Ill digestion is something no one wants to deal with, yet something we’ve all experienced at some point or another. Digestion can wreak havoc on your mood, your body, and can ruin your social life and sense of well-being. I suffered dramatic digestive problems for years when I ate a diet high in animal products, sugar, and refined foods. Even after I ate healthy foods and gave up processed foods, I still had severe issues that never seemed to go away no matter what I tried. Switching to a plant-based diet was like turning a light switch on inside my body. Within literally days, every negative health issue just sort of dissipated on its own. I felt like a new person and couldn’t believe the difference one simple change had made for my digestive health.
Improving your gut health is important since what goes on in the inside controls nearly every aspect of your health. Eighty percent of your immune system is located in your digestive tract, which means when your gut is compromised, so is your immunity.
A plant-based diet that’s full of clean, whole foods can improve your digestive health and immunity all in just one week. To get the best results, follow these tips:
Non-starchy vegetables are a healthy mainstay of any diet, but especially important if you’re a plant-based eater. Non-starchy vegetables provide high amounts of nutrients, with low amounts of high-glycemic carbohydrates. This not only makes them friendly to your blood sugar but also easier to digest. Non-starchy vegetables are easier for the body to break down than starchy foods that cause fermentation in the gut. Some great examples include: leafy greens, celery, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, bok choy, cabbage,and green beans (which are more like a vegetable than a bean and low in starch and carbs.) Be sure to cook your vegetables well so you digest them even easier. Making a gut-friendly green smoothie with fresh leafy greens is a quick and easy way to improve your digestion even further, and a delicious one at that!
Beans and legumes are wonderful, healthy foods for their nutritional benefits. They contain magnesium, potassium, protein, iron, B vitamins, and are full of fiber to keep you full and to keep you regular. However, as most of us know, they aren’t the easiest thing for a plant-based newbie to eat. I’ve been plant-based for seven years now and still don’t tolerate them too well. However, since they are wonderful choices to include in the diet, I’d suggest you starting slow with beans and legumes instead of going overboard or mixing them altogether. Start with chickpeas, edamame, green peas, lentils, and black beans, all of which are a little more tolerable and easier to digest than some beans like kidney and pintos.
Healthy fats are necessary on any diet, plant-based or not. Though a low-fat vegan diet may be beneficial in many areas, some healthy fats are needed for optimal digestion and for overall health. Fat helps the body produce bile, which is critical for a healthy functioning digestive system. Bile also helps elimination and can help the body digest food properly. Healthy fats also help your body absorb the nutrients you’re consuming from other foods better, such as those from vegetables and greens. Some vitamins, such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K, are also fat soluble, which means you have to eat fat for them to be absorbed and metabolized. Include healthy fats from plant-based foods such as: avocado, coconut, hemp, chia, flax, raw nuts and nut butters. A few tablespoons a day or more is likely all you’ll need to get dramatic results in your digestion. Try making your own coconut butter if you have some time. Coconut is an anti-viral agent to ward off fungus and a highly beneficial food for your gut.
Even if you’re not sensitive or allergic to gluten, opting for gluten-free, ancient whole grains in place of refined grains that contain gluten. Since highly processed sources of gluten can be a potential problem for digestion, go for gluten-free, ancient whole grains like quinoa, amaranth, millet, and teff instead. These are some of the healthiest grains you can eat and contain no potential allergens like glutinous grains such as wheat, barley, oats, and rye do.
Processed foods can weaken digestion overtime, even if you seem to tolerate them well. Chemicals, methods used to produce food, and extensive exposure to a wide variety of processes make them less than optimal when it comes to making healthy food choices. Even those that seem nutritionally healthy on a label or that are gluten-free, raw, vegan, etc. will still be less optimal than whole, clean, plant-based foods will. If you do have to buy processed foods, be sure to choose those with a short ingredient list and those free of refined and added sugars. Sugar and chemicals reduce your good gut bacteria, so you’ll want to avoid purchasing items that contain them however you can.
Part of having a healthy gut is eliminating the bad bacteria we encounter from the environment, chemically-based foods, mold and foods containing harmful yeasts (such as cheese and bread) and replacing it with foods that can help your body produce healthy bacteria instead. This includes fermented foods like kimchi, miso, coconut yogurt, and sauerkraut, which contain plant-based probiotics, along with vegetables, leafy greens, low-glycemic fruits like berries, green apples, cucumber, tomatoes, squash, and avocados. Low-glycemic foods are optimal for gut health since reducing the sugar intake in your diet will keep your gut bacteria healthy and well-balanced. You’ll also want to consume a few other plant-based foods that improve digestive health to assist you even further.
Be sure you know How to Deal With Digestive Difficulties on a Plant-Based Diet and you’ll be on your way to gut bliss in no time!
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Lead image source: Red Lentil Soup With Leek, Fennel, and Celery Heart