Digestion is a trendy topic today and not because it’s some fad, but because it affects our daily lives and our health in more ways than one. The body is an incredible machine, able to use what we put in it to (hopefully) provide us with fuel. But when we don’t eat a healthy diet or just indulge in too many sweets and junk foods, then we usually feel it right in our guts. We might also notice some health issues start to pop up that actually stem back to digestion as the root cause of the problem. Though it’s no easy feat, optimizing digestion happens when you improve your diet and choose more whole foods. But as great as this positive transition sounds (and is), it’s important to be mindful that as your health improves by choosing whole foods, for a short time your body might go through a few stages where it transitions along with you. Since dairy, meat, and eggs or other animal foods are so hard on the system, the body will go through some cleansing that everyone should be aware of.
Why Food Choices Matter for Digestive Health
It’s helpful to know foods to eat that are relatively simple to digest and that will also help regulate your system. Even if you’re not eating a 100 percent plant-based diet, adding the following foods to your menu can help reset your system and improve your overall digestion. They’re also packed with fiber but are easier to digest than some other plant-based foods like wheat, tofu, or beans.
Give these foods a try the next time your stomach isn’t feeling its best. They can be added to meals and all provide different nutrients your body will benefit from.
Greens provide chlorophyll to the body, which alkalizes and cleanses the system. They can be enjoyed in many more ways than salad as well; add some greens to your blender and whirl up a simple-to-digest dinner, or heat them with some veggie broth and stir in some spices of choosing as a comforting base for a soup. Greens like kale and spinach are some of the most nutritious, but relatively any other green, such as collards and arugula, will all provide a good dose of magnesium and fiber to keep things moving.
Pumpkin is such a fantastic food for digestion. It’s very easy to digest because it’s low in starch and sugar, but still high in fiber. Pumpkin is also a soft food so your body doesn’t have to go through much to break it down. It’s even a good source of Vitamin C and iron, which will sustain you nutritionally during a time you might not be feeling your best. And lastly, its Vitamin A and C content will help keep your immune system running well that can directly be affected when gut health isn’t up to par. Puree pumpkin into soup, stir it into oatmeal, blend it in a smoothie, or cream it with non-dairy milk to make mock mashed potatoes.
Chia seeds are well-known to be digestion enhancers, but here’s a tip: If you have problems digesting the whole seeds, grind them up first in a coffee grinder or even a blender so they’re more like ground flax seeds. They’ll still increase regularity and provide the same nutrition as whole chia seeds, but your body won’t have to go through quite as much work to break them down. This is a good tip if your system is sensitive to fiber and you still want to get in maximum nutrition. Sneak these tasteless seeds in anywhere for a good dose of omega 3 fats that lubricate the digestive tract, and heart-healthy soluble fibers to remove cholesterol.
Well-known as a superb source of fiber and omega 3’s, ground flax is a must for healthy digestion! Packed with nutrition, it also helps bind with toxins and other “bad guys” in your gut to cleanse the system so you feel refreshed and renewed. Plus, flax reduces cholesterol just like many grains but comes with no starch or sugars along with it. Just like chia seeds, you can sneak it in anywhere to get similar benefits.
5. Oat Bran
Oat bran is a phenomenal food for regulating digestion. It’s one of the most recommended for both high cholesterol and constipation for a reason. The fibers known as beta-glucan fibers that are found in oat bran bind with toxins in the gut and cholesterol in the blood to send them out of the body. Oat bran is also easier on the stomach than wheat bran for many since it contains more soluble fiber than insoluble fiber. Be sure to drink plenty of water when you add oat bran to your diet, and feel free to use it anywhere you’d use other grains. Even sneak some in your smoothie if you dare!
If you suffer IBS (and even if you don’t) or don’t tolerate grains, then make sweet potatoes your friend. They’re packed with potassium which flushes out the system but also soothes the body at the same time. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of magnesium, which regulates gut function and improves enzyme production in the body. Lastly, sweet potatoes are more soluble than insoluble fiber, so think of them like a gentle scoop for your system instead of a huge, swift brush! Eat them plain, sprinkle with cinnamon, puree them into a soup or mash, or even make a grain-free porridge by pureeing them with some non-dairy milk and ground chia seeds.
7. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds make fantastic digestion boosters because they are incredibly easy to digest (much more so than nuts) and provide essential fatty acids the body needs for digestion. And of course, we can’t forget their fiber content. Boosting just as much as chia and flax, hemp seeds are a good way to ensure you get enough whole food fiber into your diet. They’re also very versatile in terms of how you can use them. Try using them in some easy homemade raw treats, topping your next smoothie or oatmeal with them, sprinkling onto salads, soups, or even including them in entrees.
Well-known as a body cleanser, broccoli has more going for it than fiber when it comes to digestion benefits. Broccoli is a key source of Vitamin B6 which is a powerhouse nutrient for digestion and the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fat during digestion. Vitamin B6 is also extremely important for health nervous system function, which is vital to regularity. When you’re anxious and stressed, your gut will almost always suffer. Vitamin B6-rich foods help to calm you down which can reduce stress and encourage the parasympathetic system to kick in. Most people find their digestion is better when they’re not stressed and anxious, and this is one reason why, so focus on naturally calming foods such as broccoli, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and even bananas to get more easy-to-digest Vitamin B6 foods in your diet. Broccoli’s high fiber content is a real gut cleanser, but is less harsh than beans and some wheat-based grains. Start small and ease your way into more of this healthy veggie.
If you don’t tolerate beans well, try out lentils and see how you do. They’re a legume, which means they’re smaller than beans and built a little bit different botanically speaking. Legumes pack a large amount of fiber, iron, protein, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins. Lentils are the smallest legume out there and so thin, they’re actually much smaller than rolled oats in size. Go for red lentils which are sweeter and ones that some people find more tolerable than other types since they’re thinner. Lentils will help keep you regular but without the digestive roller coaster that can come with some beans and other legumes.
Last but not least, we can’t forget beets! These veggies are true detoxifiers in every single way. They help benefit the blood and cleanse the liver, but are also a sure-fire easy to digest regulator for your tummy too! A little of these will go a long way too, which means just 1/2 cup at dinner a few nights a week is all you need. Here’s a tip to make them tastier: If you buy them whole, cut off the beet greens (also naturally sweet), give them a good wash, and use those for smoothies. Keep the beet heads, give them a good scrub, and chop into bite-sized cubes. Pan roast for 45 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit either plain or with some simple black pepper or cinnamon, and enjoy with your dinner or mixed into an entree. You can also use raw beets in a smoothie if you’re really brave for a lovely pink blended beverage!
Other Tummy Foods to Choose
Of course, there are many other plant-based foods that will regulate your system, such as apples, oranges, prunes, figs, and bananas, so choose whatever ones your body tells you it likes. Veggie broth, ginger tea, and soups are also helpful; just be sure you avoid spicy foods that can act as a GI irritant. You might also like to experiment with fermented foods to see how they work for you. Options such as coconut kefir and yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and others will all help you get more good bacteria in your system, along with helpful prebiotic foods as well. Just be mindful of how cleansing they are in the beginning, and ease into them instead of approaching them with force.
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