16 Best Foods for Digestive Health

Good digestion is crucial for overall health, as it affects many bodily functions. Yet, issues like bloating or constipation can disrupt this balance.

If you frequently experience digestive problems, it might be worth reviewing your diet. Some foods can hinder digestion, while others can help food move through your system more smoothly.

Stocking up on digestion-friendly foods can make a difference. We’ll explore which foods to keep in your fridge for better digestion and how to identify what might be causing your digestive issues.

Understanding How Your Digestive System Works

Our digestive system is like a complex machine, starting its work the moment we take a bite. It breaks down food into smaller pieces so our bodies can absorb the nutrients.

When we eat, enzymes in our saliva begin the process in our mouth. As food moves through the esophagus into the stomach, muscles contract, mixing food with more enzymes. Typically, it takes about four to five hours for food to move through the first half of the digestive system.

In the small intestine, gut microbes help break down fats, carbs, and proteins while also supporting our immune system and absorbing essential vitamins and minerals. Bacteria in the large intestine finish breaking down food and help maintain fluid balance.

The digestive system is influenced by hormones, nerves, and other organs like the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live cultures and yeasts often found in yoghurts or yoghurt drinks labeled as ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ gut bacteria. They’re believed to enhance the number and variety of beneficial bacteria in the colon, potentially improving digestive and overall health.

Fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and kefir are naturally rich in probiotics and are popular choices for promoting gut health.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that fuel the growth or activity of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. They essentially provide the nourishment probiotics need to flourish.

Examples include artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, bananas, legumes, honey, oats, and lentils. Prebiotics can also be made artificially and used as supplements to support gut health.

Best Food for Your Digestive System

1. Yoghurt

Opt for live yoghurt, which is rich in friendly bacteria known as probiotics. Choose sugar-free, full-fat varieties and add your favorite fruits for a delicious breakfast.

Yoghurt drinks are also packed with beneficial bacteria, but watch out for high sugar content.

2. Kefir

This probiotic yoghurt drink is made by fermenting milk and is full of good bacteria, which can help improve gut health. Originating from the mountainous regions between Asia and

Europe, as well as Russia and Central Asia, kefir can be added to smoothies, soups, or used as a base for salad dressing with lemon juice and seasoning.

3. Miso

Miso is a paste made from fermented soybeans, along with barley or rice. It’s rich in beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Used in dips, dressings, and soups, miso can also be a marinade for salmon or tofu.

It’s a staple in Japanese cuisine and a dairy-free option. While research is uncertain about how effectively the bacteria reach the gut, populations where miso is commonly consumed tend to have better gut health and fewer bowel issues.

4. Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is finely chopped fermented cabbage, known for its probiotics, fiber, and vitamins. While it’s popular in German cuisine, variations exist in Eastern and Central Europe.

Opt for products not pickled in vinegar, as they lack the same benefits. Enjoy sauerkraut with sausages or try making it at home for a cheap and easy option.

5. Kimchi

This traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables offers probiotic bacteria, along with vitamins and fiber. Enjoy it as a zesty side dish with meat, salad, or eggs. Kimchi is so beloved in Korea that it’s equivalent to saying “cheese” when posing for photos.

6. Sourdough

Sourdough bread is currently in vogue for good reason. Made through fermentation, it’s easier to digest than regular bread and releases energy slowly. Plus, it makes delicious toast.

7. Almonds

Almonds are packed with probiotic properties, benefiting your gut bacteria. They’re high in fiber, healthy fats, and polyphenols. Keep a handful of almonds handy for a satisfying snack when hunger strikes.

8. Olive oil

Gut bacteria thrive on fatty acids and polyphenols, both of which are abundant in olive oil. Research indicates it can reduce gut inflammation and even ease indigestion.

Use it in salad dressings or drizzle it over cooked veggies. Additionally, it may benefit your pancreas by reducing its need to produce digestive enzymes.

9. Kombucha

While water is essential for gut health, other beverages can also contribute positively. Kombucha, a fermented tea originating from Manchuria, is rich in probiotic bacteria.

With its tangy flavor, it’s refreshing on its own or mixed with fruits and spices. Plus, it’s a versatile base for cocktails.

10. Peas

To support gut bacteria, fiber-rich foods like peas are key. They’re packed with both soluble and insoluble fiber, aiding in maintaining gut balance. Add peas to stir-fries, soups, or salads for a nutritious boost.

11. Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts offer more than just holiday fare—they’re packed with fiber that promotes good bacteria in the gut. Plus, they contain sulfur compounds that combat unhealthy bacteria like H. pylori. Try stir-frying them with garlic and bacon for a tasty side dish.

12. Bananas

Bananas are not only convenient snacks but also rich in fiber that supports beneficial bacteria in the gut. They’re also packed with healthy minerals.

13. Roquefort cheese

This pungent French cheese can give your gut bacteria a boost, but enjoy it in moderation. Add it to salads or spread it on your sourdough. While not all bacteria may survive digestion, other properties in the cheese may help preserve some beneficial bacteria during the digestive process.

14. Garlic

Garlic isn’t just for flavor—it also packs antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help regulate “bad” gut bacteria and balance yeast levels. Incorporate it into savory dishes to reap its benefits.

The compounds in garlic act as fuel for beneficial bacteria, enhancing gut function and potentially aiding in gut healing.

15. Ginger

Fresh ginger is known to stimulate stomach acid production and promote digestion, keeping food moving smoothly through the gut.

Add grated ginger to soups, stews, smoothies, or stir-fries for a flavorful kick. You can also make refreshing ginger tea by pouring boiling water over grated ginger.

16. Oats

Boosting your gut health can start with a breakfast staple—oats. They’re among the top prebiotic foods for quickly enhancing gut health.

Oats offer a balanced mix of complex carbohydrates, plant-based protein, and fiber, making them ideal for promoting gut health.

Just like with probiotic yogurt, it’s best to avoid oatmeal with added sugars. Opt for plain instant oatmeal or use old-fashioned or steel-cut oats to make your own oatmeal. Add fresh or dried fruit for natural sweetness.

17. Soybeans

Beans are known for their nutritional value, and soybeans are no exception. They’re a plant-based source of protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Because of this nutrient-rich profile, including soybeans in your diet can be one of the most effective ways to boost gut health with prebiotics.

Other Factors Affecting Your Gut Health

It’s not just about what you eat; it’s also important to consider what to avoid for a healthy gut. Ultra-processed foods, artificial ingredients, added sugars, preservatives, and additives can disrupt the balance of your gut microbiome.

The Bottom Line

Improving your gut health and overall well-being involves focusing on a diet abundant in probiotic and prebiotic foods every day. Probiotic foods help replenish beneficial gut bacteria, while prebiotic foods nourish and support their growth.

Consistently incorporating these probiotic and prebiotic foods into your daily routine will have the most significant long-term impact on your gut health.

FOODS FOR DIGESTIVE HEALTH

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