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The Unmentionable Effect of Cruciferous Vegetables

While cauliflower and broccoli tend to take the blame for causing flatulence, the truth is that many fiber-full foods are also to blame.

This article was first published in The Skeptical Inquirer.

While it’s true that cruciferous veggies like cabbage, arugula, broccoli, and cauliflower can lead to an increased rate of flatulence, these vegetables are far from the only culprits despite their reputations.

The causative agent in this equation is fiber. When we eat nondigestible carbohydrates such as fiber, they pass through our stomachs and into our intestines, where our colonies of microbes break them down to feed themselves, creating gas in the process. These carbs are crucial to cultivating a healthy gut microbiome, but, unfortunately for us, farts are the price we pay.

Certain foods are richer in fiber, particularly fermentable fiber, and therefore lead to more gas production. Certainly, cruciferous vegetables such as brussels sprouts, kale, turnips, and radishes, as well as those already mentioned, are fiber-rich. As are other foods traditionally associated with farting, such as beans. But there are quite a few culprits that seem to largely avoid blame despite their fiber-full nature, such as apples, carrots, onions, peaches, garlic, and whole grains. Artificial sweeteners are largely based on undigestable sugars, a.k.a. carbohydrates, so can cause gas as well. Eating an excess of protein—more than roughly one gram per kilogram of body weight—can offer your gut bacteria a feast, leading them to thank you by producing hydrogen sulfide gas and making flatulence not only frequent but fetid.

If you’re a cruciferous vegetable and bean lover like me but want to avoid some windy outbursts, cooking your veggies can help to break down the undigestible carbohydrates and reduce their gas-forming potential. Whether you care about flatulence or not, you should definitely be cooking your legumes, because they contain lectins, a major family of antinutrients that can be toxic.


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