Can You Eat Too Many Veggies?

A couple of readers have written this week with variations on this question.

Gwen notes that many weight loss plans allow for unlimited amounts of vegetables and wonders whether this rule is really a good one or whether some restrictions make sense.  Jim says he’s not dieting but he’s gradually increased his vegetable intake to the point that he’s now eating up to five pounds of vegetables a day.  He wonders whether that may be excessive and whether he should be concerned that almost all of the calories in vegetables come from (natural) sugars.

Obviously, you can overdo just about anything…even water.  Drink several gallons of water in a short period of time and and you can put yourself into a hyponatremic coma.  (Don’t try this at home.)

But assuming you’re not actually trying to hurt yourself,  how easy would it be to get yourself in trouble by eating too many vegetables? All in all, not that easy.  In most vegetables, the ratio of water and fiber to calories and sugar is high enough to keep you from from over-doing it.  But as you appear to be craving some guidelines, here are a few:

How Many Vegetables Can You Eat?

1. Corn, white potatoes, taro, peas, dried beans, and other starchy vegetables  should be treated as starches (or, in the case of beans and legumes, protein/starches) and not “free”  vegetables.

2. Other fresh vegetables may be consumed “freely” but be sure that whatever butter, oil, salt, cream, or other things you’re putting on the vegetables fit into your budget for fats, calories, sodium, etc.

3. Fruit, which contains a substantial amount of sugar, should not be eaten in unlimited quantities.  As a general guideline, I suggest two to four servings of fruit per day (and no more than 1/2 cup of fruit juice).

4.  Be sure to eat a wide variety of vegetables.  Excessive  consumption of a single vegetable could conceivably lead to imbalances over time. For example, eating large quantities of spinach every day could potentially impair your ability to absorb calcium.

5.  Because vegetables are not very rich in protein, calories, or essential fatty acids, be sure that your diet includes enough other foods to cover those nutritional needs.

Reasons to Back Off the Veggies

1. You’re losing weight when you don’t mean to. Vegetables take up a lot of stomach space and offer a lot of nutrition but provide relatively few calories.  You may need to back off a bit on the veggies to make room for some more calorie-dense foods as well.

2. You have bloating, gas, or other digestive symptoms. Excessive consumption of fiber and/or certain types of vegetables such as cabbage or broccoli can cause social or physical discomfort.  Of course, this can happen even with modest consumption of certain vegetables. But if you’re having these sorts of symptoms and eating significantly more than 7 to 10 servings of veggies a day, backing off a bit may offer some relief.

3. Your skin is turning orange. Large quantities of carotenoids (abundant in red, orange, and green veggies) can cause temporary and harmless discoloration of the skin.

Does that help?

33 thoughts on “Can You Eat Too Many Veggies?

  1. Hi Monica, Thank you once again for another very thorough answer to a question that’s been bugging me for a long time. Now, when my friends and family tease me and stare in bewilderment at my huge bowl of veggies, I’ll feel reassured that that I’m not committing some nutritional atrocity.

    1. Hi…
      You go for it.
      .I too eat heaps of vegies and often cabbage , broccili , caulie and other raw veg in a salad with paul Newman dressing (not much )..I love it and dont care who see,s or what they think

    2. I have been a vegan since almost having a heart attack September 1st last year when I had four stents put in me. I now eat at least ten cups of veggies a day and two cups of fruit as well as flaxseed, chia seeds, peanuts, walnuts and nutritional yeast (all in measured portions. I use a little over a quarter cup of Paul Newman balsamic dressing for my oatmeal breakfast, salads at lunch and dinner. I also use about a quarter cup of Guacamole in each salad. Since September 1st 2017 I have lost almost seventy pounds! I also do cardio six times a week and weights 3 times a week. I am almost fifty one years old and was a certified processed foods addict and a couch potatoes all my life! If I can do this anyone at any age can. Thank you for all your insights into nutrition!

  2. Love this, thank you! I just ate a ton of veges and feel STUFFED! They were so delicious and I was so hungry, I just couldn’t stop LOL! I was feeling guilty that perhaps I ate too much (which I know I shouldn’t stuff myself…but there are worse things right?) So I am happy to see that I’m not going to gain 10 pounds because I stuffed myself with veges. LOL!

  3. I quit smoking five months ago, and I really enjoy food.I was allready over weight , so I decided to eat more vegtables and fruits. I make enought salad for four to five days with all kind of vegtables and some home made salad dressing, but I’m worried about how much I put in my bowl when I eat,it is so big that it takes me almost an hour and a half to eat it.I eat it very slow.

    1. If it is taking you an hour and a half to eat a salad… that must be a HUGE salad…. or your eating EXTREMELY slow… I’m not saying its bad/good… I’m just saying that I was extremely shocked/disbelieving when I read this comment.

  4. There is a product that gives you 10 servings of fruits & vegetables in every scoop. If taken once a day, how much are you actually consuming? Or are you truly flushing out the other 6 servings (in a recommended 4 servings a day)???
    Is there enough of a variety in this product called nanogreens or is it a scam?

    Seems like smart product but wondering if its the same as the vitamins that claim to give you the correct servings of vegetables & fruits.

  5. As I was over weight and had a huge bloated stomach for years I read that a veg diet was the one for me so for 3 months now I’ve been making my own soups of which include only fish or breast of chicken but I buy all different veggies including tomartoes squash carrots greens cabbage sweet potato oinions garlic chille ginger plus herbs and stock and all blended together with with either my chicken breast cut into very small pieces or my different fish again cut into very small pieces but I cook the fish or chicken first. I have no bloated stomach now and lost over a stone but really enjoy the taste of my soups of which I have a bowl 3 times a day and any left over soup I freeze .

      1. Still, it sounds like a very good plan. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to be healthy, and some bodies need meat. I think the soup idea is great. I’m having a love affair with Dr. Mark Hyman’s new book Eat Fat, Get Thin. He was on Dr. Oz and was talking about his 10-Day Detox (from sugar and flour). He has a one-page (it’s really a little more than one page) guide, and all non-starchy vegetables can be eaten in any quantity. 600 people, mostly women, were losing a pound a day. The plan calls for a smoothie in the morning, then for lunch and dinner you choose a green base of any greens, and add more veggies (non-starch) with apple-cider vinegar and 4 oz of protein – it could be sunflower seed butter, or salmon, tofu (although Dr. Mercola is pretty emphatic that any soy product consumed should be fermented ONLY-like miso, tempeh, soy sauce and natto); turkey, chicken, lean beef, two eggs). I was vegan for a long time and my body did not appreciate it. I don’t eat much meat, but I do eat a little. I like soups. On Dr. Hyman’s diet you can have vegetable soup as much as you can eat, too. It’s smart. I love fermented cabbage and find that when I eat that before a meal I eat very little for the rest of the meal (and day). Dr. Hyman says that the New England Journal of Medicine recently wrote about a study that found that people who lose a lot of weight fast tend to lose more and keep it off longer, and as I wrote above – 600 people lost a pound a day in 10 days. Incredible. They looked like they felt great and were VERY happy.

  6. Thanks for this article. I eat 5 cups of vegetables and 2 fruits a day. I have been eating conventional fruits and vegetables for 10 years. I am concerned about pesticides so have started eating organic. What kind of issues could pesticides cause? I’ve heard cancer and ADHD…

    1. There is no evidence linking exposure to pesticides from eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with cancer, ADHD or any other health condition.

  7. Thanks for the article, with plenty of useful tips! However, the issue I have been most concerned about regarding my large vegetable consumption is the amount of pesticides/herbicides I might be consuming. I prefer to eat my vegetables raw, as I don’t want to lose any nutrients in the cooking process. I do, however, rinse them under hot water when possible. Could we get help regarding this conundrum?

    I make between 1 and 3 veggie smoothies daily, filling my 1.2 liter blender with varying cheap low-carb veggies, of literally ANY kind that I believe can be consumed raw. The sole reason for blending it all up (definitely not the flavor) is the ease of consumption, as I don’t want to spend hours chewing every day. In addition to these smoothies I pack a lunch of mostly fruit, eggs, and nuts. I must add that I maintain a high protein diet in an attempt to build muscle mass, and also consume fats without any guilt.

  8. Okay,so if i eat say 3 cups of FREE VEGGIES at every meal to just fill me,because there is not much other than a piece of protein on the plate,is that okay.Will i still loose weight because i am on the banting diet,i am in ketosis already ,but want to make sure i dont overdo things on my FREE VEGGIES i may eat.I hardly ever eat the starchy veg,only now and again because i love lettuce ,mushrooms,green pepper,cucumber and few tamatoes with balsamic .Sometimes i add a small piece of feta,but not always.I eat 2 meals a day because at breakfast i have 2 eggs+ small piece of meat and 3 cups salad. Other evenings i have 4-5 cups salad with tuna in for dinner,thats all. So tell me if i can eat this amount of FREE VEG at every meal,because everything is very low in calories that i eat,the other veggies i actually skip because thet are starchy veg and high in calories.Let me know please thnks

  9. Important distinction to the very last point you made:
    Carotenosis does NOT affect the eyes, only skin. Yellow eyes are a sign of jaundice, a serious medical condition, which should always be checked on by a doctor.

  10. This time my comments are probably not so much questions, as they are just comments, although feedback is always welcome. In any case, in response to the above question, my impression is that the healthiest diet of all, consists of those fish which are high in omega 3’s, salad vegetables, and healthy (monounsaturated) oils. While I suppose that one can theoretically eat too many salad vegetables, better that than so many other kinds of foods.

  11. I am just wondering how true this statement I have ones heard from someone. I was told that you only allowed to have a maximum of 3 different types of fruits per meal. The theory is if you eat more than 3 (like you would do when having a fruit salad) it causes some problems with your digestion. How true is this? and if it is true does the same “law” then apply to eating vegetables?

  12. Hi. I was wondering if it’s possible to get too many nutrients like vitamins and minerals through eating a bunch of veggies. I’ve heard that it can be dangerous to get too many vitamins and minerals through vitamin pills so why not through veggies?

    1. The reason that nutrient overload is unlikely with vegetables is that the amounts of nutrients are much less concentrated than they are in supplements. Your stomach would almost certainly get too full before you could take in a toxic amount.

  13. Good page….thanks

    Quit Smoking 10 days ago and am eating Broccoli Cauliflower and Celery to help with cravings and possible weight gain
    Feel better knowing I can just eat the veggies without worrying

  14. Yikes! I stumbled upon your article and read this, “For example, eating large quantities of spinach every day could potentially impair your ability to absorb calcium.”
    You didn’t explain why this is… I have a bag of spinach (enough for a family of 4 to make a salad out of) every morning in my smoothie. Please explain how this could harm me. Now I’m nervous. Thanks!

      1. Aw man! I had no idea. Thanks so much for the link. I did think I was getting all sorts of calcium from my spinach. Bummer.

  15. Thanks for all the good information , and good for the gentleman who makes the delicious soups with protein and vegies.

    I have been wondering if beans are a complete protein and if we need always to make sure we have corn with the beans to get the complete protein. I used to eat fish, salmon etc, but now the water ways of the world are so poluted that I am worried about the mercury and fall out from Japan’s nuclear eruption and spill into the ocean.

    Regarding the woman who eats lots of vegies…congratulations, but, make sure that food is organic. Yes, chemicals are harmful according to wide spread professional research from the scientific community.

    I have also always wondered about the fruit I eat, e.g, is there morenutrition in ripe fruit compared to not ripe enough, like peaches that are still hard and not sweet, green bananas, etc.

    Thank you thank you thank you

  16. Another concern: when taking vitamins, the excess from some of the vitamins are flushed from your system….What about the vitamins in vegies and fruits. Say if I eat 4 peaches…or so a day am I wasting money and not getting more healthy? The same with vegetables: say eating a sweet potato, and a carrot and a mango, etc, and/or spinach cup and chard a cup and green peppers, etc…are extra vitamins getting flushed and therefore wasted, money and effort?
    I am not worried about excess calories. I exercise , walk 2 miles outside everyday and am active. I don’t seem to burn the calories as much on a treadmill for some reason, although I much prefer the nice walk in nature. Have been my same weight since high school and now in my late sixties…but still feel like 40!:-)

    1. There certainly does come a point where getting more of a given nutrient doesn’t offer any additional benefit. But I think it’s too simplistic to say that you are wasting your money by eating vegetables in excess of nutritional requirements. You’re still getting the fiber, the water, and perhaps most importantly, eating those fruits and vegetables may be keeping you from eating other foods that would drag the quality of your diet down.

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