Eating salad is supposed to be good for you. But sometimes, the mixture of dark leafy greens, onions, bell peppers, lean protein and other nutritious ingredients doesn't necessarily agree with your stomach.
Should you stop eating them altogether? Likely, no. But, there are some changes you can make so salads won't upset your stomach, cause loose stool or worse, give you diarrhea.
Video of the Day
Besides proper handling of your veggies and regulating your fiber intake, here are the reasons why salad makes you poop, and ways to still enjoy the refreshing meal while keeping your stomach happy.
While occasional diarrhea probably isn't anything to worry about, see your doctor if it lasts for more than two days, according to the Mayo Clinic. This could indicate a more serious health issue.
Why Does Salad Make Me Poop?
There are many different reasons why salad could make you poop. While some reasons are relatively harmless, others can be more complicated.
Bacteria is one of the leading causes of diarrhea, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. This is why it's so important to thoroughly wash all of your salad vegetables before eating.
Rinsing veggies helps remove stuck-on fecal matter left behind by rodents in the field, soil from the ground and grime left behind from bugs. These contaminants are sources of bacteria that you can easily remove beforehand to lessen your likelihood of having diarrhea.
Diarrhea-causing bacteria can also enter your digestive tract through undercooked meats.
If you add diced chicken, grilled sirloin or seared fish to your salads, for example, your diarrhea may come from a foodborne illness caused by bacteria or parasites in undercooked meat, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To make sure you're eating safe meat, check it with a meat thermometer before serving. Cooking proteins up to the temperatures listed below lessens your risk of gastrointestinal upset related to foodborne illnesses.
Internal Temperatures for Meat
Temperature (in Degrees Fahrenheit)
Beef and Veal
Too Much Fiber
Upping your fiber intake is probably something that has been drilled into your head by your doctor. But, it's possible to go overboard — especially if your body isn't used to it.
Adding too much insoluble fiber in particular (that's the kind of fiber that increases the bulk and movement of your stool) can create intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping, per the Mayo Clinic.
Try to aim for about 22 to 34 grams of fiber per day, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, depending on your diet, age and sex assigned at birth.
If you find eating a large salad is making you run to the bathroom, opt for a small salad alongside a meal made with easy-to-digest foods like soup, fish or a sandwich with white bread.
Then as your body gets used to more fiber, up your intake a little every few days. Eventually, you'll be able to eat more without the uncomfortable side effect of diarrhea shortly afterward, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How Much Fiber Is in Lettuce?
One cup of lettuce (depending on the type) has about 0.5 to 1.8 grams of fiber. Other sources of insoluble fiber include, per Mount Sinai:
- Wheat bran
- Brown rice
Sources of soluble fiber include oat bran, barley, nuts, beans, lentils, peas and other vegetables — all great for salads.
Food Sensitivity or Allergy
If salad is giving you diarrhea, you may be sensitive or allergic to one of its ingredients.
Food sensitivities and allergies can happen with any type of vegetable or salad toppings — especially nuts, seeds, cheese and creamy salad dressings.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a sensitivity and allergy because both can cause gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea. But if you also swell up, have rashes or find it difficult to breathe after eating a salad, it's more likely you have a food allergy, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
While there's no cure for allergies or intolerances, there are tests you can take at the doctor to determine your allergens. Otherwise, you'll have to avoid the trigger food altogether, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
IBS or Crohn's Disease
Some salad ingredients — like onions, tomatoes and acidic dressings, for example — can upset your stomach if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), causing gas and diarrhea, per the Cleveland Clinic.
If you want to follow a diet that eases IBS symptoms, you can try a low-FODMAP diet typically recommended by gastroenterologists, which limits a type of short-chain carbohydrates (aka, sugars) called fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols that the small intestine absorbs poorly to help cramping, diarrhea, constipation and bloating.
Lettuce is on the list of low-FODMAP foods, so it might be good for those with IBS.
Some other low-FODMAP foods include, per Johns Hopkins Medicine:
- Certain cheeses like brie, cheddar and feta
- Almond milk
- Grains like rice, oats and quinoa
- Vegetables like eggplant, potatoes, cucumbers and zucchini
- Fruits like grapes, oranges, strawberries and blueberries
How Long Does Salad Take to Digest?
After you eat any food, it takes about 6 to 8 hours for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine, according to the Mayo Clinic. Food then takes about 36 hours to move through the entire colon.
While simple carbohydrates like rice and pasta take about 30 to 60 minutes to pass through the stomach, adding in protein and fats may make this time longer, per the Cleveland Clinic.
When you eat raw vegetables, like lettuce found in salads, it may digest a bit quicker than most foods because of its high fiber and water content. But, this will all depend on your sex assigned at birth, metabolism, physical activity levels, underlying health conditions and other factors, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
How to Make a Salad That Will Prevent Diarrhea
If you're craving a refreshing salad, there are still ways to make one that'll keep diarrhea and an upset stomach at bay. Here are some tips.
Cook Your Vegetables
Raw vegetables can be tough to digest because of their high fiber content, per the Cleveland Clinic.
That's why it can be helpful to cook the vegetables you're planning to add to a salad. Try sautéing peppers and onions, baking broccoli and asparagus in the oven or steaming peas and corn before mixing in your bowl.
Even though some nutrients like fiber are reduced when cooked, cooking vegetables with olive or avocado oil may actually help you absorb key antioxidants, according to Purdue University.
Limit Beans and Cruciferous Vegetables
If salads make your stomach upset, reducing the amount of fiber-rich foods you've added may help.
Try avoiding high-fiber ingredients like beans, lentils, broccoli and cauliflower (or eat them in moderation), to reduce the bloating, gas and pain you may feel after eating.
Wash Your Vegetables
As mentioned above, unwashed vegetables can carry bacteria that cause diarrhea and stomach upset. Thoroughly washing your veggies before eating is an important step to salad making.
You can try washing lettuce using a salad spinner ($29.95, Amazon), or wash and dry it with a microfiber cloth like this Salad Sling ($23.99, Amazon).
You can also soak other veggies prior to cooking or slicing them to ensure they are as clean as possible before adding to your salad, according to the University of Maine.
The Bottom Line
Salads can upset your stomach or cause diarrhea if vegetables are not washed, contain too much fiber or if you're allergic or sensitive to its ingredients.
This doesn't mean, however, that salads are completely off the table, or that you can't eat a balanced diet without them.
While salads are a nutritious meal, they are not the end-all, be-all of vegetable eating. There are plenty of other ways to get raw and cooked vegetables into your diet, including making smoothies, soups, veggie noodles and more, per the University of Notre Dame.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Danger Zone" (40 °F - 140 °F)
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Diarrhea
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025"
- Mayo Clinic: "Nutrition and Healthy Eating"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "FODMAP Diet: What You Need to Know"
- Mayo Clinic: "Digestion: How Long Does It Take?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How Long Does It Take to Digest Food?"
- University of Notre Dame: "How to Get More Vegetables in Your Diet"
- CDC: "Foods That Can Cause Food Poisoning"
- Mayo Clinic: "Diarrhea: When to See a Doctor"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Food Allergies"
- Purdue University: "Study: No-fat, low-fat dressings don't get most nutrients out of salads"
- University of Maine: "Bulletin #4336, Best Ways to Wash Fruits and Vegetables"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.