A vegan diet is high in fiber and can make you feel a little well… gassy at times. This can be embarrassing, or maybe uncomfortable if it’s accompanied with bloating, but it’s all normal and a good sign that your body is working properly.
Healthy diets produce more gas because fiber is really really good for you. Plus, vegan farts usually don’t smell as bad as meaty omnivorous farts, and once you adopt a vegan diet your bowels will become much more regular so you can brag to all your constipated meat-loving friends how effortless your trips to the bathroom are.
Some foods may cause more problems than others. So, if you’re new to eating vegan and are feeling too gassy for your liking here are some of the top culprits for gassiness on a vegan diet:
This one may be the most obvious as the classic saying goes “Beans, beans, the magical fruit the more you eat the more you toot,” *insert eye roll here* Well, the saying is true.
Beans are packed with fiber (just one TBSP of pinto beans has almost 2g of fiber!) and will make your gut happy and active. Beans also contain the non-digestible carbohydrate compound called raffinose, increasing their gaseous effect.
They are loaded up with other essentials like protein, zinc, iron, folate, and potassium. Beans are a cheap and staple part of a healthy vegan diet and can be used in all sorts of delicious and nutritious recipes; the extra gas is well worth it!
But, sometimes beans can cause bloating and discomfort. Thankfully, you can still enjoy the reaping health benefits of the magical fruit while reducing the negative side effects. Processed forms of beans such as hummus, tofu, and soy milk contain less fiber but are certainly healthy.
Studies suggest that soaking beans before consumption can reduce raffinose content, limiting bloating and gas, although there is not overwhelming evidence for this. My suggestion is to experiment. All beans are healthy, so try them all. Note which ones cause gas and discomfort, and limit or avoid those; note which ones you like best and make you feel best, and eat those.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a healthy source of protein, fat, and yes fiber. If you munch on nuts all day they can make you feel gassy and bloated.
This can be pretty easy to do if you find nuts as tasty as I do. That being said, nuts and seeds generally don’t cause more gas than most foods, and can definitely help you have healthy-sized (and satisfying) poops.
Regular nut and seed consumption (about a handful a day) have all sorts of additional health benefits because of high antioxidant levels.
They have been shown to prevent heart disease, cancer, and increase your lifespan by two years! In fact, seeds can improve your mood because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid in serotonin, the happiness hormone. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that within just one hour of consuming butternut squash seeds, anxiety levels in subjects with social anxiety disorder went down.
Brussel sprouts, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower all fall under the cruciferous vegetable category.
These vegetables contain sulfur and can cause large amounts of gas if your body is not used to handling these foods. Don’t avoid them though, cruciferous vegetables are some of the healthiest, protecting your brain, eyesight, nasal inflammation, and regulating type 2 diabetes, along with having cancer-fighting properties and antioxidants.
Some people handle raw cruciferous vegetables better, some cooked. Try both types and listen to your body to see which method causes less irritation. Don’t worry about nutrients getting lost, these types of veggies are extremely healthy raw and cooked!
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic are both high in FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). Basically, this means that they are quickly broken down but poorly absorbed in the small intestine.
This is because they are short-chained carbohydrates and will often ferment in the colon, causing gas. Most people can consume garlic and onions without too much trouble, however, people with sensitive digestive systems or IBS may want to avoid onions, garlic, and other high FODMAP foods.
Some fruits like apples, avocados, cherries, and peaches are also high in FODMAPs and can cause the same problems as onions and garlic to those with sensitive digestion.
Additionally, dried fruit is higher in sugar and can result in bloating and fermentation in the intestines. If you think fruit may be causing a problem, opt for fresh fruits and those low in FODMAPs such as bananas, blueberries, kiwis, and grapes.
Bread is a processed food, which can cause gas in some people because of the fructose it contains. For people sensitive to gluten, bread and other wheat products may cause more of a problem.
Some bread is more heavily processed than others. White bread is more processed than wheat bread and since most of the fiber is removed, it can cause constipation, bloating, and gas.
However, some people digest white bread more easily because the absence of fiber makes it faster to digest than wheat. Sourdough bread may be easier to digest because it contains both prebiotics and probiotics. Toasting bread breaks down some of the carbohydrates and may make it easier to digest.
Rye is a relative to wheat, meaning that it also contains gluten and can cause problems if you are sensitive or allergic to gluten. It has high fiber content and can cause gas and bloating if your body is sensitive to large amounts of fiber.
Rye is also a good source of manganese, phosphorus, B-vitamins, and copper. If rye is a source of gas and bloating for you, oats, brown rice, and quinoa are some nutritious and easier-to-digest grains.
Beer is a carbonated drink made by fermenting carbohydrates such as barley, wheat, rice, and maize which is combined with yeast and water. The grains, fermentation, and CO2 from the carbonation make beer a product that can cause large amounts of bloating and gas.
“Beer bellies” are not solely due to excess fat caused by beer, but also a bloated stomach that can be the result of heavy beer consumption. If beer doesn’t make you feel good but you still want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage, wines and spirits tend to cause less bloating.
Most alcoholic beverages do increase one’s risk of breast cancer, and other cancers. However, a compound in red wine can suppress breast tumor activity and does not appear to increase breast cancer risk.
Similar to beans, mushrooms contain raffinose, and are not fully digested in the small intestine. This means that mushrooms will often ferment in the large intestine and can increase intestinal gas and bloating.
A small amount of mushrooms topped onto a meal will likely not cause a problem, and can be a healthy addition as mushrooms can help boost your immune system and help your body fight infections. Meals such as mushroom soup which contain a heavy amount of mushrooms are where you may notice excess gas, bloating, and discomfort.
Ease Into Fiber Intensive Foods
When you first start a vegan diet, you will probably experience an abnormal and annoying amount of gas and bloating. This is because your body is used to consuming an omnivorous diet, and animal products contain no fiber at all.
When you switch to a plant-based diet and greatly increase your fiber consumption, your body needs time to adjust. If your diet is causing you pain, or just too much gas, dial back on the fiber. Try eating more processed foods like pasta, tofu, crackers, and soy milk.
Slowly increase your fiber content as your body acclimates to a high-fiber diet. Eventually, your digestive system will be able to keep up with a nutritious high-fiber diet, and gas and bloating won’t be a problem. Of course, if problems consist, contact your doctor or nutritionist for suggestions!
Do not skip our article about foods that don’t cause gas.