Eating meals that contain vegetables is a very healthy practice. It is even recommended that you try to include them in your meals every day because there are many health benefits associated with them.
Vegetables contain dietary fibre, which helps in digestion, contain several important vitamins and minerals and are a good source of water. Examples of vegetables are lettuce, broccoli, tomato, spinach, cucumber and cabbage.
Vegetables keep you hydrated, improve your skin and help with weight control. They are also associated with a decreased risk of developing chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
According to the World Health Organization, 1.7 million deaths per year are attributable to eating low amounts of fruits and vegetables. Also, eating inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables causes about 14% of gastrointestinal cancer deaths, 11% of ischemic heart disease deaths and 9% of stroke deaths worldwide.
It is recommended that you take at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables every day to stay healthy.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should take only vegetables. Because of the many benefits of eating them, some people take them in very large quantities or choose to stick with only vegetables as their only source of nutrition. This isn’t the best, this practice could come with some side-effects or can be outright dangerous.
Today, we would be focusing how it affects your poop.
Vegetables, especially the green ones can actually turn the colour of your poop green.
You may be curious: how does this happen?
Well, the answer lies in a special chemical pigment called chlorophyll.
What chlorophyll is and how does it affect poop colour?
If you studied agriculture at any level, you might have come across this word ‘chlorophyll’. Chlorophyll is a green pigment found in green plants that helps them trap energy from the sun for them to produce carbohydrates. It converts light energy into chemical energy. This process is referred to as photosynthesis. Photosynthesis also helps the environment by exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen.
When you eat green leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach, the chlorophyll present in them could change the colour of your poop from brown to green.
As a matter of fact, green foods like vegetables are the commonest reasons why going to the toilet for a ‘number two’ could produce a green coloured stool.
You are more likely to pass green stools if you take these vegetables in large quantities like in the popular ‘juicing’ or green detox regimens. (By the way, doctors and dietitians do not support juicing to lose weight but a balanced diet and adequate physical exercise)
What else causes green poop?
Green vegetables are not the only reason why people may pass green coloured stools. Diarrhea, food dyes, some medications and intestinal illnesses could cause green poop.
When a person has diarrhea, poop rushes through the intestines and there isn’t enough time for bacteria and enzymes to act on bile (a green pigment made in the liver that helps in digestion). Normally, when these enzymes and bacteria act on bile, they change its green colour to brown. This is why normal stool colour is brown. But in diarrhea, this decreased transit time of poop in the intestines could lead to green poop, sometimes accompanied by mucus.
What are other stool colours?
Apart from brown and green, poop could be red, black or yellow.
Red stools that are bloody are usually a sign of bleeding from the lower part of the digestive system (like the large intestine, rectum and anus), while black stools usually signify bleeding from high up the digestive system from sites like the esophagus, stomach and small intestine.
Yellow stools can be caused by a decreased production or release of bile caused by liver or gallbladder diseases. Pancreatic problems also lead to a decrease in an enzyme that breaks down fat, causing yellow greasy stools that have a foul smell.
While it’s very important to eat vegetables, moderation is key (as with most good things). There is a popular thought that you can’t have too much of fruits and vegetables, this isn’t true.
Eating too much vegetables or going on ‘vegetable juice diets’ could come with side effects like green stools.
A balanced diet is what is recommended by doctors and nutritionists. A balanced diet is one that contains foods from all the main food classes in correct proportions. The main food classes are carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils, vitamins and minerals.