Information about Fresh Fruits, Raw Vegetables and Digestion

Q: I'm trying to eat more fresh fruits and raw vegetables, but I have difficulty digesting them. Why is this, and what can I do?

A: In addition to nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, and folate, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber. Since fiber has the potential to reduce constipation and lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease, the Institute of Medicine recommends that men over age 50 get at least 30 g of fiber daily and that women over age 50 consume at least 21 g per day.

Fruits and vegetables can put you well on your way to that goal: A cup of raspberries contains 8 g, while a cup of cooked peas contains almost 9 g.

However, it's fiber that can make fruits and vegetables difficult to digest. Beans, peas, and most fruits contain soluble fiber, which dissolves in water and causes gas when it's digested. This gas causes belching, bloating, and flatulence. And both soluble and insoluble fiber can cause gas, indigestion, or diarrhea if you increase your intake too quickly.

Fruits and vegetables are carbohydrates, which produce more gas than either fat or protein. And sugars like fructose and sorbitol in fruits and raffinose in vegetables can cause gas as well.

To reduce gas, bloating, and other digestive symptoms, gradually increase the amount of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables you eat each day, and drink plenty of water. Taking a digestive aid like Beano can help digest the sugars in beans and vegetables that make you feel gassy.

Publication Review By: H. Franklin Herlong, M.D.

Published: 30 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 02 Dec 2014