Sometimes our digestive system just needs a rest. While salads, smoothies and whole grains are all highly nutritious natural foods that should be a part of any healthy diet, they all put stress on the digestive system. High in fiber, they make the digestive system work extra-hard. From time to time, it’s best to give your gut some much needed R&R to help rebalance gut flora and rebuild the gut lining. And to do that, you need to eat easy to digest foods that are also high in bioavailable nutrition.
Some gastrointestinal conditions can also lead to digestive problems, which can put you on an easily digestible diet for a few days. Whether you have IBS, indigestion, GERD, heartburn, diarrhea or you simply want to improve your gut health, here is a list of top easy to digest foods that you should be eating right now.
While most dairy products can aggravate digestive discomfort, yogurt is an exception. This probiotic is one of the most popular easy to digest foods when your stomach isn’t feeling its best. In addition to gut-friendly bacteria, yogurt is also a good source of protein and calcium. When your stomach is under distress, the best yogurt for you is the regular, plain, low-fat variety. Avoid any processed and packaged yogurt that may have added sweeteners and sugars. Eat plain yogurt, or enjoy a glass of lassi as a mid-day snack.
If you have a bad bout of diarrhea that’s making it hard for you to keep down food, some bland toast is just what you need. Opt for simple white bread, as whole-grain or whole-wheat breads are high in fiber, which may be harder to digest. Have a piece of white toast and skip the butter.
Just like toast, crackers are easy to digest foods and are often recommended to those who have indigestion, morning sickness or nausea. Since an empty stomach can aggravate gastrointestinal distress, some saltine crackers are a good idea. They contain carbs that will give you some energy, and their bland taste makes them easy to digest.
Most fruits, particularly those eaten with peel, are not recommended during digestive ailments. But bananas are an exception. A great source of easily digestible carbs, bananas are gentle on your tummy and can also provide a good dose of potassium when you are dehydrated during a bout of diarrhea.
Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
Both potatoes and sweet potatoes offer a healthy dose of energy-imparting carbohydrates along with soluble fiber that are easy on the digestive system. Additionally, they’re great prebiotic foods, which mean that they feed good gut bacteria that are crucial for a healthy digestive system. If you have diarrhea, potatoes and sweet potatoes are a particularly good option as they contain potassium to help rebalance lost electrolytes.
Pumpkins of all variety are gut healing. When cooked well, pumpkin is soothing, gentle and easy to digest. That’s why pumpkin is one of the first foods given to babies! A healthy pumpkin soup or stew when cooked with some chicken breast makes a hearty, filling meal that is gentle on the digestive system.
There’s a reason your grandma recommends applesauce when you’re fighting stomach flu! While whole, raw fruits with skin are highly nutritious, they are also harder to digest. If you are dealing with digestive distress, it’s better to eat easy to digest foods like cooked or canned fruits. Cooked pears, apples, melon, cantaloupe and avocado are good options. Make sure you opt for canned fruit with no added sugars or preservatives, as these can worsen digestive distress.
A great source of highly bioavailable protein, eggs also contain plenty of minerals and healthy fats that are easily broken down and digested. Opt for scrambled eggs or soft boiled eggs when your gut is in need of gentle nourishment.
Chicken or Turkey Breast
Red meats are high in fats that are harder to break down and digest. This is why lean white meat like chicken or turkey breast is a better option when your digestive system needs a break. Skip the spices and sauces and opt for simple baked or grilled chicken. Fried chicken is also best avoided when you have an upset stomach.
Salmon is an easy to digest fish. Mackerel, tuna and cod are other good options. Baked or grilled fish is rich in protein and omega 3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory. Avoid breaded or fried fish until your stomach feels better.
If you believe in using food as medicine, bone broth is an elixir for digestive and gut health. Made with slow cooked bones, bone broth contains glycine that stimulates stomach acid production, which is crucial for digestion. It is also rich in gelatin and collagen that promote healthy bowel movements, improve gut motility, combat gut inflammation and naturally treat gut dysbiosis. It helps maintain the integrity of the gut mucosa lining and also boosts immunity so you can fight further stomach infections or inflammatory conditions.
Stews and Soups
While raw vegetables are off the table when you want to give your digestive system a break, cooked vegetables with cooked, lean meat like chicken or turkey are a great option. A stew makes for a hearty meal that is both easy to digest and gut healing. Our favorites are healing chicken soup or an easy pumpkin soup. Add root vegetables to your stews like well-cooked pumpkin, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets.
One of the best ways to improve gut health is to incorporate probiotics into your diet. These are live microbes that can positively affect the PH of the intestine to heal the gut and create a healthy microbiome where the ‘good’ bacteria overpower the ‘bad’ disease-causing bacteria. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage that is not only easy to digest; it’s an excellent probiotic with good gut bacteria. Add a forkful of sauerkraut to your salad, or eat as a side with any meal of your choice.
For the time being, avoid all ‘raw’ foods that contain high amounts of insoluble fiber. It’s also best to avoid whole grains and dairy for a while. While there’s no doubt that these are all incredibly healthy for you, they are harder to digest and can wreak havoc on your already struggling digestive system. You can reintroduce raw fruits and vegetables with peel and meats along with healthy fats to your diet once your symptoms improve.
What easy to digest foods do you prefer? We would love to hear from you!