Everyone knows vegetables are good for your health. They’re packed full of valuable micronutrients, they’re satiating and many promote positive hormones. So what’s not to like? Yet, as with anything, eating an excessive amount can be detrimental to your health. Read on to discover what can happen if you overdo it, and eat too many vegetables.
Too many calories?
Technically, it’s possible to gain weight from overeating vegetables But there are hundreds of different types, all with their own varying calorie and macronutrient content. So it’s far easier to over indulge on starchy, higher-calorie veg like potatoes than greens like baby spinach, for example. Potatoes have around 90 calories per 100 grams, while the same amount of spinach only has 20 calories. Therefore, the easiest answer to whether you can eat too many vegetables is yes, depending on the vegetable.
But let’s do a hypothetical experiment: For the average adult female to be in a calorie surplus, they will need to consume over 2,000 calories — again, this is an average, and this number will differ from person to person. Now, let’s pretend that they attempt to consume this amount of calories by eating nothing but spinach and broccoli. To do this successfully, they would need to munch down approximately 3.4kg of broccoli and 4kg of baby spinach, which is probably not even physically possible, and certainly not something I’d recommend trying at home.
Too few calories?
However, not everybody’s goal is to lose weight. For some people, a healthier objective might be to gain weight, whether by increasing their lean muscle mass or even fat stores.
One of the reasons eating more vegetables is often encouraged to help with fat loss is because, despite being extremely low in calories, vegetables are extremely satiating, helping you feel fuller for longer. This means it would be challenging to get into a calorie surplus and gain weight. In this circumstance, it would be a good idea to keep your veg consumption to a moderate amount, as eating too many would actually hinder your goals.
Too much Fibre
Vegetables are extremely rich in fibre. Fibre is a diverse type of carbohydrate that we cannot digest because we lack the relevant enzymes, which means that it maintains its stature when passing through our system. A moderate amount of fibre — an average of about 25 grams per day — keeps your digestive system healthy, and promotes regular bowel movements. In short, we need fibre to stay healthy, even though only about 10% of Brits are eating enough each day.
We also need water for fibre to fulfill its duties in digestion. There are two types of fibre: soluble fibre, which absorbs water, and insoluble fibre, which does not. On absorbing water, the former forms a gel-like substance which slows down the process of food moving through your stomach — this is one of the reasons vegetables keep you feeling full. It can also prevent spikes in blood sugar by controlling the absorption of carbohydrates into your system.
Meanwhile, insoluble fibre uses water from the intestine to bulk up and add moisture to your waste, promoting a smooth transition through your digestive system. However, if a person were to go from a low-fiber to high-fiber diet too quickly, it could have some negative side effects including increased gas, stomach pains and abdominal bloating. Having said that, there’s a simple solution that will counteract the effects of eating too much fibre: drink more water.
So how many vegetables should I eat each day?
Although it is technically possible to eat too many vegetables, it is not something you really need to worry about. “Too many” implies a negative effect, regardless of how helpful a moderate amount of that thing is. Too much water? You could drown. Too much exercise? You could get injured. An excessive amount of anything will have a negative effect. The solution is simply to avoid doing it to excess. You can certainly keep eating plenty of vegetables. Just make sure you don’t accidentally eat 4kg of broccoli in one day!