Bloating has become a common side effect of eating and typically results when bacteria feed off of undigested food or difficult-to-digest compounds, then produce hydrogen gas as a waste product. Some gas production is considered normal, but belly bloat that causes discomfort, excessive gas and diarrhea or constipation is not normal and requires dietary modification. Many fruits cause bloating, especially when not ripe enough, but some are considered easier to digest than others. Consult your doctor before you make any dramatic dietary changes.
Why Fruit Bloats
The most common sugar in fruit is fructose, which takes longer to digest than either glucose of sucrose. Moderate amounts of fructose consumption spread out over many hours usually don’t cause problems for most people, although too much at one time can provide the friendly bacteria in your gut with a foundation for fermentation that results in gas production and bloating in your lower abdominal region, according to the book “Advanced Human Nutrition." Furthermore, other sugars, such as sorbitol, are found in small amounts in apples, pears, peaches, prunes and some berries, and take even longer to digest.
The ripeness of a fruit is also directly related to bloating because ripe fruit is much easier to digest than unripe varieties. As a fruit ripens, it is essentially metabolizing itself and converting complex sugars into easier-to-digest sugars, which accounts for the increase in sweetness, according to Gordon Wardlaw, author of “Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach." Furthermore, unwashed fruit might contain microbes or chemicals that greatly contribute to bloating and stomach upset, so be sure and wash all your fruit thoroughly.
Although soluble fiber has its health benefits, especially for controlling blood cholesterol levels, too much in fruit can increase the risk of bloating because it doesn’t get broken down until it reaches your large intestine. As such, choose fruits such as cantaloupe, honeydew melon and green, seedless grapes, which contain less soluble fiber than other fruits. According to the “American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide,” one medium cantaloupe wedge contains only 1 g of soluble fiber. Other fruits that are gentle on your digestive system include raspberries, blackberries, pineapples, bananas and watermelons. Contrary to common belief, tomatoes are a fruit and a good choice to minimize bloating because most of their fiber is in the form of insoluble fiber.
Fruits to Avoid
Many fruits such as apples, strawberries, blueberries, pears, prunes and sweet cherries are high in soluble fiber and should be eaten in moderation if bloating is your primary concern. Peeled apple or applesauce is a better choice because most of the soluble fiber is in the form of pectin, which is in the apple’s skin.
Other Foods to Avoid
To avoid excessive bloating, other foods to eat in limited amounts include most bean varieties and dairy products such as aged cheese, broccoli, cabbage, onions and green peppers, as noted by Sareen Gropper, author of “Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism."
- “Advanced Human Nutrition”; Robert Wildman et al.; 2000
- “Contemporary Nutrition: Functional Approach”; Gordon Wardlaw; 2009
- “American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide (third edition)"; Roberta Larson Duyff; 2006
- “Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism”; Sareen Gropper et al.; 2009