Swapping soda for a pressed juice. Choosing whole-wheat toast over white bread. Grabbing a fiber bar before a tough workout. These seem like smart, healthy choices, right? Then why is it that the fiber bar leaves you with a bloated midsection or the juice (yes, the one with all the fruits and vegetables!) has you feeling sluggish? Turns out sometimes eating good-for-you food can cause some unpleasant side effects if you eat too much or aren’t careful with when and how you consume them. If you find yourself gassy, tired, or puffy around the middle, take a peek at what’s on your plate—it could be that one of these 20 foods ahead is the culprit.
If ditching refined, white carbs is the obvious healthy choice, then why is it that whole-wheat toast or linguine can still make us feel heavy? Turns out the reason whole grains are so good for you can also be their potential flaw: fiber. Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate and quickly increasing your intake or eating too much at once can cause gas, bloating, and belching, explained nutritionist Kristin Kirkpatrick, RD, wellness manager at the Cleveland Clinic. Plus, carbs make you hold on to water, which can contribute to that sudden my-pants-don’t-fit feeling after a meal. If you’re making the switch or upping fiber in your diet, increase it slowly to give your body time to adjust and drink water with any fiber-rich meal to help move digestion along.
A favorite in the dairy aisle, this nut milk is a top choice for those who are lactose intolerant or looking to swap out dairy. It has as few as 30 calories per serving plus the bonus of being low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making it a heart-friendly option. But certain brands contain carrageenan, a thickening agent derived from seaweed that has been linked to digestive problems, including inflammatory bowel disease, said Katie Cavuto, RD, a Philadelphia-based nutritionist. The good news is that many brands don’t include it, so check the ingredients list and choose one without it if you’re experiencing discomfort.
Green tea has been revered for so long for its health superpowers—it could slash risk for many cancers and help lower blood pressure—that it’s hard to imagine any drawbacks. But for some people, the caffeine in green tea can be a sneaky culprit for abdominal distress.
“Like coffee, green tea contains caffeine, a diuretic that could cause nausea,” Cavuto said.
If your cup of tea is causing you to be woozy, switch to some non-caffeinated herbal varieties like chamomile and peppermint, which also deliver health perks.
Raw cruciferous vegetables
Greens like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and collard greens are packed with nutrients like vitamin C, folate, fiber, and also contain compounds that could help ward off cancer. Unfortunately, they’re not always easy on the tummy.
“These veggies contain an indigestible complex sugar called raffinose that is responsible for producing gas,” Cavuto said.”On top of that, their soluble fiber doesn’t break down until reaching the small intestine which may lead to bloating and an upset stomach.”
This doesn’t mean that cruciferous fare should disappear from your plate forever. Steaming is an easy hack that not only breaks down the raffinose to make vegetables easier to digest, it also helps preserve the cancer-kicking compounds, which can be lost when boiling or in the microwave.
Dairy can cause some unpleasant symptoms for an estimated 30 million lactose-intolerant Americans who lack the enzyme needed to digest lactase, the sugar in milk. But even if you are not lactose intolerant, overindulging in a bowl of ice cream or Greek yogurt can set off some unpleasant symptoms.
“Eating too much dairy leads to digestion in the large intestine instead of the stomach, which can result in symptoms such as diarrhea and gas,” explained Cavuto. Everyone has a different threshold, so you’ll need to experiment what “too much” means for you.
“It’s worth noting that some hard cheeses like Parmesan and cheddar and fermented dairy products, like kefir, are lower in lactose and more tolerable,” Cavuto said. Aim for three servings of dairy per day and remember that nutrients such as calcium can come from non-dairy sources like dark leafy greens and sardines, too.
There’s good reason the “magical fruit” has a song dedicated to its gas-inducing powers: “You can blame starches that can’t be digested in the small intestine and end up in the process of bacterial fermentation again in the large intestine,” Kirkpatrick said.
You can still fill up on the fiber and protein-rich legumes without the embarrassing after effects. Rinse canned beans before using and soak the dry variety overnight in water and baking soda to reduce the starches and help ease the post-dinner toot. If you’re not a bean fiend, it helps to gradually up consumption over a couple weeks and eat them on the regular so you won’t be bothered by gas, she said.
Reaching for sweets that substitute the white stuff for an alternative may seem like the healthier choice, but for some people the swap can lead to a puffy midsection. The sugar alcohols (like sorbitol, manitol, anything ending in ‘ol’) are not digestible, Kirkpatrick said. “They cause bacteria to ferment in the intestine, causing gas, discomfort, and bloating.”
Chewing on a stick of gum could help keep teeth healthy and has even been shown to boost concentration, but the breath-freshening solution could be the sneaky culprit behind your bloat.
“When you’re constantly chewing, you’re also swallowing air which gets trapped in the intestines and causes gas and that uncomfortable feeling of fullness,” Kirkpatrick said.
What’s more, a 2008 German study revealed that the biggest sugarless gum-chewers—16 to 20 sticks a day—risked not only gas and bloating, but also severe diarrhea and unexpected weight loss, all thanks to sorbitol.
Packed with fruits and vegetables, this magical drink can deliver a ton of nutrients, all in one gulp. But some varieties can be a sneaky sugar trap since they ditch the pulp and skin where all the fiber lies.
“Without the fiber, the sugar in fruit and some vegetables causes your blood sugar to spike and fall,” explained Kirkpatrick.
This sudden dip leaves you sleepy and hungry. Check out the labels of store-bought juices and choose those that go easy on the sugar. If you’re juicing at home, throw in some veggies like kale or celery to offset the fruits’ sugar. Better yet, blend a smoothie.
“You’ll get in all the nutrients and keep filling fiber,” she said.
They’re a better snacking alternative than most vending machine options, but if you don’t watch the portion size, it can lead to some smelly results.
“All fruit has naturally occurring sugars called fructose, but when it’s dried, the sugar ends up being more concentrated so there is more in a smaller amount,” explained Kirkpatrick. “It also tends to have more fiber, and topping that with the extra sugar leads to more fermentation in the intestine, which can have you feeling gassy.”
Dried fruit can still be a good-for-you treat and is a yummy add to everything from salads to muffins; just stick to a 1/4 cup serving at a time.