Eating a vegan diet involves a greater consumption of fiber than the standard American diet, which can cause gas and bloat. Cooking foods like cruciferous vegetables and legumes can aid in their digestion and therefore reduce gas from consuming them, and incorporating more fibrous foods slowly can help your body produce less gas.
However, there are also several plant-based foods you can try to aid digestion and reduce gas. Here are twelve examples of where to start.
Berries are rich in antioxidants and low on the glycemic index. They’re also lower fructose fruits.
Some fruits, like apples, can cause gas in certain people whose bodies can’t properly break down fructose. If you’re someone with fructose malabsorption or intolerance, then stick to blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries (avoid blackberries, which have the highest fructose of the berries).
Be careful not to eat too many berries though, as they still contain a significant amount of fiber which may cause gas in those unused to a high fiber diet.
Bananas are another low-fructose fruit. They also have the added benefit of containing a lot of potassium which can help reduce bloating by balancing sodium levels that can cause water retention.
Bananas also have papain, which is an enzyme that reduces gas and bloating by aiding digestion.
The carbohydrates in bananas are also easy for the body to digest, preventing the gas formation and making bananas a good option for those with temporary digestive issues like vomiting or diarrhea.
Papaya and Cantaloupe
Like bananas, papaya contains the enzyme papain which helps digestion. Supporting healthy digestion reduces gas, and papaya has been proven to help people with digestive disorders.
Cantaloupe (as well as watermelon and honeydew) hydrate the body and flush your system of excess water and salt, reducing bloating.
Cantaloupe has higher potassium content than other melons, making it even better at reducing bloating.
Melons are lower in fiber than other fruits which can also reduce gas, but watermelon specifically has high amounts of fructose so avoid it if you have an intolerance.
Cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts) cause gas due to the presence of raffinose, a type of oligosaccharide (kind of carbohydrate) that can’t be digested in the stomach and small intestine so it passes to the large intestine where it ferments. This fermentation by gut bacteria is what causes gas and bloating.
Zucchini, cucumber, and pumpkin are all lower-carb vegetables that are much easier on the digestive system. In addition, their high water content helps reduce bloating.
Cucumbers have sulfur and silicon that also help get rid of water bloat and improve GI tract health.
Squash, like pureed pumpkin, provides some fiber along with potassium and vitamin A to help fight inflammation and move digestion along to prevent fermentation.
Other Low-Carb Veggies
Green beans, lettuce, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, spinach, and bell peppers (favor red, orange, and yellow over green) are also low-carb veggies you can eat to reduce digestive symptoms.
These veggies won’t cause gas due to the absence or low presence of carbohydrates that are difficult to digest because they feed gut bacteria that produce gas in the large intestine.
However, these veggies still contain fiber, so beware of overconsumption, which can overwhelm your digestive system and cause gas.
Potatoes and yams are also safe for most people (just make sure to cook/steam them thoroughly).
The resistant starch in potatoes and yams can help improve digestive health by feeding the good bacteria in your gut.
This study found that yam consumption improved upper gut function in mice.
Resistant starch also helps bind together food in the digestive system and keep it moving, keeping the colon clean and possibly preventing colon cancer.
While certain grains like wheat can cause gas due to their raffinose, fiber, and gluten content, rice does not cause gas.
It is very easily digested (it gets fully digested in the small intestine) and doesn’t contain the oligosaccharides (carbohydrates) that upset the GI tract.
If you’re avoiding high fiber foods, opt for white rice instead of brown rice though both are gentle on the stomach and are generally low in fiber.
Oats and Quinoa
Oats and quinoa may also be easily digested for some people because they’re low in oligosaccharides but are higher in fiber than rice.
As with potatoes, the starches in grains such as oats and rice feed the good bacteria in the digestive system, aiding overall GI function, reducing the likelihood of gas and bloating.
Nuts and Seeds
Unless you have an allergy, nuts, and seeds are usually safe foods for the digestive system.
Avoid pistachios and cashews, which have higher amounts of oligosaccharides.
Pecans, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and sesame seeds in moderation shouldn’t cause GI upset.
Again, moderation is key because nuts are high in fiber and can cause digestion problems if overconsumed due to enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid content (which reduces the absorption of some nutrients).
Avocado is another food low in fructose and rich in potassium, which can promote healthy digestion and reduce gas and bloating.
It also has a fair bit of fiber along with healthy monounsaturated fat and antioxidants to reduce inflammation and therefore bloating.
Furthermore, avocados contain antimicrobial peptides which can protect against E.Coli (that commonly causes food poisoning) and Staphylococcus aureus (that can cause Staph infections).
Beans are some of the most notorious plant-based foods that cause gas. That’s why they have the nickname “the musical fruit”.
Mung beans, however, contain different carbohydrates (verbascose) that are easier to digest, and they’re low in the complex sugars typically found in legumes.
Beans have high amounts of the oligosaccharide raffinose, the same compound in cruciferous vegetables that causes them to skip digestion in the stomach and small intestine where the body has difficulty breaking them down and ferment in the large intestine, causing gas.
Beans are also high in fiber, increasing the gas production of bacteria in the gut.
Herbs and Spices
Almost all herbs and spices will not cause gas. Certain kinds will even help prevent it by aiding digestion and reducing inflammation.
Great spices to reduce gas include:
Fennel is especially powerful at helping digestion by relaxing the GI tract, regulating bacteria and fungi, and reducing inflammation in the gut.
This is due to anethole, estragole, and fenchone compounds in the fennel that relaxes the intestines and relieves trapped gas.
Eating fennel seeds after a meal is a common practice in many cultures (you may have done it at an Indian restaurant) to reduce gas.
Other Strategies for Reducing Gas While Vegan
Besides eating the above foods, there are many behavioral strategies to help reduce gas.
The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders recommends avoiding practices that cause you to swallow air: eating too fast, chewing gum, smoking, or consuming carbonated or alcoholic drinks.
Speaking of drinks, hydration is very important for digestive health and can help reduce gas by preventing stagnation in digestive processes.
Drinking ginger, lemon, peppermint, or chamomile tea can also aid in digestion and prevent gas.
Avoid talking while eating and make sure to chew your food completely.
You can also try walking after eating to support digestion.
Gas can also come from allergies to foods, so it may be helpful to try an elimination diet and slowly add back in foods you think may be causing GI upset.
When eating fibrous foods on a plant-based diet, steaming and cooking can help reduce gas. With beans specifically, Dr. Thomas Campbell writes that cooking beans until soft or adding seaweed or a bay leaf while cooking can decrease the effect of the oligosaccharides in beans.
Naturally probiotic or fermented foods (like kombucha) may also help you adjust to a plant-based diet.
Finally, talk to your doctor if changing your diet and behavior doesn’t work to reduce gassiness. It may be a sign of a larger medical condition (such as IBS or colorectal cancer) that requires medication or treatment.
Also do not miss our article about foods that can cause gas here.