It’s one of the best things you can put in your body. But for some people, it exits the body in a less-than-pleasing way.
Like how? Well, you may remember an unfortunate news item from 2013’s Fashion Week in New York, when several models had to be “treated . . . for diarrhea from eating too much kale,” according to the New York Times.
There’s a simple reason for this superfood’s supergross side effect: carbohydrates.
Kale is loaded with insoluble fiber and a carb called raffinose, neither of which can be broken down during digestion, explains Linda Ann Lee, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center.
Instead, they both pass straight through your GI tract to your colon, where bacteria begin converting them to acids, gases, and alcohols.
The end result of this fermentation process: You’re perched on the porcelain throne.
Another reason might be the volume of kale you’re eating, especially if you’re a kale newbie. “Suddenly eating huge amounts of any high fiber food may cause digestive disturbances,” says Colleen Gerg, R.D., a dietitian based in Philadelphia.
It’s easy to get carried away with kale consumption, especially if you’re juicing it. “Because juicing greens requires very large amounts of the vegetable to create a glass of juice, you’re getting very high concentrations of nutrients which your body may not be used to in such large amounts,” she says.
Gerg suggests mixing up your ingredients by “eating the rainbow.” Balance out the kale with some reds (red bell peppers, tomatoes, raspberries); blues and purples (blueberries, red/purple cabbage); and orange and yellows (summer squash, butternut squash, cantaloupe).
Gerg also recommends switching over to Tuscan kale, which has blue-green leaves and is less fibrous than red and curly Russian kale.
“It has a slightly sweeter, more earthy flavor,” she says. “Due to it’s texture, it tends to be a bit more malleable and preferred when eating kale raw, as in salads.”
You may also need to cut back to about half an ounce a few times a week.
On your kale-free days, Gerg suggests swapping in other good-for-you greens, such as Swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, or dark green lettuces like arugula, romaine lettuce, mache, and spring mix. They contain the same prized vitamins and minerals as kale, but less fiber.