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Health & Fitness

Best foods to aid digestion

The digestion process is an intricately choreographed ballet during which your body performs the many steps needed to break down the food you eat and unlock the vitamins, minerals, calories, fats, and proteins you need — and then efficiently clean sweep the rest. Most people don’t contemplate these inner workings unless they’re not going smoothly, but you can proactively take steps to avoid problems. One of the easiest digestive health tips is to fuel up with foods good for digestion.

Digestion is the process your body uses to break down food into nutrients. The body uses the nutrients from food for energy, growth, and cellular repair. But when your digestive process goes awry, whether from overeating or eating foods that disagree with you, you need to review the rules of good nutrition again.

The U.S. federal guidelines on diet suggest that all Americans age 2 and older eat a variety of healthy foods, balancing calories ingested with physical activity. Suggested foods include:

Fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
Fruits, vegetables, unsalted nuts and seeds, and whole grains
Lean meats, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, soy products, and eggs
But what if foods such as dairy cause digestion issues? If you can’t tolerate the lactose in dairy, try lactose-free products. Lactose is simply the sugar in dairy products that causes GI pain in some people. According to the Mayo Clinic, this condition, called lactose malabsorption, is generally harmless, but you may experience the following symptoms:

Bloating
Diarrhea
Gas
Nausea or vomiting
Stomach upset
If you are lactose intolerant, consider nondairy alternatives such as soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, and coconut milk. If a change to nondairy products does not relieve your GI distress, talk to your doctor. There is help.

Fiber is the indigestible part of plant food that we need to stay regular. While fiber itself is not digested by our GI enzymes, we must eat fiber-rich foods because they absorb water in the intestines, ease bowel movements, and promote the healthy gut bacteria we need for proper digestion. Are you meeting the recommended fiber requirements?

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women get 25 grams of daily fiber and men get 38 grams. This can be done by decreasing your intake of foods high in fat and sugar and increasing your consumption of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Along with that recommendation, eating a diet low in saturated fat and high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, soy products, nuts, and seeds provides excellent sources of foods to help digestion. This type of plant-based diet aids in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and improving blood sugar control.

High-fiber foods include:

Apple with skin
Artichokes
Baked beans
Barley
Black beans
Bran flakes
Broccoli
Green beans
Green peas
Lentils
Lima beans
Pear with skin
Raspberries
Split peas
Turnip greens
Whole wheat spaghetti
And there are more delicious foods good for digestion. Put the following superfoods on your plate and discover how with a little ingenuity, staying “regular” can be delicious.

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