Shouldn't eating a salad make me feel better?
June 9, 2008 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Why would eating a salad make me shaky and lightheaded?

I've noticed from time to time that salads can make me feel weird. I had one about 1-2 hours ago, and right now my hands are shaking, I feel a little lightheaded, and my thinking is fuzzy. I would attribute it to hunger, but I just ate. Sounds like low blood sugar, but I just ate a healthy salad. It had leafy greens, some grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, and oil & vinegar.

I usually eat very few vegetables. I don't know if that would make my body freak when it gets healthy greens. I've not noticed this reaction after eating other foods, only when I'm really hungry.
posted by Mavri to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Perhaps your body is typically used to meals with much higher calorie counts, so when you eat a meal like a salad, it simply hasn't gotten enough. Sounds like low blood sugar like you said. Do you usually eat much heavier?
posted by rooftop secrets at 12:39 PM on June 9, 2008

Sounds like low blood sugar, but I just ate a healthy salad. It had leafy greens, some grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, and oil & vinegar.

I'm failing to see how that would be a suitable or guaranteed fix for low blood sugar levels, though. It sounds like a sharp drop in usual base intake, to me. I notice the same thing when I am working extremely long hours (especially in extreme temperatures) and a chocolate bar/sugar fix always sorts it out. I'd never expect a salad to have the same effect.
posted by Brockles at 12:41 PM on June 9, 2008

How big was the salad? Is it possible that you didn't eat enough food, and your body is still hungry? (This happens to me sometimes even if my stomach doesn't feel empty, if I eat food that doesn't have enough calories to satisfy my body's needs).
posted by decathecting at 12:43 PM on June 9, 2008

No clue, but it happens to me too occasionally after a healthy meal, and I get my vegetables on a very regular basis (we're a salad/chicken/fish heavy household). I've had the same thoughts (low blood sugar?) but it definitely seems to happen as a result of the meal, not just because I haven't had any high-glucose items.

On preview: is what's happening that my body is expecting sugar along with other food? Meaning that even if my blood sugar is fine before, it's lowered by the salad/chicken?
posted by rustcellar at 12:44 PM on June 9, 2008

All those things you listed in the salad would have very little impact on your blood sugar. There are hardly any carbohydrates in those things, and the few that are present are low glycemic index. It doesn't mean that low blood sugar is definitely what's causing the shakiness, but you should try eating something that is higher glycemic index and seeing if that cures the problem.
posted by Nattie at 12:50 PM on June 9, 2008

Best answer: Often I'll eat a meal with simple carbs and protein but no complex carbs and get low blood sugar symptoms in the gap between the too. With your meal it doesn't even sound like you got carbs (lettuce can't be that good at it) and proteins can take up to 6 hours, usually more like 4 or 5, to kick in. If you were on a downward slope to begin with I can see how you'd bottom out before the proteins are digested into glucose.

The real question is why you're so sensitive to blood sugar changes though. Seriously, if you haven't already, get a doc to say it's ok before you assume so. It can be but just to be sure...
posted by jwells at 12:52 PM on June 9, 2008

Best answer: what nattie said.

i have this similar problem, and i know for me it's definitely a low blood sugar. my normal meals generally include a lot of starch/triglycerides (i'm getting better though) so when all i have is salad, my body isn't getting all it needs.

try adding a piece of bread or something similar to your lunch when you have salad. it might help the shakes.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:52 PM on June 9, 2008

Best answer: When I eat only a salad as a meal, I tend to need more of it in order to make me feel satisfied. Even if it has proteins, like yours did. I have veggies with almost every meal, but the main (or biggest) component of most of my meals is a protein and/or a carb, and veggies are a smaller serving. When I reverse it (more veggies than protein), my body definitely feels it. Based on my experience, I'd say that you are probably still hungry, and that maybe your body is simply more used to drawing from proteins or carbs.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 12:54 PM on June 9, 2008

Why not try eating a roll or a cliff bar or something with some carby goodness right now and see if you don't feel better? That should help you narrow it down.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:00 PM on June 9, 2008

Best answer: What happens if you eat half of a candy bar when you start to feel this way? I could post a rambling paragraph on glycemic index, insulin levels, and half-remembered dietary guidance, but really, eating some high-sugar candy should help determine whether it was a reaction to the vegetables (unlikely) or that your body is expecting a higher calorie meal (more likely.) If the latter, try adding a cup of soup or some bread, or eating smaller meals more regularly throughout the day.

FYI: IANAD & IANANutritionist, YMMV.
posted by theclaw at 1:04 PM on June 9, 2008

Best answer: This happens to me too if I don't eat enough carbohydrates in a meal, regardless of how much protein I get. N'thing the suggestion to eat some bread with your salad, or pile on the croutons, and see if that helps. For today, try having a roll or some other starch to help shake the shakes. Um, just like everybody else has said.
posted by Quietgal at 1:05 PM on June 9, 2008

Best answer: It's not that the salad is lowering your carbs, it's that other meals raise your carbs (which can be good). Your blood sugar naturally goes down when it's been a while since you ingested sugar of some type.

Complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates, sugar, fats, even protein is broken down into sugar/carbohydrates for your body to use. It needs a certain amount to keep functioning well, and what that amount is is individual and varies also according to your usual diet and metabolism.

So, if your body expect X carbohydrates, and you only give it X/10, your body may be a little weak.

Protein can be good for mitigating this effect since it takes longer to break down into sugars than most other nutrients, so you get a "slow release" effect; that's why hypoglycemic people are encouraged to eat lots of protein.

Add peanuts to your salad, or possibly some gluteny bread, or more cheese, and it could help a lot. A little bread/crackers could help with the initial hump.
posted by amtho at 1:38 PM on June 9, 2008

Re: the candy bar suggestion - candy bar = simple carbs; with simple carbs (sugar) you'll be more likely to "crash" after the initial sugar rush. What you want are complex carbs, which is bread / pasta / crackers.
posted by amtho at 1:45 PM on June 9, 2008

Are you sensitive to the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate?
posted by Carol Anne at 2:06 PM on June 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I had some pretzels and a piece of sugary candy, which made me feel better. I didn't realize I was so ignorant about nutrition.
posted by Mavri at 2:39 PM on June 9, 2008

If it only happens when you're really hungry, seems like you're still really hungry.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:56 PM on June 9, 2008

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