Those that have ever tried a raw food diet or have had to eat cold oatmeal on a cold day will know that sometimes, the body simply needs some heat. Even if raw foods make you feel extremely energized and amazing, at times, the body will call for some warm comfort, and there’s a reason why. Cold foods slow down the digestive process a bit, even though raw fruits and vegetables contain more enzymes than cooked vegetables. It’s important to remember that enzymes aren’t the only piece of the digestion puzzle – balance is. Sure, raw foods and their benefits are important, but the balance of temperatures in your food can also make a huge difference in your overall GI health.
Consider this example: the feeling you get during and afterwards you have a warm bowl of soup versus a cold bowl of salad. Hey, salad is great and makes you feel amazing, but the best salad in the world or even a smoothie (one of our favorites) don’t compare to the way a bowl of warm soup goes down and settles well on the stomach (minus the Cajun spices, of course). Warm foods are like a green light for the digestive system and allow fluids to flow more easily through. It’s one reason coffee and tea can both benefit digestion, along with warm lemon water in the morning. Warm foods open up the channels of the body, and though we need a balance of cooked and raw foods, warm foods are a digestive system’s friend, not enemy.
Here are some foods and drinks to emphasize that will soothe digestion and warm the body to get things moving and flowing the way they prefer. No worries, smoothies and salads and raw cut fruits and veggies are sticking around, but don’t forget these options too:
1. Warm Ginger Tea
Ginger tea is a classic staple that’s amazing for digestion. Not only does it calm down inflammation, but it also soothes nausea, relieves cramps and warms up the digestive process to assist with the digestion of other foods. If you enjoy colder foods, then at least have a cup of warm ginger tea after a meal. It will aid in the overall digestive process and will help balance stomach acid levels to ensure optimal intake of nutrients. Warm ginger tea can also be used in place of coffee if you have morning digestion concerns, or if you’re anti-caffeine. Use fresh ginger root, or even the bagged organic tea bags which work too. Enjoy our favorite recipe, Ginger Elixer (An Ayurvedic Digestive Drink). Be sure to add a squeeze of lemon which will only add live enzymes and a better flavor.
2. Potato Soup
Potato soup has two things going for it when it comes to your GI health: one, it’s filled with soluble fiber that’s easy to digest, much more so than insoluble from veggies like beans, bran, and corn, and two, it’s a hot and comforting meal that your mind naturally embraces, which affects your digestion in ways you don’t realize. Our minds and bodies are connected as one. If one rejects something, the other will have a hard time catching up. Comfort foods are familiar to us, so they may help open up the body, and there’s a way to enjoy them healthfully, with potato soup being one.
Potato soup helps ensure regularity, calms down inflammation, and also keeps your belly full on a small amount so you’re not tempted to overdo it and suffer heartburn later. Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, Vitamin C, and B vitamins such as B6, that all relax the body and assist with digestion as well. Try: Sweet Potato and Carrot Leek Soup, Winter Potato, White Bean, and Kale Soup (leave out the beans if needed), Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup, Hearty Valentine’s Day Soup, or Hearty Purple Potato Soup.
3. Cooked Root Vegetables
Along with potato soup, you can also enjoy root vegetables roasted or baked in the oven. They’re delicious cooked this way, and make for quite a digestive-friendly meal (along with a cheap one at that). Roasted root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes (purple, sweet, red or even white), turnips, beets, butternut and acorn (or kabocha) squash, onions, and even broccoli and cauliflower added, can all make easy-to-digest dishes that the body and stomach will welcome. These foods are just high enough in fiber to keep things moving along, but not so much that they’re likely to cause issues. If you’re having stomach problems, ease off beans and legumes for just a day or two, and eat more roasted or baked root and regular vegetables instead. You’d be surprised how these foods work everything out. For ideas, see How to Cook with Root Vegetables, How to Pan Roast Root Vegetables, and our favorite recipe, Easy Roasted Root Veggies.
4. Warmed Greens
While not something you may imagine necessarily soothing, warm greens have a surprisingly nice effect on your tummy. Leafy greens are first, easy to digest, second, very alkalizing to calm inflammation, and third, full of vitamins and minerals that benefit the whole body. Obviously, they’re not too great for your stomach in raw form, but cooked, they make excellent soothing go-to dishes. Sauteed beet greens are an especially cleansing option that’s still gentle and nourishing, and they have a delicious flavor that’s a bit nutty, earthy, and even slightly sweet at the same time. Try Sauteed Beet Red Greens, or use spinach and serve it warmed with potatoes in Warm Potato Salad with Spinach and Chickpeas. You can also try warmed kale with Spring Kale and Dill Soup With Rice. Greens have a natural bitter feature that the body needs for digestive balance and overall wellness. Learn different ways to cook greens to make them more delicious if you need some help.
5. Oatmeal or Rice Porridge
Finally, if you can’t stomach veggies at all, as healthy and cozy as they may be, simple easy-to-digest grains are the way to go. Be sure to stick to those that have a little fiber, mostly soluble fiber, and don’t cause too many issues. Whole grain rice and oats are the perfect fit and not so harsh on the tummy like wheat bran, rye, barley, or even seedy grains like quinoa might be. Oats (choose gluten-free organic oats to rule out gluten contamination) have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, are mostly soluble fiber, and provide nutrients that nourish the adrenal glands and the nervous system to lower overall stress to the body. Warmed oatmeal is a great way to go (add a little ginger to kick up the effects) and rice porridge (such as wild rice or brown rice porridge) is another safe bet. Like oatmeal, rice is easy to digest, doesn’t contain too much fiber to pose a problem, and contains magnesium, B vitamins, and potassium to soothe the body. Black and wild rice also comes with extra digestive benefits and have a nice, nuttier flavor than white or brown. Try Ayurvedic Oatmeal or try Forbidden Black Rice with Coconut and Ginger that both come with an extra digestive boost.
Also keep in mind that it’s best to stay away from all animal products, alcohol, more than one cup of coffee, processed foods (some whole grain crackers and unsweetened non-dairy milk should be fine), along with most forms of sugar (including too much fruit) until your stomach is all better. Other warm foods and drinks for digestion include: warm lemon tea, green and peppermint tea, vegetable broth, and most types of soups and stews.
What do you eat when your body needs a digestive break?
Lead Image Source: Curried Carrot Ginger and Orange Soup