Lentils are a type of legume that are native to Western Asia and Northern Africa. They’re incredibly healthy and have been enriching diets around the world since the days of ancient Romans and Egyptians.1 However, some people may avoid trying them for fear that they may lead to bloating. But do lentils really cause gas? Learn how to incorporate this healthy food into your diet without the bloat.
Why Do Lentils Cause Bloating?
Eating lentils can cause gas and bloating because they’re high in fiber that your body is unable to break down.2 While fiber plays a large role in supporting and regulating your digestive system and bowel movements, it can also produce bacteria that leads to cramping and gas pains.2
Another reason that lentils are known for causing gas and bloating is because they are high in what’s called raffinose.4 Raffinose family oligosaccharides (RFO) are known to cause stomach discomfort and bloating because the human body lacks the enzyme required to break them down within the digestive tract.4 Instead of being digested, these RFOs can sit in the intestines and ferment, causing gas and uncomfortable stomach distention.
Lentils are high in protein, potassium and folate while also being low in sodium and saturated fat.1 Studies have indicated that these legumes are linked to a reduced risk of cancer and can improve your cardiovascular health while giving you a boost of energy.2 If you can manage the side effects of gas and bloating that sometimes accompany a high-fiber food, lentils are an excellent addition to your diet.
How Can You Eat Lentils Without Getting Gassy?
Most American adults only consume 15 grams of fiber a day, despite needing 20-30 grams.3 So if you’ve decided to up your fiber intake to take advantage of its numerous health benefits – and there are many – you may notice that you’re considerably more bloated and gassier than you used to be.3
There are a few ways to add high-fiber foods, like lentils, to your diet without feeling that uncomfortable pressure and pain from gas:3,4
- Add fiber-rich foods slowly. If you’re not used to a high-fiber diet, you may be feeling (and hearing) the effects more quickly than you’d like. Instead, add a little bit at a time so that your body can adjust.
- Drink water. This can prevent the fiber from hardening and allow it to move through your body. When you’re thirsty, reach for flat water, rather than carbonated drinks that can cause you to feel gassy.
- Avoid other behaviors that might make you feel gassy if you’re adding more fiber to your diet, like chewing gum.
- Soak lentils before cooking them to minimize the gas they might cause. The soaking process will help get rid of some of the oligosaccharides, like raffinose that can make you feel gassy and bloated. Make sure you boil your lentils in a fresh pot of water, to ensure you’re not ingesting any extra soluble carbohydrates that might cause you discomfort!
Another way to eat lentils without worrying about side effects like bloating and gas is to take Gas-X. Keep Gas-X Extra Strength Chewables or softgels around to relieve occasional pressure, bloating and discomfort from gas in minutes.
- Lentils. Harvard School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/lentils/#. Accessed 5/17/2023.
- Health benefits of lentils. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/health-benefits-of-lentils/. Accessed 5/17/2023.
- Get your fiber without the flatulence. Michigan state University. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/get_your_fiber_without_the_flatulence. Accessed 5/17/2023.
- Characterization of raffinose family oligosaccharides in lentil seeds. University of Saskatchewan. https://harvest.usask.ca/handle/10388/etd-04062011-112222. Accessed 5/17/2023.