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Give Your Gut a Break with These Easy-To-Digest Foods
Whether you’re dealing with GERD, Crohn’s disease, or indigestion, your condition can be improved by eating foods that require less digestive effort from your body.
The following foods are easy on your digestive system and are packed with nourishing ingredients too. Here’s what to eat when you’re experiencing tummy trouble – and the gas-causing foods to avoid.
Raw fruits contain significantly more enzymes and nutrients than cooked fruits. While that’s typically a good thing, raw foods can be harder to digest when you have a digestive issue since they require further breakdown. When eating cooked foods, you get a head start on digestion by making the food easier to break down.
Cooked fruits that are gentle on digestion include:
- Any fruits without skins or seeds included
When cooking fruits to increase their digestion, it’s best to peel them and cook them over low to medium heat. High heat will cause them to boil and increase their sugar content.
Most fruits can be cooked on low to medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they start to break down. Apples require longer cook time than berries, for example.
Raw veggies are ultra-healthy for you, so why do they cause tummy aches for some people? Raw vegetables are higher in fiber content than cooked alternatives. This is partly because cooking breaks down some of the fiber found in foods, making them easier to digest.
Cooked vegetables are milder on the digestive system. The best ones to eat are:
- Sweet potatoes
Roasting, sautéing, and steaming are all excellent ways to prepare vegetables to make them easier on the gut.
Poultry and Seafood
Some who struggle to digest foods might have a hard time breaking down red meat but poultry, seafood, and even eggs all digest more rapidly and require fewer enzymes. This can mean less gas or intestinal pains, and less trouble processing the fattier cuts of meat.
The best easy-to-digest meats and proteins include:
- Chicken and turkey
- Shrimp and scallops
- Salmon, cod, trout, and tuna
- Bone broth
Activated Nuts and Seeds
While nuts and seeds (and grains, for that matter) contain anti-nutrients that can make digestion problematic for many, there’s a way to deactivate these gut-harming nutrients.
When nuts and seeds are “activated”, aka soaked, the anti-nutrients found in the skins of these foods are broken down and rinsed away, leaving behind a more gut-friendly product.
The best nuts and seeds for soaking include:
Foods to Avoid
If you’re feeling gassy or bloated, you should avoid foods that might make your condition worse. The following foods can be harder to break down than the average meal, especially if you have any health condition prone to worsened digestion.
While fruits are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins, sometimes the ability to digest them is hindered when the fruit isn’t fully ripe or it contains skin. This can make it harder for the body to thoroughly digest.
Unripe fruits to avoid include:
- Citrus fruits
- Dried or canned fruits of any kind
While cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, they also have a sulfuric quality that can create major digestive problems, even if they are cooked.
The benefits don’t outweigh the physical downsides for some people, and they’re better avoiding vegetables like:
Unsoaked Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain anti-nutrients, which are proteins that are designed to protect the plants from being destroyed in the wild. But these anti-nutrients don’t automatically go away when they’re harvested for food consumption. In order to neutralize them, most nuts and seeds need to be soaked for a few hours up to a day.
Note: Grains and beans also contain anti-nutrients and can be extremely painful for some people to digest.
If you’re not soaking seeds and nuts, the following can be problematic and painful for digestion:
- Tree nuts
Saturated fat has been debunked as the cause of heart disease, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone to digest. It requires more enzymes and breakdown than poultry, and the higher fat content can create discomfort with gallbladder issues or other low enzyme levels.
If you’re struggling with sensitive digestion, eliminating the following might help relieve pain:
- Pork and bacon
Artificial sweeteners and other additives can significantly alter gut bacteria, which in turn can change the way that nutrients are able to absorb within the intestines.
Avoiding anything that isn’t a whole, natural food is an essential step toward better digestion. This would include:
- Artificial sweeteners or “zero calorie” products
- Preservatives and additives
- Food dyes and colorings
Sugar is often the most difficult food item to quit, but most people don’t tie it to their digestive discomfort. It’s especially problematic when it comes to chronic diarrhea or intestinal cramping.
Even Paleo forms of sugar can result in digestive problems, so it’s best to avoid the following if you have gut issues:
- White sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Maple syrup
The Bottom Line
While it might feel like you’re on a restrictive diet if you have to focus on easy-to-digest foods, the benefits far outweigh the momentary sacrifice.
Choosing to eat foods that help relieve the burden of the digestive system can go a long way in improving quality of life and getting your digestive problems into remission. A diet that helps ease digestive discomfort may change over time.
Note: For some people, the foods that are hardest to break down might be easy for other people, and vice versa. Learning to pay attention to the cues that your digestive system gives you is key to successfully addressing your digestive health.
Watch this video to fix bloating, heartburn or gas – What To Eat When You’re Having Tummy Troubles (B.R.A.T. Diet)
Written by Aimee McNew
Aimee McNew is a Certified Nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid problems, infertility, and digestive wellness. She ate her way back to health using a Paleo diet, lost 80 pounds, and had a healthy baby after numerous miscarriages. She focuses on simple nutrition practices that promote long-lasting results.
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