10 Healthy Foods That Aid Digestion
Many people of all ages have problems with digestion. The symptoms can vary, but these people often experience gas, bloating or indigestion after eating regular meals. The good news is that there are foods that people can eat that can help aid their digestive system to do its job more efficiently and with less discomfort.
We've known for years that fiber was good for digestion. In fact, there are dozens of fiber supplements on the market for this reason. But the best sources of fiber come from whole grains. Americans chronically lack fiber in their diets. According to an article from Health magazine, people need 20-30 grams of fiber each day, but most only get about 12. Increasing the amount of fiber a person eats can cause gas and bloating if done too quickly so it's best to take it slow. And anyone who has celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten should avoid wheat and instead stick to other forms of fiber.
Water can fix a lot of problems in the human body, and slow digestion is one of those things. Water is essential for every function that the human body has, and when it comes to digestion, water helps keep the system lubricated and moving smoothly as well as working to soften stools, making it easier for them to be passed. Water is also essential in the absorption of nutrients that are found in the foods people eat, so drinking plenty of water each day not only aids digestion, but it can also help improve overall health.
Yogurt is a dairy product that contains billions of beneficial bacteria. There are two types of bacteria typically found in yogurt, Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium. People don't need to worry about these bacteria because these are the good bacteria known as probiotics. These bacteria help to digest the food that people eat, making it easier for their digestive system to do its job. These same bacteria can be found in lesser amounts in unpasteurized buttermilk and sour cream as well.
Ginger is a root that has been used in both culinary applications as well as medicinal applications for thousands and thousands of years. It is widely used for aiding digestion and treating stomach upsets. In fact, it's one of the few remedies for morning sickness that are completely safe for pregnant women to use and it is widely recommended by doctors for this reason. People should stick to 2 to 4 grams per day because more than that can cause heartburn, but ginger can be used in a variety of ways, including eaten raw, candied, added to many different recipes, steeped into tea, or boiled with sugar and blended with club soda to make all natural ginger ale.
This Korean specialty is great for digestion, although it can be a bit spicy. The reason is that it is usually made from cabbage, which contains a type of fiber that is indigestible so it helps keep everything moving, just like whole grains do. Sauerkraut works in the same way, so if the spiciness of the kimchi makes digestive problems worse, sauerkraut might be a better choice.
While it's true that the body has to work harder to break down proteins than it does vegetables, protein is an essential part of the human diet, and there are some forms of protein that the body handles easier than others. Lean meats such as chicken, some cuts of pork and venison are easier for the body to digest because they are significantly lower in saturated fat than beef. Another bonus is that lean meats don't carry the same increased risk of colon cancer that fattier red meats do. When it comes to red meat, once in a while is fine, but the leaner the meat is, the easier it will digest.
Parsley is a herb that has been used for thousands of years for aiding in digestion. Often used as plate garnish in restaurants, eating parsley after a meal not only aids in digestion, it also freshens breath, perfect for those times when dinner and drinks might end with a smooch. The best way to get the digestion benefits of parsley is to eat it fresh, such as the garnish on the plate. Supplements are not as effective and can contain other substances besides just parsley.
There are mountains of research that back up the number of health benefits that are found when people eat fish. Fish is a very lean source of protein and the oils that it does contain are the heart healthy kind. Like other lean forms of protein, it's easier for the body to digest fish and fish is not associated with the increased risk of colon cancer that red meat has. There is some concern about elevated levels of mercury in some large, ocean dwelling fish and the consumption of those fish should be limited to no more than two servings per week, especially in the case of pregnant women. However, farm raised or fresh water fish are fine and can safely be consumed in larger quantities. To learn more about mercury and fish, see Mercury Content In Fish: What You Need To Know.
This favorite dessert herb has been widely used to treat digestive upset. It helps to relax the muscles of the digestive tract and increase the flow of bile. These two things help to move food along in the digestive tract and relieve some digestive upsets, such as gas and bloating. However, if the problem is related to gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), then peppermint may make the problem worse by relaxing the esophageal sphincter and allowing acid to slosh back up into the esophagus.
Bananas are great for digestion because they contain lots of fiber as well as potassium, an essential electrolyte which can be lost in large amounts if someone is suffering from diarrhea. The fiber in bananas can help regulate digestion and sweep toxins out of the body. If the person with the problem is a child, be sure to cut the banana into small pieces as bananas do pose a choking risk for small children.
Not only do these 10 foods aid in digestion, but most have other health benefits as well. As with many common health concerns, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, dairy and lean protein can help avoid future problems and lead to improved overall health.