The Top 10 Gas Causing Vegetables
Vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet and provide many nutritional benefits. Unfortunately certain vegetables can also cause gas and other digestive issues like belly bloat and intestinal cramps.
If you are having problems with excessive gas that you think might be caused by vegetables, this page lists the 10 most likely culprits and some simple suggestions to help avoid flatulence issues when you eat them.
Hardly surprising, given their reputation, in the number one spot for vegetables that cause gas are beans. Sometimes this happens later the same day, but more often you pay the price for eating them the next day.
Beans have quite a bit of fiber, which, while generally thought of as beneficial, can cause gastrointestinal problems for some people. There’s a bigger issue when you eat beans though — raffinose.
Beans of all forms are particularly high in certain indigestible carbohydrates known as oligosaccharides. Raffinose is the most prevalent and worst of these.
Raffinose cannot be broken down in the small intestine as humans lack the alpha-galactosidase enzyme required to break it down. It passes through your GI tract completely undigested.
Once it reaches the large intestine though, the bacteria there thrive on it and ferment raffinose into large volumes of hydrogen, methane and other gases.
You can reduce the amount of raffinose in dried beans by soaking them overnight in water with a tablespoon of edible vinegar. Drain them before you cook them in fresh water. Adding some naturally anti-gas fennel seeds to any recipe with beans can also help.
More effectively, a capsule of vegetarian Bean-zyme, taken at the same time as a high raffinose foods, like beans, peas and some of the other vegetables ahead, will provide the digestive enzymes needed to break down oligosaccharides before they can cause bloating and gas.
Like beans, peas contain high levels of both indigestible oligosaccharides and fiber, both of which are known to cause bloating and flatulence.
Chickpeas, commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern recipes, can be particularly bad and are well worth avoiding if you have an important meeting the next day.
What is interesting with peas, beans and other legumes is that eaten on their own they often cause large volumes of intestinal gas, but not generally a particularly offensive smell.
If you are having problems with excessive gas but it is not especially smelly, and you’ve been eating beans or peas, then they are almost certainly the culprit.
On the other hand, if offensive flatulence odor is the problem rather than the volume of gas, it’s more likely to be one of the high sulfur veggies ahead.
Broccoli is an extremely healthy vegetable recently identified to be full of anti-cancer compounds and well worth eating. Like most cruciferous vegetables though, broccoli is also high in sulfur compounds and this is where gas problems can start.
A diet rich in sulfur can lead to flatulence with a higher percentage of hydrogen sulfide – the classic rotten egg gas smell that’s so effective at turning heads and clearing rooms.
Hydrogen sulfide is so potent that even a very small amount can result in foul smelling flatulence. Generally the poorer your digestion the more chance of hydrogen sulfide building up in the colon.
Eating slowly and chewing broccoli thoroughly can help with its digestion and reduce the amount that reaches the lower intestine where gas producing bacteria reside.
Some research has also shown that taking concentrated probiotics, like this new strain that’s also very effective against pathogenic intestinal yeast, can help reduce the level of hydrogen sulfide in your body by improving the intestinal environment.
Broccoli also contains a fair amount of fiber and raffinose, which no doubt contribute to its reputation for bad gas. That said, small amounts of broccoli shouldn’t be a problem for a healthy digestive system.
Most people find that if they start off with a smaller portion and slowly increase the amount of broccoli they eat in the coming weeks they can enjoy its health benefits without excess gas.
Cabbage is another high sulfur food like broccoli that can cause some bad smelling gas, particularly when eaten in large amounts.
Along with hydrogen sulfide, another sulfur-based compound observed to increase within your body when you eat foods like cabbage is methyl mercaptan. It has a distinctive rotten cabbage odor and just the smallest concentration in flatulence can be easily smelt.
While a very nutritious vegetable, cabbage is actually even more healthy when fermented as sauerkraut. In this form it is predigested by beneficial bacteria and there is much less chance of gas problems eating sauerkraut rather than regular cabbage.
While not usually quite as bad as broccoli or cabbage, cauliflower is still a cruciferous vegetable with both sulfur compounds and oligosaccharides.
If you experience bloating and flatulence problems the next day after a meal with a lot of cauliflower, then it is the likely culprit.
Peppermint tea can greatly reduce intestinal gas and also freshens the breath and even body odor after eating cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower.
6. Brussels Sprouts
Closely related to cabbage, brussels sprouts are quite notorious for causing gas. They contain both raffinose and a high sulfur content, however the way in which we eat this particular vegetable may also be partially to blame.
Many people only eat brussels sprouts on big occasions, like Christmas and Thanksgiving, when they are already eating large amounts of food. This increases the chance of them not being digested properly and ending up in the lower intestine for bacterial fermentation.
Like cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, smaller amounts of brussels sprouts are very good for you and shouldn’t cause problems for a well functioning digestive system.
Try starting off with just a couple of them mixed with other low gas vegetables, like carrots, tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper and leafy greens such as spinach, parsley and Swiss chard.
Another vegetable that can cause gas and digestive problems are onions. They contain high levels of fructans such as inulin and fructooligosaccharides.
While considered a prebiotic, fructans can cause gastrointestinal issues for many people, including bloating, excessive gas and even IBS.
If you experience intestinal pain after eating a meal with a lot of onion in it then a cup of ginger tea can usually help relieve it (and minimize onion breath as well).
While not eaten as commonly as onions, asparagus contain both fructans and raffinose so can often be responsible for gas problems or unusual digestive issues in larger amounts.
Like many of the other foods listed here, asparagus is a very healthy vegetable and probably shouldn’t be avoided unless it is giving you specific problems.
There are other much more commonly eaten foods that cause significantly more digestive distress than healthy vegetables. Two of the worst offenders are the lactose in milk and the malabsorbed fructose found in so many supermarket foods and drinks.
Not usually thought of as a gas forming food (and not actually a vegetable, but eaten as such), mushrooms contain moderate amounts of both raffinose and fructans and are therefore a potential source of bad gas.
Smaller servings shouldn’t cause too many wind problems, but a big mushroom meal, like mushroom soup or risotto, could definitely be behind excessive flatulence or bloating in the following hours.
A rarely eaten food for most people, both globe artichokes, and particularly Jerusalem artichokes, are very high in indigestible fructans. If you only eat these vegetables occasionally they are quite likely to cause extreme gas problems.
People often report heavy bloating and other intestinal issues like abdominal cramps when they have a meal with artichokes. These vegetables really should really be avoided by anyone without good intestinal health.
Many people have found cooking flatulence causing vegetables like this with a teaspoon of fennel seeds can greatly reduce gastrointestinal issues when they eat them.
Also, a cup of fennel tea is one of the most effective herbal remedies for bloating and intestinal cramps, no matter which food is causing the problem.
3 Ways to Reduce Flatulence and Bloating with Gas Causing Vegetables
Some people will be particularly sensitive to vegetables with high levels of oligosaccharides, fructans or sulfur compounds. They may need to greatly reduce or even eliminate these kind of foods to avoid gastrointestinal problems.
Replace them with healthy low gas vegetables, like butternut squash, carrots, celery, parsley, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, eggplant, spinach, Swiss chard, alfalfa and small amounts of steamed potatoes.
These veggies don’t commonly cause gas and you should be able to enjoy them without experiencing bloating and excessive flatulence the next day.
The FODMAP diet can be helpful to pinpoint which particular foods are most problematic if you are having ongoing gastrointestinal upsets.
For those who experience occasional bad gas and bloating, and suspect it might be from some of the 10 gas causing vegetables listed above, the following three tips should help to minimize future problems.
1. Take Smaller Bites and Chew Thoroughly
Rushed eating with large mouthfuls often leads to poor digestion and greatly increases the chance of food fermenting in the bowel and causing too much flatulence.
Chewing your food thoroughly mixes in saliva which starts off proper digestive processes. It also makes it easier for your stomach to break down your meal and lessens the chance of food reaching the lower intestine only partially digested.
Drinking a lot of liquid with a meal can cause similar problems. Soda is particularly bad due to its bizarre ingredients, but any liquid in large amounts can dilute stomach acids and disrupt the normal breakdown of your food.
Drinking water or herbal tea just before a meal rather than with it is much better for digestion.
2. Start off Slowly with Problem Vegetables
The vegetables on the list above are some of the healthiest around but it’s generally best to start off slowly when adding more of them to your diet.
Unsoaked beans and legumes will often cause gas due to their very high raffinose content but there are some more potential solutions, including for baked beans here.
Many people find they can handle cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, well if they build up of their intestinal tolerance to them over time. This involves starting off slowly with a smaller amount in meals and gradually increasing the serving size.
Generally, a mixture of vegetables will cause less problems than a whole plate of broccoli on its own. Similarly, vegetables like onions and mushrooms usually only cause flatulence in larger amounts.
Artichokes, though, do seem to have strong gas producing effects even at smaller servings and it takes a very capable digestive tract to handle them without intestinal upsets.
A broad spectrum digestive enzyme that breaks down oligosaccharides like raffinose and many other difficult to digest components of food can also be very helpful for reducing intestinal problems and excess gas.
This one is the most effective I’ve found and is best taken just before a potentially hard to digest meal with a big glass of water.
3. Improve the Intestinal Environment
Belly bloat, abdominal pain and really smelly flatulence can be symptomatic of unbalanced intestinal flora. The bacteria in your digestive tract can either be incredibly beneficial to your health, or quite destructive to it.
Using probiotics is a simple way to repopulate your intestinal flora with healthy strains that outcompete pathogenic bacteria and yeasts.
These bad bacteria, and yeasts like candida, can cause far more serious health problems in the long term than just flatulence so it’s very important to keep your intestinal environment in balance.
If you’ve taken antibiotics, which can wipe out beneficial gut bacteria and allow pathogenic strains to overgrow, then taking a good probiotic is especially necessary.
These potent time released probiotics are highly effective and can be taken just once a day. Have them at a double dose for at least two weeks after a course of antibiotics.
While these gas causing vegetables are frequently behind flatulence problems, there are other potential causes such as high fructose fruits, wheat and other grain products and especially the lactose in milk.
Are there other vegetables that cause gas for your personally and do you have any tips for reducing flatulence when you eat them? You can find my favorite flatulence remedies here but I be interested to read about what works for you personally.
Photo 1: helirajasalo / Photo 2: Roger Smith / Photo 3: Jo Christian Oterhals / Photo 4: liz west