Do Collard Greens Cause Gas and Make You Poop?
Collard greens are a member of the Brassicaceae family that includes arugula, bok choy and kale. These highly nutritious leafy greens are the type of vegetables that most people should be eating more of to improve their digestive systems, gut microbiome, and overall general health.
There’s a problem though. Eating collard greens can cause gassiness and bloating for some people. This article explains what’s in them that causes this and how to fix it.
Also ahead, whether collard greens are high or low-FODMAP, if they’re okay to eat for people with IBS, if they make you poop and can cause diarrhea, what kind of fiber they contain, potential negative effects and precautions, and whether it’s better to eat them raw or cooked.
Why Does Eating Collard Greens Upset Your Stomach and Make You Gassy?
There are 3 main reasons why eating collard greens, particularly in large amounts, can result in an upset stomach, abdominal bloating, and gassiness.
1.High Fiber Content
These leafy greens are high in dietary fiber, which is a type of indigestible carbohydrate your body can’t fully break down. While fiber is very beneficial for healthy digestion, too much can lead to gas, bloating, and intestinal pain, especially if you’re not used to it in your diet.
2. Sulfur Compounds
Collard greens, like many cruciferous vegetables, contain naturally occurring sulfur compounds, such as glucosinolates. When these are broken down in the digestive system, they can create gases that result in smelly farts. Other cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are usually worse for bad-smelling flatulence than collard greens though.
Raffinose, an indigestible sugar commonly found in veggies like collard greens, is another culprit. Humans lack the enzyme, alpha-galactosidase, necessary to break down raffinose, so it passes through the stomach and small intestine undigested. When it reaches the large intestine, bacteria ferment it, producing gases as a byproduct.
To reduce these effects, you can try cooking collard greens well to break down some of these compounds, gradually increasing your intake of fiber to give your body time to adjust, or taking digestive enzymes to help your body deal with raffinose and extra fiber.
How Much Fiber is in Collard Greens and What Kind is It?
Collard greens are a good source of dietary fiber. The amount of fiber they contain can vary slightly depending on how they’re prepared, but according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one cup of boiled and drained collard greens (about 190 grams) contains approximately 7.6 grams of dietary fiber.
The fiber in collard greens is mostly insoluble. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the diet, helps to prevent constipation, and helps maintain bowel health. It does this by absorbing water in the large intestine, which aids in stool formation and promotes regular bowel movements.
Collard greens also contain a smaller amount of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can dissolve in water to form a gel-like material, which can help lower cholesterol and glucose levels.
It’s generally recommended that adults consume between 25 to 38 grams of dietary fiber per day, depending on age and sex, and collard greens contribute well to reaching this total.
Do Collard Greens Make You Poop and Can Eating Them Cause Diarrhea?
Yes. Collard greens can help you go to the toilet. This leafy green vegetable is rich in dietary fiber which plays an important role in promoting bowel regularity. It adds bulk to the stool which can help alleviate constipation and promote regular bowel movements.
Remember though, while a moderate amount of fiber is beneficial for most people, too much fiber all at once can quickly lead to digestive discomfort. If you’re not used to a high-fiber diet, or if you increase your fiber intake too quickly, it can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, excessive gas, and even diarrhea.
It’s best to gradually increase your fiber intake over time, rather than suddenly eating a lot of high-fiber foods, to give your digestive system time to adjust to it.
Cooking collard greens can also make them easier to digest. The cooking process breaks down some of the fibers and indigestible sugars that can cause digestive issues.
Keep in mind that everyone’s digestive system is different. What causes diarrhea or other digestive issues in one person may not in another. Listen to your body and adjust your diet accordingly.
Are Collard Greens High or Low-FODMAP and Are They Bad for IBS?
The FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols) content of food can vary greatly. Some foods contain higher levels of FODMAPs than others, and some people are more sensitive to certain types of them.
Collard greens are generally considered a low-FODMAP food. This means that most people with IBS, or other conditions that make them sensitive to FODMAPs, should be able to eat them without too many problems.
As covered earlier though, collard greens do contain raffinose and sulfur compounds, both of which can cause intestinal trouble for people with irritable bowel syndrome. Their high fiber content can also be an issue for those with IBS.
Whether you personally experienced symptoms from eating collard greens will depend upon your own sensitivity and how much you ate at the time. Always start off slow with potentially gassy foods like this to assess your tolerance level.
Tips for Reducing Digestive Problems From Eating Collard Greens
While collard greens are generally healthy and nutrient-rich, some people might experience an upset stomach after eating them. This is usually due to their high fiber content, raffinose, or sulfur compounds. Here are some quick tips to make them easier on your digestive system:
- Cook Them Well: Cooking collard greens can help break down some of the fibers and sugars that can cause gas and bloating. Steaming, boiling, or sautéing them can all make them much easier to digest.
- Eat in Moderation: Even healthy foods can cause problems if you eat too much at once. Start with smaller amounts of collard greens and gradually increase your intake over time to give your digestive system a chance to adapt to the new food.
- Chew Thoroughly: Chewing food well starts the digestive process in your mouth and can make the rest of the process much easier on your stomach and intestines.
- Gradually Increase Fiber Intake: If you’re not used to a high-fiber diet, it’s important to gradually increase the amount of fiber you eat. This can help your body adjust and reduce the chance of gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
- Pair with Digestion-Friendly Foods: Eating collard greens with foods that are known to be easy on the stomach can help balance out their effects. For example, pairing them with a lean protein like chicken or simple carbohydrates like rice can make for an easily digestible meal.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help your body handle the extra fiber you’re having and can reduce constipation.
It’s important to listen to your body and adjust your diet accordingly. If you continue to have digestive issues after eating even small portions of collard green then there may not be right for you. Other healthy greens like bok choy or arugula may be a better choice.
Can You Eat Raw Collard Greens or Should They Be Cooked?
Yes, you can eat raw collard greens. They are quite nutritious and can be used in salads, smoothies, or wraps in their raw form. Raw collard greens are high in vitamins A, C, K, and B9 (folate), as well as calcium, and they provide a good amount of dietary fiber.
However, there are a few things to consider when deciding to eat collard greens raw or cooked.
- Digestibility: Raw collard greens can be tough and slightly bitter, and they contain compounds that can interfere with thyroid function if eaten in large amounts. Cooking collard greens makes them more tender and easier to eat, reduces bitterness, and diminishes the potential thyroid-interfering compounds.
- Nutrient Availability: Cooking can also improve the availability of certain nutrients. For instance, the process can break down cell walls, making it easier for your body to access and absorb the nutrients within. However, cooking can also cause some loss of vitamin C, which is sensitive to heat.
- Digestive Discomfort: As mentioned in previous responses, the high fiber content and presence of complex sugars in this veggie might cause digestive discomfort for some people, especially when eaten raw. Cooking gassy vegetables helps to break down some of the fibers and sugars, making them easier on your stomach.
So, while raw collard greens can certainly be a part of your diet, many people prefer them cooked for the reasons listed above. Remember to wash them thoroughly before eating, whether you’re eating them raw or cooked, to remove any potential pesticides or bacteria.
What Are the Main Side Effects of Eating Collard Greens?
Collard greens are generally healthy and safe for most people to eat. They are low in calories and high in vitamins A, C, K, and many B vitamins, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium. They also provide a good amount of dietary fiber, which is beneficial for digestive health.
Like any food though, they can cause negative effects in some individuals or when eaten in excess. Here are a few potential side effects:
- Digestive Issues: Due to their high fiber content, eating a lot of collard greens could lead to digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea, especially in people not used to a high-fiber diet.
- Thyroid Function: Collard greens, like other cruciferous vegetables, contain substances known as goitrogens, which can interfere with thyroid hormone production and potentially cause goiter in extremely large amounts. Cooking can help deactivate these compounds, and this is usually only a concern for those with pre-existing thyroid problems or those regularly eating very large amounts.
- Potential for Kidney Stones: Collard greens, like other leafy greens, contain oxalates, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones in susceptible individuals. If you have a history of oxalate kidney stones, your GP may advise you to limit your intake of oxalate-rich foods.
These are only potential side effects and very few will experience them. Most people eat collard greens with no problems at all. As with any dietary change, it’s a good idea to start slow, observe your body’s reaction, and adjust as needed.
What Are Some Low-FODMAP Leafy Greens Alternatives to Collard Greens?
- Spinach is a versatile leafy green that can be used in salads, smoothies, and cooked dishes. It is low in FODMAPs and high in nutrients such as iron, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
- Swiss chard is a leafy green that is similar to spinach but has a slightly stronger flavor. It is low in FODMAPs and high in nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
- Lettuce is a low-FODMAP veggie that comes in many varieties, including romaine, butter, iceberg, and red coral. It is a good source of vitamins and minerals and can be used in salads, sandwiches, and wraps.
- Arugula is another low-FODMAP leafy green that has a peppery flavor and can be used in salads, sandwiches and cooked dishes. It is a good source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin C and folate.
These FODMAP-friendly leafy greens make good alternatives to collard greens to eat and enjoy when you’re on a low-FODMAP diet.
Are Collard Greens Good or Bad for Your Diet?
Collard greens, like many leafy green vegetables, are generally very good for your diet. They are low in calories and packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which contribute to overall health.
Here are some reasons why they are beneficial to eat regularly:
- Rich in Nutrients: Collard greens are high in vitamins A, C, K, and many B vitamins. They also contain important minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium.
- High in Fiber: The fiber in these leafy greens can help to support a healthy digestive system, reduce constipation, and contribute to a feeling of fullness, which can aid in weight management.
- Antioxidant Properties: They are rich in antioxidants, which help fight off harmful free radicals in the body, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and certain types of cancer.
- Low in Calories: Collard greens are low in calories, which makes them a good choice for those looking to maintain or lose weight.
While they can cause digestive issues in gassiness for some people, particularly if they are not used to a high-fiber diet, it’s hard to call collard greens bad for you with all these health benefits from eating them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are collard greens a source of fiber?
Yes, they are a great source of dietary fiber. A cup of boiled and drained collard greens provides approximately 7.6 grams of dietary fiber. This fiber is predominantly insoluble, promoting bowel regularity, but it also contains some soluble fiber that can help with cholesterol management.
Can collard greens contribute to gas and bloating?
Yes, due to their high fiber content and presence of complex sugars, eating collard greens can lead to gas and bloating, especially in people who are not accustomed to a high-fiber diet. Cooking these vegetables can help reduce this potential digestive discomfort.
Is it safe to eat collard greens in their raw state?
Yes, you can eat collard greens raw. They can be used in salads, smoothies, or as wraps. However, they can be tough and slightly bitter when raw. Cooking not only softens their texture and reduces bitterness, but it also makes some nutrients more available and reduces certain compounds that can interfere with thyroid function.
Can eating collard greens support weight loss?
Collard greens are low in calories and high in dietary fiber, which can help you feel full and satisfied without having a lot of calories, thus supporting weight management. However, weight loss should be approached from a holistic perspective, including a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
Are collard greens okay for people with kidney stones?
Collard greens, like many leafy green vegetables, contain oxalates, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones in susceptible people. If you have a history of kidney stones, particularly oxalate stones, your doctor might recommend limiting your intake of high-oxalate foods.
What nutritional benefits do collard greens offer?
Collard greens are packed with nutrients. They are a rich source of vitamins A, C, K, and several B vitamins. They also provide important minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium. Furthermore, they are high in dietary fiber and antioxidants, contributing to overall health and well-being.
Do collard greens contain sulfur compounds?
Yes, collard greens, like other cruciferous vegetables, contain sulfur compounds. These compounds, which include glucosinolates, are responsible for their distinctive flavor and are also thought to have a variety of health benefits. However, in some people, these sulfur compounds can contribute to stinky gas.
Are collard greens hard to digest?
Collard greens can be tougher to digest for some people, especially when eaten raw or in large amounts. This is due to their high fiber content and the presence of complex sugars, which can cause bloating, gas, and even diarrhea. Cooking them can help break down some of these fibers and sugars, making them easier to digest.
Don’t Stop Eating Collard Greens
Collard greens are a high-fiber and very healthy leafy green vegetable. They are generally considered FODMAP-friendly, despite having some raffinose and sulfur compounds, and should be tolerable in small servings for most people with mild to moderate IBS. Eating them regularly helps keep you regular and improves your digestive system over time.
While they can cause gas for some people, they are well worth adding to your diet if you can. Try the recommendations in this article to minimize bloating and flatulence from collard greens and you should be able to eat them without digestive problems in the future.
Can you can eat collard greens without gassiness, or do you find they give you an upset stomach? I’d be particularly interested to hear from people that have IBS or are sensitive to FODMAPs.