Is It Safe To Eat Brown Salad?
I stopped eating lettuce - it happened to my body
Teri Virbickis / ShutterstockIf there is one food that screams "healthy" it is salad. Salad is the bland but dependable nutritious lunch that will make you feel like a responsible foodie (unless you add croutons and creamy dressing).
But this summer I learned that lettuce is unfortunately an enemy for my body.
On a normal work day, I mostly buy my food instead of cooking it myself. Until a few months ago, I always chose these places where you can have your salad put together. I always took kale, avocado and other raw vegetables courageously, all with an oil dressing.
But at the beginning of 2017 I noticed that I was feeling uncomfortable.
It started when I was sitting at my desk at work and realized that I could no longer fit in my pants. It felt like I had just had a Christmas feast: I was tired, my stomach felt extremely full, and my pants were way too tight. But why? I only ate a healthy, protein-rich breakfast and salad that day. Fortunately, I was wearing a long top that day, which allowed me to undo the button on my jeans.
The same thing happened the next day. This time I wore a loose top and didn't feel comfortable until I unbuttoned my pants and opened the zipper.
Some days I feel fine, but most of the time it looked like my stomach had swelled to double its size. Even though I rarely ate past hunger and exercised regularly, I was never satisfied with how I looked or how I felt.
My worries quickly turned into an unhealthy obsession.
Since I'm naturally very thin, you immediately saw every gram too much - and I became paranoid. Even if it was the middle of winter, I spent an entire evening putting on my bikinis from last summer and looking at my reflection in the mirror. It looked like a fitness transformation photo, only I was thin before and now I wasn't. I felt five to ten pounds heavier, even though the number on the scales had stayed the same.
I downloaded a nutrition app and wrote down everything I ate, convinced that I had some kind of food allergy. As an Italian pasta lover, it would be the end of the world if I had a gluten intolerance. But after weeks of writing down everything I ate, I still wasn't any smarter. I suspected it might have something to do with my menstrual cycle. So I started Googling diet and gynecological issues related to a bloated stomach.
What made it worse was my job. I write about nutrition and I love it. However, these new problems meant that my passion for reporting delicious things became an endless frustration and destroyed my self-esteem.
I didn't feel comfortable in jeans and restricted my choice of clothes. Having many friends who have suffered from eating disorders, I know how quickly such an obsession with self-image can turn into something destructive. Fortunately, that wasn't the case with me.
I decided to eliminate lettuce from my diet.
I was about to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist when I was talking to a friend's husband. He told me that his wife stopped eating lettuce because her body was having trouble digesting the raw vegetables. Since nothing else worked for me, I tried.
I had my last salad about six weeks ago. Since then, I've tried to eat lean protein, brown rice, and cooked vegetables for lunch. I've found that by cooking at home, I have more control over the portion sizes - and that cooked vegetables are much more digestible than my high-fiber salads.
I've been feeling a lot better since then. My problems with the bloated stomach have become significantly fewer and I am no longer ashamed of wearing tight-fitting clothes. I feel confident and know that my appearance won't change drastically over the course of the day.
Is the result of my diet change a coincidence?
I wasn't sure my "solution" was the right one, so I reached out to a nutritionist.
"Raw vegetables contain cellulose, naturally occurring fiber that is good for nutrition but difficult to break down," Grace Derocha, a nutritionist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, told INSIDER.
“What supports the breakdown is the enzyme cellulase. The body makes cellulase, but people with vulnerable stomachs don't make enough to break down the cellulose in raw vegetables. Due to dietary restrictions such as food allergies, some people may not be consuming enough foods to efficiently produce cellulase. Accordingly, it is even more difficult for the stomach to break down the cellulose that is contained in raw vegetables. "
Also read: 13 foods you can eat as much as you want - without gaining weight
In other words, people with food allergies, sensitivities, or stomach imbalances are more prone to digesting fiber-rich vegetables poorly, which leads to a bloated stomach and discomfort.
Derocha recommends eating allium vegetables like garlic, ginger, onions, leeks, apples, and kiwi. These are supposed to help with digestive problems.
The most important thing is to eat what best nourishes your body and what you are comfortable with.
I've found a diet that works for me - small portions of lean protein, cooked vegetables, healthy grains while avoiding raw vegetables and fruits - but that doesn't work for everyone. Maybe you're the kind of person who lives on coleslaw or prefers to eat gluten-free. You may need to eat more intuitively and stop fretting about a few extra calories you ate over the weekend.
Do I still have days that I feel bloated? Of course, especially if I haven't worked out for a week or two. But I no longer feel like a prisoner on a roller coaster ride, with a self-image that changes every day. That alone is worth it to me to remove salad from my diet for good.
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