The catch-all mantra “Eat better, not less!” is often paired with images of voluptuous and vegetable-filled plates — great heaps of greens, leaves, and cruciferous clusters of fiber-rich foods practically spill over the sides of their ceramic platters. But is loading up solely on vegetables really such a good idea?
No, it is not. In fact, it’s a really bad idea.
Eating too many vegetables could be just as unhealthy as eating not enough vegetables, just in a different way. All those health bloggers with plates composed solely of veggies and a drizzle of tahini are actually fostering some really unhealthy habits.
We all know what happens when you eat too much fat, too much sugar, or too much sodium. The effects, ranging from diabetes to heart disease, are practically shoved down our throats — much more so than any of those foods are actually shoved down our throats in the level of excess required to cause those drawbacks. But here’s why it’s possible to eat too many vegetables.
That’s, like, so much fiber
You’re supposed to have around 25 grams per day, according to the National Institutes of Health’s guidelines. A cup of vegetables (depending, of course, on the vegetable) contains 8 grams on average. Four cups of vegetables already puts you over the bar. To give you some reference, the average small bowl holds about three to four cups.
A large plateful is absolutely already more than your daily value.
That being said, it’s okay to eat more than your recommended daily value of fiber. The NIH guideline represents an ideal intake, not a maximum, and many people eat more than 25 grams of fiber a day without experiencing any consequences. The trouble happens when you far exceed the amount your stomach can handle — an uncomfortable experience that can result in digestive distress, gas, bloating, and severe constipation.
It can also cause nutrient deficiencies. When your stomach is so preoccupied trying to process all those plants, it doesn’t have any capacity to absorb the other nutrients you’re eating. Hence: deficiency. Too many vegetables could actually make your other food less healthy.
Your skin can turn orange
Like you hit the tanning bed and it went so wrong.
Many vegetables contain carotenoids — a compound found in orange plants that can be immensely helpful for the health of your eyesight. However, in excess the compound gets circulated through your blood and can end up showing on your skin. The discoloration is only temporary, and it’s not actually harmful — it’s just awkward.
There is a threshold beyond which vegetables are no longer good for you
Your body can only process so much of the same nutrient at one time. Just like eating too many multivitamins doesn’t infinitely fill you with nutrients, neither does eating too many vegetables.
Where’s the sweet spot? According to results from a recent study, three to four servings of vegetables was deemed ideal. Any more than that, and the longevity benefits dissipated.
You’ll trick your brain into thinking you’re full when you need to eat more
Since your stomach will be filled to the brim with stems and leaves, you won’t have much room for the other types of foods you need to stay healthy. Without even realizing it, you could end up undereating some key nutrients such as protein, fats, and carbohydrates (all of which are kind of a big deal).
We could all stand to think about the bias we have in favor vegetables over all other food. Why is it that eating too many vegetables — a dietary habit with just as many health drawbacks as too much of any other food — is never shamed or looked down upon, but eating too much meat, dairy, or carbohydrates is?
Too much of anything is probably not a good idea. If you’re curious about other healthy foods’ effects when consumed in excess, here’s what happens to your body if you eat too much protein.