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Foods that improve your digestive health


strawberry_smoothie

You should in theory be able to eat a food and digest it easily. Nowadays, though, changes in our food processing systems and the ways in which food is cooked, such as deep-fried in unhealthy fats, along with our sedentary lifestyles mean that our stomachs are suffering.

I think it’s fair to say that everyone suffers from digestive problems from time to time. Many of these problems can make you feel uncomfortable and can be embarrassing. Some don’t last long and go away in a few hours; some can be controlled by simple changes to your diet. Occasionally, they can be a sign that there may be a more serious health concern.

To keep your digestive system performing well, it’s not only important to eat healthy foods full of vitamins and minerals, but it’s also important to ensure your digestive system is able to take advantage of these foods through proper absorption.

If you suffer from any kind of digestion stress — diarrhoea, constipation, IBS, acid reflux or other disorders — you might want to try these tips to get yourself on the way to maintaining healthy digestion and good absorption levels.

  • Take probiotics. Probiotics are live micro-organisms that improve the balance of flora in the digestive system. For a healthy digestion, these friendly bacteria are essential. They help prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria and are often depleted if you’ve been taking antibiotics or if you’ve had gastro. Probiotics can be found in some yoghurts and in kefir (a yoghurt-type drink) or may be taken as supplements.
  • Use more coconut products. Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a proven antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal agent that is easily digested and absorbed. The antifungal aspect helps kill candida in the gut, which is a common problem for people with digestive stress. Plus, coconut helps absorb beneficial nutrients from our food.
  • Soak your nuts and grains. When you soak your nuts and grains, you are reducing toxic substances and inhibitors that occur naturally within the grain. For example, phytic acid (found in most nuts, seeds and grains) will combine with minerals such as calcium, zinc and magnesium and prevent them from being absorbed during digestion. Soaking neutralises this natural inhibitor.
  • Do an elimination diet. If you find you experience adverse effects after eating a particular food, it might be worthwhile trying an elimination diet. Remove the suspected food or food group from your diet for anywhere between two weeks and two months and see if symptoms resolve.
  • Try bone broth. Your digestive lining is supposed to be permeable to absorb nutrients. But for some people it can become too porous and let too much “leak” through without absorbing it properly. When this happens, your body can react, attacking the foods you eat. This can create IBS and other gut problems, and even some autoimmune disorders. Bone broth contains gelatin, which helps reinforce the lining of the gut and soothe digestive distress.
  • Drink less with meals. Drinking a lot of fluid (even water) while you eat can dilute the level of hydrochloric acid in your stomach. This acid is needed to help kill bacteria and digest your foods. It’s best to minimise the fluid you drink while you eat and for at least an hour after you finish your meal.
  • Drink warm water and lemon. Along with a delicious breakfast, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of starting the day with a cup of warm water with lemon. This alkaline drink will help jump-start your metabolism and get your digestion moving.
  • Chew your food. If you’re a mum, you probably tell your kids this all the time: chew your food! Chewing is the first step in food digestion. Try not to rush through your meal, but allow yourself plenty of time to chew, chew, chew before you swallow.

I’ve come up with three delicious digestive-health-promoting recipes that you can incorporate into your day to ease your stomach, ban the bloat and help you be regular.

Breakfast

Healthy breakfast smoothies are a delicious way to help the body cleanse naturally. A good tip when creating a smoothie is to try to include only natural ingredients to aid detoxification. I have used banana because of its levels of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, fibre and phytochemicals. These nutrients work towards healing the gut and raising energy levels.

Bananas contain manganese, which aids the body’s nerves, bones, thyroid gland and blood-sugar levels. They are a natural antacid and help to coat the stomach lining with excess mucus to neutralise and protect against stomach acids. Bananas contain prebiotic fibre, which supports probiotics (good bacteria) in the digestive system. Compounds known as protease inhibitors can help rid the body of the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers.

Banana & Berry Smoothie 

Serves: 1
Prep time: 5 mins

1 banana
¼ cup berries
½ cup spinach leaves
1 cup almond milk

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Lunch

Zucchini is high in both water and fibre, making it a great food for promoting good digestive Health and detoxifying the body. Enjoy this delicious salad, which is full of good fats, vitamin C and fibre.

Raspberry, Avocado & Zucchini Salad

Serves: 3
Prep time: 15 mins

1½ cups fresh raspberries, divided in two
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 small clove garlic, coarsely chopped
¼ tsp Celtic sea salt
â…› tsp freshly ground pepper
4 cups mixed salad greens
1 zucchini, diced
1 small ripe avocado, diced
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
¼ cup toasted chopped hazelnuts, or sliced almonds

Place half the raspberries, olive oil, vinegar, garlic and salt and pepper in a blender and whizz until combined.

Place greens, zucchini, avocado and onion in a bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss to coat. Top with remaining raspberries and sprinkle with nuts.

Dinner

The omega-3 and fennel in this dish will help you become more regular, nourish intestinal tract cells and increase production of digestive enzymes.

Grilled Salmon With Fennel Butter

Serves: 2
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins

½ cup butter, softened
½ tsp fennel seed, ground
1 tbsp shallots, minced
2 tbsp fennel, finely chopped
2 salmon steaks
2 tsp dried dill
2 tsp lemon juice
Pinch Celtic sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Preheat grill to high. In a small bowl, blend butter, ground fennel seeds, shallots and fennel, and season.

Rub salmon with dill, pour over lemon juice and sprinkle on a pinch of sea salt. Place on the prepared grill and cook 15 minutes, turning once, until easily flaked with a fork.

Serve with fennel butter.

 

Lee Holmes runs Supercharged Food, an altruistic website helping you to expand your range of healthy food choices and plan ahead to create and maintain a satisfying, wholesome and nourishing diet. W: superchargedfood.com, B: supercharged1.wordpress.com



 

Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes is a nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef, Lifestyle Food Channel’s Healthy Eating Expert, blogger and author of the best-selling books Supercharged Food: Eat Your Way to Health, Supercharged Food: Eat Yourself Beautiful, Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian, Heal your Gut, Eat Right for Your Shape and Supercharged Food for Kids.

Lee’s food philosophy is all about S.O.L.E. food: sustainable, organic, local and ethical. Her main goal is to alter the perception that cooking fresh, wholesome, nutrient-rich meals is difficult, complicated and time-consuming. From posting recipes, her passion to share her autoimmune disease story and help others has snowballed and the blog has recently taken home the overall prize at the Bupa Health Influencer Awards as well as the best blog in the Healthy Eating category. She also runs a four-week online Heal Your Gut program.