Periodically there are outbreaks of illness caused by eating contaminated leafy greens. The contaminants are usually bacteria such as E coli and Salmonella. The illness is typically diarrhea, sometimes with belly cramps, nausea, and vomiting. And rare deaths.
I spent 30 minutes surfing the ‘Net to find out why cabbage soup can help fight constipation and even cause diarrhea. The answer is raffinose.
Raffinose is sometimes called a fiber but more often is characterized as a trisaccharide, oligosaccharide, or complex carbohydrate. It’s all four.
A typical bowl of cabbage soup has three grams of fiber. If you eat two bowls, that’s six grams, still not all that much, but can predictably cause loose stools or diarrhea in many folks because of a particular type of fiber: raffinose.
The thing about raffinose is that it passes through the small intestine undigested because we lack the enzyme alpha-galactosidase. When raffinose hits the colon, bacteria start digesting it (i.e., fermenting it), potentially leading to gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea. If your “dose” of raffinose is small enough, you won’t have any symptoms. To use cabbage soup as a constipation preventative or remedy, you have to experiment to see what dose works for you.
Raffinose is also found in beans and cruciferous vegetables like brussels sprouts and cauliflower
The largest benefits were seen in people who ate seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day compared with those who ate less than one serving, with the higher level of consumption associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality (hazard ratio 0.67; 95% CI 0.58-0.78), lead researcher Oyinlola Oyebode of University College London, and colleagues, reported online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Prepping for bacon brussels sprouts
The population under study was English. In addition to lower risk of death, the heavy fruit and vegetable consumers had lower rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Click for the actual research report.
If seven servings a day seems like a lot, note that a typical serving is only half a cup. You’ll get those with the Paleobetic Diet.