with something you gave it. Bloating is a clue – often a big clue to one or more foods you should avoid or cut completely out of your diet!
One or more of these culprits may cause you to suffer from bloating…
While beans are a great source of plant based protein, contain good carbs, and increasing beans in your diet can have positive effects on cholesterol levels. But many beans contain a type of sugar/starch called oligosaccharide, that the human body cannot fully break down in the normal digestive process. Your body doesn’t actually produce the enzyme that breaks down oligosaccharides.* But, the bacteria in the intestine does, and when it finally breaks down these sugars, fermentation occurs and along with it the production of gas! That’s what makes your belly swell and you to experience being bloated and/or gassy.
Just so you know, the same thing can happen with other foods that enter the large intestine without being absorbed in the small intestine.
Not all beans have the same bloating/gassy side effect.
Here are some tips to reduce the chance of bloating and gas with beans (tip, soaking the beans will not reduce the gas because you still don’t have the necessary enzyme):
- Don’t eat fruit or other natural sugar foods (carrots, for example) with beans. Space out eating fruit 2- to 3 hours away from a meal that includes beans.
- Potatoes are starch that conflicts with the digestion of beans – so avoid potatoes in the same meal.
- Only eat one protein in the same meal may also help.
(You may have just noted like I did when I learned these tips that barbeques are notorious for setting us up for a gassy time: baked beans, fruit salad, potato salad, bread and burgers? Oh, my!)
The beans that may cause the least amount of bloating and gas are black eyed peas. Top offenders include pinto, navy, and kidney beans. Even, chickpeas, which are regarded as highly nutritious, may be difficult to digest. Highest on the list? Soybeans!
*There is an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase that breaks down oligosaccharides. It’s derived from a fungus and is available in pill form – you’ve probably heard of the brand name Beano!
Like beans, lentils fits in the FODMAP group of foods. FODMAP stands for a group of carbohydrate compounds that can contribute to digestive issues that include: fructose, oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides, and polyols and can bring on the bloat! It’s the galactans found in legumes that can cause you an issue.
I love lentils and there are a couple of things you can do to help make them more digestible:
- Choosing the light-colored lentils
- Soaking and rinsing them well
- Avoid eating with fruit or sugar foods – 2-3 hours away from a meal with lentils!
Whole wheat is always touted as a healthier alternative to white processed flour, but it doesn’t sit well with a lot of people due to the gluten it contains. The wheat family also includes varieties such as farro, kamut, spelt, and duram. And you need to consider rye, barley, and triticale as they contain the gluten protein too. Oats are inherently gluten free, but because they are often grown in fields with other wheat products, they may be cross-contaminated
Look for gluten-free options like quinoa, buckwheat, oats labeled gluten free, or almond flour or coconut flour. Read labels on processed anything – you’d be surprised how frequently gluten is added to just about everything!
While cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts are incredibly healthy, they can lead to some of the worse gas! Cooking them makes them much easier to digest, but if that still doesn’t seem to help, focus more on spinach, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes.
Garlic and onions
Oh no! These two are great for flavoring just about anything you can cook up in your kitchen. But eating either of them raw, can set you off! Make sure they’re cooked. If you still suffer bloating or gas, swap them out for fresh herbs like thyme, basil, chives, or parsley to keep your dishes flavorful.
Have you ever noticed you bloat after eating ice cream or a milk shake? Or that protein shake highly recommended by your friend for losing weight or building muscle? Many people don’t dairy well, and that includes milk solids and whey!
You may be quite surprised at how much better you feel. There are some great dairy-free options available such as almond milk, coconut milk, oat milk, cashew milk or pea milk (it actually tastes quite good). Miyoko’s, from the Bay Area in California, makes the most amazing cheeses and butter that are made from wholesome plant-based ingredients without any junk. Check your local Whole Foods or health food store! Can’t live without your ice cream? Coconut Bliss ice Cream is divine!
Just because certain foods are healthy doesn’t mean they are good for your body.
If you frequently bloat after eating, keep a journal of what you eat and write down when you get bloated. You’ll be able to identify the offender, learn more about your body and the best foods to feed it.
And remember, stress can also be a culprit of gas by causing food to move through your digestive tract too quickly without being properly absorbed! That’s why handling your stress and mindful eating are so important!