Whether building resilience, restoring function, or fostering less inflammation overall, ensuring optimal digestive health is at the core of our well-being. And while digestion can look different for everyone (yes, food affects each of us a bit differently), strategically opting for nourishing, easy-to-digest foods can be a fantastic way to support our gut and give our bowels a much-needed “healing pause.”
When it comes to proper digestion, it is helpful to understand how your digestive processes work to keep you in top shape. In short, your body receives the nutrients required to perform its various functions from the foods you eat, unlocking their nutritional value and breaking them down to be absorbed by your gastrointestinal tract (hello bile, stomach acid, and digestive enzymes!). These substances are then absorbed by your small intestine and eventually released into the bloodstream to the parts of your body that require them.
In my practice as a health journalist and holistic health coach, I have noticed that predigested foods (think those that have undergone fermentation or grinding) are not only easier on the stomach but a tasty way to improve digestive wellness too. Below are a few delightful ways to make food more digestible and prime your digestive pump up for success:
Love Your Microbiome
Your path to making food more “digestible” starts with creating and sustaining a thriving inner ecosystem. Lifestyle choices, stress, and dietary choices play a significant role in your microbiome’s health, which is why opening yourself to a wide range of microbes is pivotal to gut diversity and strong digestion power. High-fiber, prebiotic-rich foods, as well as colorful fruits and vegetables, are almost always a great place to start if you are looking to optimize digestion and support your microbiome along the way!
Applying heat or temperature to certain foods allows them to break down more quickly, making them more accessible for the body to digest. High-fiber fruits and vegetables are good examples of edibles that can benefit from applied heat, especially when fiber becomes problematic for individuals with slow mobility or digestive distress. Try baking your favorite fruits (pears, apples, guavas, pineapple, and beyond) with a dash of vanilla extract and cinnamon next time you want a quick but deliciously digestible treat!
Sprout (Or Soak)
What do seeds, beans, grains, or nuts have in common? They all can benefit from being soaked both for biochemical and health-giving reasons! A crucial step in the sprouting process, soaking lessens not only phytic acids and enzyme inhibitors but also improves nutrient availability and digestibility throughout. Soaking beans, in particular, can be a great route to lowering the gas-creating carbohydrates and help your digestive system handle that extra punch of fiber.
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Pickle Or Ferment
Another millenary cooking staple, fermented foods go through a process of yeast and bacteria breaking down sugars into acids or alcohols that act as a natural preservative. These good-for-you, probiotic-packed foods are thought to boost the digestive process and support the number of beneficial bacteria found in your gut. A few ideas of pickled, brewed, or fermented bonne bouchée to add to your healthy eating routine include kefir, natto, tempeh, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, tofu, miso, kombucha, probiotic yogurt, or kimchi, among many.
Blend Or Grind
Grinding food into smaller particles can be another good option for better absorbability and nutrient breakdown. From coffee beans and spices to grains and juice processing, there are myriad ways to explore blending, grinding, or milling your favorite foods for healthier digestibility.
Digestion is certainly not a one-size-fits-all, which is why mindfully tending to your unique digestive system is key to your health. Without a good digestive tone, unwanted symptoms such as bloating, indigestion, gas, or diarrhea might not only become problematic but ultimately hinder your quality of life too. Therefore, take the time to “listen” to your body, care for your gut, and apply these tips to your daily rhythms to make your belly smile!