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One of my favorite sayings is “you are what you eat.” More importantly and accurately, “you are what you absorb.” Digestion is the true gatekeeper of health, so ensuring it’s functioning at its highest potential is of the utmost importance! In order to keep your digestion healthy, you have to feed it the right foods. Let’s take a look at some healthy gut foods.
This is one of the only fermented foods that pop up in the standard American diet. It’s usually in a deli sandwich or on top of a hot dog, but it’s there! However, you have to be selective about the type of sauerkraut you’re eating as some brands are loaded with sugar. Make sure to read the ingredients in the sauerkraut before purchasing because having a quality source of healthy bacteria can help restore gut health. Many of my clients have low bacterial diversity, which usually leads to digestive discomfort. I always focus on ways to increase probiotic-rich foods, and sauerkraut is one of them! Here are four ways to integrate kraut into your diet:
Finding a high-quality source of probiotic-rich food is important, but let’s say sauerkraut isn’t really your thing. Coconut water kefir, or coconut water probiotic, is fermented coconut water that is rich in healthy bacteria. The sugar from the coconut water feeds the bacteria and allows it to ferment and produce lactic acid, creating an environment where bacteria can reproduce and thrive. Certain enzymes are also created in this process. You can purchase this fermented brew in a store or you can make it at home using dehydrated water kefir grains. All you need to do is provide a sugary environment for the grains and they will thrive and produce different strains of gut-friendly bacteria. Check the instructions on the package for the best way to make your own home fermentation.
Consuming a diet rich in probiotics is step one. Step two is ensuring probiotics have the food they need to thrive. Sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes and often referred to as the “earth apple”, contain inulin, a fiber that healthy bacteria love and use as fuel. Healthy bacteria help break down macronutrients and produce nutrients (butyrate, acetate, and propionate) for colon cells, which lead to healthier digestion. Sunchokes can be eaten raw or cooked.
Not only is this easy to make at home, but it’s also a great source of protein, specifically collagen. While collagen is broken down in the body into amino acids and used where needed, it can soothe inflammation in the gut. The amino acids, proline, and glycine, in addition to the gelatinous protein from the meat and connective tissue, can help heal and strengthen the lining of the gut. One of the best ways to incorporate bone broth into your diet is by making chicken soup. Get a whole chicken, add in veggies, cover with water and simmer for 3 to 4 hours. Turn off the heat, let it cool and remove any bones or fatty pieces, leaving just the meat, veggies, and broth.
Loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants, dark leafies are a critical part of a healthy diet. With high levels of fiber, they help sweep and clear foods out of the digestive tract. Fiber is not digestible, so its sole purpose is to provide bulk to the stool and to help foods move on out! Fiber can also bind to certain fat molecules, preventing them from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Glutamine, specifically found in spinach, is an amino acid that fuels the enterocytes in the small intestines, allowing them to grow and repair. It’s very important work!
These are just a few examples of foods that support healthier digestion. Having a balanced diet that’s low in processed foods, sugar and trans fat can help keep digestion happy. And don’t forget, in order for things to move through seamlessly, water is essential. Drink 8 to 9 cups of water daily and enjoy a happier and healthier digestive system!
Sarah Greenfield studied nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, got her RD through UCLA and worked as a dietitian with a focus on ICU, trauma, digestive disease and wound care.
She created a nationwide school nutrition program and a nutrition-focused marathon training program for NutriBullet. Having completed several marathons, she got an advanced certification in sports nutrition to further her knowledge on coaching athletes to better health.
She started her own company, Fearless Fig, as a way to connect with people on a deeper level. She works with clients one-on-one, integrating advanced testing to restore digestive health, fuel endurance athletes, and make healthy eating achievable. She has been featured on Men's Health, Self, NBC with Lester Holt, KTLA with Lori Corbin and Dr. Hyman's Blog for her recipes and meal prep tips.