Food is good for you and many doctors advise that you eat regularly. Unfortunately, eating can sometimes cause distress and disruptions to people with more sensitive digestive systems. Perhaps you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, or are simply the type who is prone to bloating or other digestive maladies. Fortunately, some foods are easier to digest than others, and there are also foods that can promote a healthy digestive system overall. When trying to go easy on your gut or encourage a healthy digestive system, the following foods should be given due consideration.
Dietary fiber is not digestible by the body. It travels straight through and carries other waste out with it, hence why fiber is known to help bowel movements. This same property also makes fiber easy to digest, as long as it is accompanied by enough water. Without proper water intake, fiber can bog you down and sometimes cause constipation, and becomes harder to digest in general. Consequently, low-fiber foods like dry cereals, peaches, or cucumbers can be good if you aren’t able to have a drink with your meal.
Vegetables are rich in fiber and vitamins, but eating them raw can be harder on the digestive system. This has to do with something called bioavailability: the amount of a nutrient in a food that your body can actually digest. In their raw form, vegetables cannot be digested in the most effective fashion, which can place unneeded stress on your digestive system. Heating vegetables, or steaming them in particular, will help free up these nutrients to make them more available to your body. The steaming will also soften the veggies and make them easier to eat. For the record, boiling will also make the vegetables softer, but can cause vitamins and minerals to leech out into the water.
Generally speaking, the less solid something is, the easier it is on your digestive system. That is why soft foods like applesauce are encouraged when you have an upset stomach or are recovering from food poisoning. Fruit or vegetables smoothies and purees are easier to digest than the unmodified food itself and still retaining most of the nutrients. Juicing accomplishes the same goal, but also removes much of the fiber content. Interestingly, although milk can be less-than-friendly to sensitive digestions, yogurt is an easy to digest food, although it is technically a more “solid” dairy product.
Fats, particularly saturated fats, are dense and require more effort from the body to break down and digest. This is why “heavy” meals are often those with a high fat content. Certain digestive disorders also react poorly to high-fat or high-carb meals since they can’t handle the extra load very well. If you have gastric reflux, the extra stomach acid needed to digest the fat can also make your symptoms worse. Opting for low fat foods is a good way to promote digestive health.
Specific Foods for a Healthy Digestive System
The following is far from an exhaustive list, but these are some of the more common foods you can eat when trying to make your meals easy to digest.
Bananas are soft, have a relatively mild taste, and are a decent source of fiber, which makes them simple to break down and process (or, in the case of fiber, not process). The extra boost of potassium doesn’t hurt either. A word to diabetics: bananas have a surprisingly high glycemic load compared to other fruits, so they may not be advisable depending on your blood sugar levels.
Among fish, salmon is one of the easiest on the digestive system. They have minimal fat and cholesterol, plus a good collection of omega-3’s and protein. To get the most ideal results, bake the salmon to make it even gentler on your system.
Strictly speaking, any lean meat will be easy to digest, but chicken breast has one of the higher protein levels compared to, say, lean turkey or lean beef. When preparing the meat, frying is discouraged since the oil can add unnecessary burdens to digestion. Boiling, baking, or grilling should be preferred.
Eggs are soft and simple to digest, but are also good sources of proteins and minerals. The preferred method for digestion-friendly preparation is to eat them soft or hardboiled, or to take them scrambled. Like with meat, the oil from frying can add extra stress to your system.
Peanut butter is soft, a good source of protein, and is delicious, three points that make it good for anyone with a sensitive constitution. Depending on your individual sensitivities, it may require some experimentation to find the exact type of peanut butter (chunky, creamy, smooth) that works, but one definitely exists!
Oatmeal is high in fiber, soft, and can help lower your cholesterol levels, making it a good candidate for any digestion-friendly breakfast. When making your oatmeal, it’s ok to mix in your own flavoring preferences so long as nothing you add would be hard to digest. A bit of maple syrup, a dollop of peanut butter, some nuts, some fruit; use whatever works for you and enjoy!