Superfoods That Help Digestion
The digestion process is an intricately choreographed ballet during which your body performs the many steps needed to break down the food you eat and unlock the vitamins, minerals, calories, fats, and proteins you need — and then efficiently clean sweep the rest. Most people don’t contemplate these inner workings unless they’re not going smoothly, but you can proactively take steps to avoid problems. One of the easiest digestive health tips is to fuel up with foods good for digestion.
Digestion is the process your body uses to break down food into nutrients. The body uses the nutrients from food for energy, growth, and cellular repair. But when your digestive process goes awry, whether from overeating or eating foods that disagree with you, you need to review the rules of good nutrition again.
The U.S. federal guidelines on diet suggest that all Americans age 2 and older eat a variety of healthy foods, balancing calories ingested with physical activity. Suggested foods include:
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Fruits, vegetables, unsalted nuts and seeds,
- and whole grains Lean meats, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, soy products, and eggs
But what if foods such as dairy cause digestion issues? If you can’t tolerate the lactose in dairy, try lactose-free products. Lactose is simply the sugar in dairy products that causes GI pain in some people. According to the Mayo Clinic, this condition, called lactose malabsorption, is generally harmless, but you may experience the following symptoms:
If you are lactose intolerant, consider nondairy alternatives such as soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and coconut milk. If a change to nondairy products does not relieve your GI distress, talk to your doctor. There is help.
Fiber is the indigestible part of plant food that we need to stay regular. While fiber itself is not digested by our GI enzymes, we must eat fiber-rich foods because they absorb water in the intestines, ease bowel movements, and promote the healthy gut bacteria we need for proper digestion. Are you meeting the recommended fiber requirements?
The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women get 25 grams of daily fiber and men get 38 grams. This can be done by decreasing your intake of foods high in fat and sugar and increasing your consumption of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.
Along with that recommendation, eating a diet low in saturated fat and high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds provides excellent sources of foods to help digestion. This type of plant-based diet aids in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and improving blood sugar control.
High-fiber foods include:
- Apple with skin
- Baked beans
- Black beans
- Bran flakes
- Green beans
- Green peas
- Lima beans
- Pear with skin
- Split peas
- Turnip greens
- Whole wheat spaghetti
And there are more delicious foods good for digestion. Put the following superfoods on your plate and discover how with a little ingenuity, staying “regular” can be delicious.
How to Speed Digestion With Sauerkraut
You may think of sauerkraut as just something to pile on a hot dog, but this popular condiment is actually a food that helps digestion. That’s because sauerkraut, buttermilk, sourdough, and other fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria that make them easier to digest. Yogurt also makes the list; the reason why people with lactose intolerance may be able to eat yogurt is that the process of fermentation essentially predigests the lactose. Other fermented fare you may want to try are kefir (made from fermented milk), kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage), and miso (a Japanese paste made of fermented soybeans).
High-Fiber, Low-Fat Beans Are Good for Digestion
Fiber — it’s the unseen essential product in foods good for digestion. Guidelines say women should get 25 grams of fiber every day. Beans are a perfect high-fiber, low-fat food, serving up about 19 grams of roughage per cup.
Good news for those worried about flatulence from high-fiber foods: Research published in Nutrition Journal showed that people had less gas than they thought they would when upping black-eyed peas consumption. Only half of participants reported any increase in gas at first and, by the end of the first week, that number had dropped to just 19 percent, making eating black-eyed peas a digestive tip you can live with.
In addition to most dried beans, peas, and lentils, other good foods for digestion that have a high fiber content are whole grains, raspberries, and artichokes, among many other fruits and vegetables.
Yummy Yogurt Provides Healthy Bacteria for the Gut
Friendly bacteria that live inside your digestive tract help digestion. Yogurt with live cultures and other foods that contain probiotics build up that positive population.
“We encourage probiotics,” says the gastroenterologist Peter L. Moses, MD, a professor in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington. If you’re not a yogurt fan, don’t fret: Dr. Moses says that some supplements contain better strains of probiotics. A small study of 19 seniors with chronic constipation found that daily probiotic supplements increased both the frequency and consistency of stool, according to research published in Nutrition Journal.
Take Fabulous Fish Oil to Digest Food Faster
Fish oil can benefit not only your heart, but your digestive tract as well. To start, add fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel in your diet, all good foods for digestion.
The amount of fish oil needed for a real benefit is large, and you may require supplements. What doctors and researchers know now is that people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), one of the most common reasons for visiting a gastroenterologist, may not be consuming enough of the omega-3 fatty acids from fish. An analysis of blood from 91 adults showed that those with IBS had the lowest levels of these healthy fats in their blood, according to research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology.
Gobble Some Ginger as a Proven Digestive Aid
A traditional Asian remedy for tummy aches and nausea and a favorite condiment used in Japanese cuisine, ginger is another good food for digestion and a popular natural digestive aid among pregnant women, whether in ginger teas, candies, or supplements. And there’s real research to back up ginger’s benefits: Ginger is a food that helps digestion by speeding up the process that moves food from the stomach into the upper small intestine, according to a study published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
Ease Indigestion With Stomach-Soothing Peppermint
Soothing, aromatic peppermint may help ease indigestion as well as some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint oil can be included in many recipes or even tea, but more often is taken as a coated supplement. Digestion tip: Taking peppermint oil for at least four weeks has been shown to significantly reduce IBS symptoms. It appears to work as an antispasmodic, smoothing out and relaxing the bowels.
Fluids Partner With Fiber to Help With Flow
Fluids play an essential role in partnership with fiber to get solids through your system. In fact, one of the easiest digestive tips to follow is to stay hydrated throughout the day. Water is a great choice to speed digestion, but almost any fluid will do. Be careful with caffeinated beverages and sodas if you have reflux — they can be triggers for heartburn, and caffeine acts as a diuretic, causing fluid loss.
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