You may love a particular food, but that doesn't mean it will love you back. Still, you don't necessarily have to give up your favorite foods. Instead, you can incorporate certain foods into your diet that will aid digestion. Dr. Sue DeCotiis, MD, an internist and weight-loss management specialist with Manhattan Medical Weight Loss Physician in New York, and Ilana Katz, a certified specialized sports dietitian with Optimal Nutrition for Life in Atlanta, offer some of the best foods you can eat to aid digestion.
Hydrate Your System
Water is essential to keeping your body healthy, but it also aids digestion. "No matter how well-balanced the diet, digestion will slow if cells do not have enough H20 to perform their functions," DeCotiis says. Katz suggests starting the day with a cup of hot water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice. "It begins to wake up the metabolism, and the antioxidant properties of the vitamin C as well as the acidic nature help cleanse the walls of the bowels and remove excess acid," she says.
Spice It Up
Increasing salivation starts the digestion process, so get those salivary glands going with a healthy dose of spices. "Coriander, cumin, mustard, cinnamon, paprika, cayenne and black pepper really stimulate those salivary glands," DeCotiis says. With so many spices to choose from, everyone should be able to find one or more that will work.
Get a Head Start on Digestion
Eating fermented foods gets the jump on digestion because the bacteria in them have broken down the fibrous material already, Katz says. Examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, pickled food, aged cheese, tea, chocolate and sourdough bread. Who knew chocolate was a great aid in digestion?
Go With Yogurt
Another key food in aiding digestion is yogurt. "Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, contains a lot of protein per serving and has many colonies of good bacteria called probiotics," DeCotiis says. These probiotics keep the intestinal flora healthy and the digestive system optimal, Katz adds. Just about any yogurt will work, but avoid those that are high in sugar.
An Apple a Day
Thanks to a skin high in soluble, or digestible, fiber, apples really help digestion. "Soluble fiber absorbs water from the gut and turns it into a gelatinous substance that slows movement of food through the gut, ensuring proper time for nutrients to pass through the intestinal wall," DeCotiis says. Other examples of soluble fiber include beans, lentils, peas, seeds, barley, blueberries, cucumbers, celery and carrots.
Eat Your Vegetables
Vegetables are a great source of insoluble, or indigestible, fiber, which bodes well for the digestive system. "Insoluble fiber such as wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains adds bulk to the gut contents so things keep 'moving,' which is important to avoid irritable bowels and constipation," DeCotiis says. While you don't have to eat Brussels sprouts, you should eat vegetables you like. Your body will thank you for it.
Nuts such as walnuts, almonds and pistachios are also great sources of fiber. "However, pistachios also can help increase the production of good, healthy bacteria, known as probiotics, made by the gut," DeCotiis says. As previously stated, probiotics put digestion on the fast track, leading to a more efficient and effective digestive system.
Start With Breakfast
Breakfast is frequently touted as the most important meal of the day, and it's also a great place to kick-start your digestive system. "Oat bran is an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fiber, and, of course, is found in cereals and crackers," DeCotiis says. Because you can easily prepare oat bran products, you can quickly and easily add them to a meal.