Everyone knows that a salad is a healthy option for when you don’t want to consume high amounts of fat and processed foods at your mealtime.
Salads contain plenty of fresh, leafy vegetables, and can be made as colorful as you like through only natural means. There are so many different salads, there’s bound to be a perfect salad for everyone.
Unfortunately, some people are reluctant to eat salads because they have experienced unwanted side-effects in the past.
If you get an upset stomach after eating a certain dish, it’s likely that you will be put off choosing it again – after all, it wouldn’t be fun eating something that you know will make you uncomfortable.
Here, we explore the reasons why this can happen with salads, and what you can do to reduce your chances of having a stomach ache when you eat them.
High Fiber Content
Common salad ingredients such as raw vegetables, beans and lettuce leaves, are very high in fiber, which is essential for digestion and keeps everything moving through your body correctly.
This is great news for anyone suffering from constipation, because consuming more fiber than usual can help to shift blockages in your digestive system.
Pooping when you’ve eaten a fiber-rich food isn’t in itself a bad thing, and shows that your body is working as it’s supposed to.
According to the American Heart Association, adults should aim to ingest 25-30g of fiber every day, although the national average intake is only around 15g.
Eating too much fiber can have side-effects like wind and bloating, and strangely it can also cause the very constipation that it’s supposed to prevent.
Even just increasing your fiber intake to a higher level than you are used to can evoke these and other issues, so it is best to introduce more fiber into your diet gradually.
Most of the ingredients in a salad are fresh and unprocessed, which often means that they go off more quickly than other types of food.
They usually do not have anything added to them to prolong their lifespan in the same way that pickled products do, for example. If even one component is past its best, this can have unfortunate consequences for your stomach.
One of the most likely suspects is lettuce. This appears as a base in many salads because it has a crisp texture and can fill up a bowl effectively. Some salads are entirely made up of lettuce in various colors and shapes.
There are many different types of lettuce leaves, so you can always find the right one for what you want to make. However, lettuce does have the undesirable quality of rotting quickly.
It is not always easy to know if your lettuce is unfit to eat – it can still look fine even when it is not. Bacteria cling to the leaves or actually penetrate them, but the color can remain unchanged for a few days afterwards.
Usually, you can see signs of damage to produce that has been infected with harmful germs, such as discoloration, sliminess or a bad smell. By the time you notice this in your lettuce, it may be too late because you’ll have already ingested the toxins.
While bad lettuce won’t often do you serious damage, it can lead to painful stomach cramps caused by the E. coli bacteria.
To keep your lettuce fresh for as long as possible, try wrapping it in a dry paper towel inside an airtight plastic bag and placing it in the crisper of your fridge.
Alternatively you can just keep it in its original packaging, as long as it remains unopened until you need to use it. Lettuce should be fully consumed very quickly once you have opened it and exposed it to the air.
You should definitely pay attention to the expiry date on the lettuce packaging, and throw it out if it has already expired.
It may seem like an unnecessary step to take, but it is absolutely vital that you wash each ingredient before adding it to your salad.
When you purchase fresh foods from a grocery store, you don’t know who has touched it before you or what it has been in contact with.
This is especially true with produce that is unpackaged, because it is exposed to the elements and can collect germs from other people’s hands or breath.
Cooking food generally kills any bacteria that might have been on its surface, so the washing stage is less important when you introduce a heat element. However, a salad is a raw dish, so there is no cooking involved.
Therefore, the bacteria may still be present by the time you get to the eating stage. Washing your ingredients is the best way to eliminate potentially harmful germs that lurk on them.
Some salads may include foods that haven’t been washed – this is unlikely to occur with a restaurant or store-bought salad, because these establishments tend to have strict guidelines when it comes to preparing their food.
However, it only takes one poorly-washed ingredient to cause an upset in the eater, and this can happen when large quantities of salad are being produced at the same time.
It is more commonly the case that people preparing their own salads might skip washing altogether. There is a myth that if you buy organic vegetables, then you don’t have to wash them because there are no pesticides on them.
While it’s true that they shouldn’t have pesticides, they can still have picked up just as many germs as non-organic ingredients.
If you find that you get stomach pains or discomfort whenever you eat a salad, you should pay more attention to how your salads are prepared.
When making your own, always ensure your ingredients are fit to eat by examining them for warning signs and washing them thoroughly before use.
If you have taken all these precautions and you still experience symptoms, it could just be your body trying to adjust to your increased fiber consumption.
Keep portions small and infrequent at first, then you can slowly build up the amount of salad you eat – making sudden drastic changes to your diet can often result in shocking your body, causing more harm than good.
Treat it gently, and you may find you start to have fewer issues.