When veggies aren’t healthy

By John Berardi, Ph.D.

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Veggies – they’re important.

By now, I’m pretty sure that most of you are familiar with the 10 Habits of Precision Nutrition. You know, the eat every 3 hour thing, the protein with each meal thing, the veggies with each meal thing…and so on. And although we place importance on every single one of the 10 habits, we’ve really spent a lot of time emphasizing the importance of getting your fruits and veggies – especially those vegetables.

This is due, in large part, to the fact that many folks simply don’t eat enough veggies. The recommended fruit and vegetable intake is at least three to five servings per day. However, only 3 percent of men and 7 percent of women meet even these minimums!

vegetables

But veggies make me sick

The interesting thing is that sometimes, when folks start increasing their veggie intake, they can actually feel worse. They get bloated, gassy, and flatulent. And there’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to eat better and being rewarded with a kick in the gut. To this end, here’s a recent question that echoes this exact problem:

I have been trying to get in habit of eating foods that are good for me. Foods such as vegetables and salads. But it seems that whenever I eat a lot of food such as salads or anything like roughage, my stomach does not seem to be able to digest it. I feel all bloated. So I’m not sure what to do or if there is anything that I can take to help.

And believe it or not, this is much more common than you think! Lots of folks report feeling this way when increasing veggie intake. However, there is something you can do about it. Here’s my response:

Sure, there’s something you can do…cook the veggies.

To be honest, although I often eat them, salads and raw veggies can be difficult from 2 perspectives.

  1. First, 1-2 cups (what you should be eating with each meal) of raw veggies/salad makes for a lot of roughage, a lot of volume, and a lot of chewing. And sometimes it’s a pain to eat all those raw veggies.
  2. Second, many people can only digest a small amount of raw veggies per day. If they eat more than just a little bit, they get all the symptoms described above.

So the solution is this – lightly cook most of your daily your veggies. Steaming them is a great solution. As is cooking them in stir-fry dishes.

Further, using veggies to make sauces and condiments (like tomato sauce, pesto, etc) is also a great way to get in lots of veggies easily, efficiently, and, uh, digestive-ly. Yea, I just made that word up.

NOTE: If you pick up a copy of Gourmet Nutrition V2.0, you’ll find a ton of great veggie recipe strategies. Beyond this, another great cookbook for veggies is Williams Sonoma’s Mastering Vegetables. With this book and GN V2.0, you’ll have more than enough veggie strategies – for life.

Cooked veggies for GI distress

So yes, veggies are awesome for us. But no, not all veggies make us look better and feel better. Interestingly, digestive distress also signals that we might be missing out on some of the important nutrients. Indeed, the nutrients are often bound in a matrix of fiber. When cooked, the fiber is rendered more easily broken down and many nutrients can now be digested and absorbed.

Uncooked, this fiber (bound with important nutrients) remains intact and passes onto the colon undigested. When food reaches the colon undigested, it must be fermented. As the consequence of fermentation is methane gas production, now we’re talking bloating and flatulence. So, they key is to determine your individual veggie tolerance and adjust your veggie choices and veggie preparation based on your own digestion.

But remember, just because you have problems with one type of raw vegetable, it doesn’t mean you should never eat raw veggies again. Find the ones that you enjoy, and can tolerate, raw and eat them raw. The rest, you should eat cooked.

Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking that regardless of your raw veggie tolerance, you should start cooking all your veggies. That’s not what we’re saying.

The bottom line is this – IF you’re not tolerating veggies, it could be because you’re eating them raw. The simple solution that works most of the time? Cook those veggies that you can’t digest in their raw state.

Learn more

To learn more about making important improvements to your nutrition and exercise program, check out the following 5-day video courses.

They’re probably better than 90% of the seminars we’ve ever attended on the subjects of exercise and nutrition (and probably better than a few we’ve given ourselves, too).

The best part? They’reĀ totally free. To check out the free courses, just click one of the links below.