Some of our favorite foods, healthy or not, have the ability to cause uncomfortable bloating through gas production in the intestines. Here you will discover these 10 surprisingly ‘healthy’ foods that may be the cause of your unwanted gas and bloating.
What is Bloating?
The human body does a fantastic job of letting us know when we have given it something it simply does not like.
You know the feeling…
Overly full, uncomfortable, full of gas, and squirming at your desk in those tight work pants.
That terrible feeling is known as bloating and unfortunately, some of our favorite foods, healthy or not, have the ability to cause bloating through gas production in the intestines.
Bloating is commonly associated with the feeling that comes after indulging in a big greasy meal or an extra salty snack, but sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint our source of bloating when we are consuming a generally healthy diet.
For the clients I work with, it is sometimes a mystery to try and pinpoint which food is causing unwanted digestive problems, even seemingly ‘healthy foods’.
This guide is in no way saying that any of these foods below are unhealthy, as they are all typically part of a healthy diet. This is just a guide to help you try and pinpoint which ‘healthy’ foods may be causing your underlying problems.
In this article, we will explore why these traditionally healthy foods sometimes are a surprising source of gas and bloating in certain individuals:
- Kidney Beans
- Meat Products
- Whole Grains
- Dairy-Containing Foods
- Chewing Gum
10 Surprisingly Healthy Foods That Cause Gas & Bloating
Some of these foods listed below may come as a shock because we do not normally identify these foods as bloat inducing because we consider them to be healthy or “safe”. Many of these foods can still play a critical role in a healthy diet, but they may just help you to identify what exactly may be causing those unwanted bloating feelings.
#1 – Broccoli
Broccoli is a part of the cruciferous vegetable family, a category of vegetables most infamous for causing pesky intestinal gas that may lead to bloating discomfort.
These vegetables contain a unique sugar called raffinose which feeds the methane-producing bacteria found in the colon. This bacteria releases gas in the intestines which can cause discomfort and bloat in certain individuals.
In the same family as broccoli, raw cauliflower may cause excess gas due to the very high fiber content found in these tasty, healthy stalks.
But don’t write cruciferous vegetables out just yet. Just because raw broccoli and cauliflower have the ability to cause bloating doesn’t mean these nutrient-dense veggies should be avoided altogether.
A great way to decrease your chances of experiencing discomfort is to cook these vegetables before consuming them. Steaming or roasting is a wonderful way to gently break down the tough insoluble fiber and give your digestive system a helping hand.
Perhaps one of the greatest, most unique flavor profiles out there, garlic has the sneaky ability to cause gas and bloating in some individuals. Raw, minced, or garlic powder is a common ingredient found in many of our favorite foods, from pizza to roasted veggies and everywhere in between.
Garlic contains a specific compound known as a fructan, which in short form makes up that scary word fructooligosaccharide, a term that is becoming more popular with the rise in popularity of the low FODMAP diet.
Garlic is considered to be a high FODMAP food due to its fructan content which has been shown to cause gas, bloating, and a multitude of other digestive problems in those who do not tolerate FODMAPS well.
#4 – Onions
Similar to garlic, this beloved kitchen staple has also been identified as a high FODMAP food due to its high fructan content. Onions have one of the highest fructan contents of any food, and all of that soluble fiber can cause some major discomfort in the digestive system whether the onion is cooked or not.
While cooking does have the ability to reduce the symptoms in some, it is important to recognize that everybody will treat these compounds differently, meaning that your sensitivity to onions can greatly differ from your friend’s or family’s sensitivities, while some people may have no noticeable problems at all.
#5 – Kidney Beans
From the time we were all little kids, we sang the song “Beans, beans, the magical fruit – the more you eat the more you toot” followed by hysterical laughter. But that childhood rhyme has some legit truth behind beans being a food that causes gas and bloating.
Many kinds of dried beans have the ability to cause gas and bloating due to their high complex carbohydrate and dietary fiber content. Along with that pesky raffinose found in cruciferous vegetables, beans also contain stachyose and verbascose, sugars that our bodies have difficulties digesting.
But the fear of gas should not keep anyone from eating beans especially because they contain so many essential vitamins, minerals and are an excellent source of plant-based protein. The good news is that soaking dry beans overnight and discarding the water can help to reduce the incidence of unwanted gas and bloating.
#6 – Mushrooms
While not as common or noticeable as cruciferous vegetables or beans, mushrooms also contain raffinose which can cause problems for some people, especially when eaten in large amounts.
Raffinose is not easily digested by the body and unfortunately gets to spend a long time transitioning through the large intestine. While here, the raffinose undergoes fermentation which releases gas in the process.
If you do not experience unusual digestive problems when eating mushrooms, don’t cut them out of your healthy diet!
Mushrooms contain important vitamins and minerals, especially selenium and plant-based vitamin D (1).
#7 – Meat Products
Depending on the individual, whole cuts of organic, lean meat can play an important role in a healthy diet. But somewhere in along the lines of American culture, processed meat such as luncheon meat, sausage, hot dogs and salami, have made their way into our daily meal routines.
During the processing of these meats, additives such as sugar, salt, and nitrates are used to preserve the product by inhibiting bacterial growth.
Together with the additives, high amounts of saturated fats and sodium wreak havoc on the digestive system and can cause issues such as gas, bloating, and general discomfort.
There have also been many studies that show that the consumption of these processed meats can increase your risk for stomach and colon cancer, making it a wise choice to avoid these products altogether.
#8 – Whole Grains
As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I always jump for joy when my clients choose whole grain options over refined, white versions. Whole grains are a wonderful addition to a healthy diet for many individuals because of their outstanding nutritional profile that includes dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
However, making the switch from white to whole-grain versions of bread, rice, and pasta all at once can cause some dietary discomfort due to the increased fiber content. Whenever an unusual amount of dietary fiber is introduced to the body, the body takes notice and requires some extra work to process the food, which may cause gas and bloat.
Over time, the body will get used to the increased fiber content of a consistent diet and will be less likely to produce unwanted symptoms.
Additionally, if someone is unaware that they may have celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, they may experience additional discomfort due to the body’s rejection of a specific protein known as gluten, which not tolerated well by the body.
#9 – Dairy-Based Foods
Perhaps one of the most prominent, yet unofficially diagnosed, digestive problems common in America today is lactose intolerance. Because lactose is found in all dairy products, dairy foods get grouped into a single category, although some products, such as yogurt, may cause less noticeable digestive symptoms.
For those who indeed are lactose intolerant, gas and bloating maybe some of the more mild symptoms experienced after digesting lactose, the sugar found in milk. For many individuals, the body no longer produces the enzyme lactase that is needed to break down lactose normally.
Other individuals may also be sensitive to the proteins found in milk, such as casein, and may experience inflammation and other digestive discomforts that lead to bloating when dairy is consumed.
#10 – Chewing Gum
Sure, we all like that minty fresh breath feeling after a meal, but that chewing gum may be causing you unwanted bloating without you even realizing it.
When we chew gum, we unknowingly and unintentionally swallow large amounts of air which must travel all the way through the digestive system to eventually get out the other way. This large amount of air will cause bloating and eventual gas.
Depending on the type of gum that you choose, you may also notice that certain sugar alcohols are present in your gum. Commonly found under the names xylitol, sorbitol, or erythritol, in sugar-free foods, these sugar alcohols are not digested by the body and therefore pass through the digestive system unaltered, causing major gas, bloating and even diarrhea in some.
Conclusion on Healthy Foods That Cause Gas & Bloating
It is important to keep in mind that everybody will respond to foods and compounds differently. Some people may experience problems with these foods, while others may be totally fine
If you normally consume a high fiber diet, you will be less likely to experience unwanted digestive symptoms because the body is already accustomed to the high fiber content of your diet.
If you normally consume a low fiber diet, it is important to keep in mind that these symptoms can and do happen and that a slow but steady introduction of dietary fiber to your diet is the best way to go.