Lifestyle

5 easy-to-digest vegetables for optimal gut health

Most of us are no strangers to bloating, cramps, and other digestive problems. Part of that is because we’re missing a key nutrient for good digestion: fiber. We’re sorely lacking (and the experts aren’t happy). But no surprise – The Standard American Diet has practically no fiber. We obsess about carbs and protein, yet we overlook the small but powerful impact of fiber. And so, we are overeating but undernourished. Without further advice, let’s break down your fiber deficiency, how to improve your digestion through easy-to-digest nutrition and vegetables! Maybe it’s time to buy an extra serving of greens, add berries to your breakfast, or ditch the blender.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

Pictures of Suruchi Avasthi

Closing America’s Fiber Gap

When talking about the pitfalls of the American diet, we tend to focus on processed sugar, table salt, and calories without nutrients. In turn, we skip talking about our lack of fiber. The absence of fiber has a nuance, but for the most part, it depends on exposure. We are encouraged to buy processed foods (for their convenience and taste), and what fast food has to offer doesn’t make this any easier. In other words: we don’t eat real food.

Because of this, we have put ourselves in the fibrous gap. Centuries ago, it was not. Humans have traditionally evolved to eat fiber – a lot of it. In fact, long before we learned to domesticate animals, we relied primarily on fiber-rich fruits, roots, shoots, nuts, and seeds. We ate seasonallyS and consume plenty of fiber. Without a doubt, we ate a lot of easily digestible vegetables.

What is fiber?

Let’s rewind. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate. It consists of a variety of plant-based substances (polysaccharides, pectin, guar gum, etc.) that cannot be digested by the body. However most Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber being a foreign element. Instead, fiber passes through the body, undigested. It comes with the ride — that’s why it’s so important. Fiber helps reduce constipation, regulate hunger, keep blood sugar levels stable, slow glucose absorption, promote heart health, and more. The FDA has a helpful, easy-to-digest guide to fiber here.

Pictures of Michelle Nash

4 tips to slowly eat more fiber

For starters, consider the concept of “massive concentration”—so the more fiber-rich ingredients you add to your plate, the more naturally you’ll overwhelm processed, nutrient-free foods. . Using the tips below, consider where you should start adding more fiber to your diet.

Take advantage of meal prep

To start the meal, prepare more plant-based foods. You’ll be more likely to reach for foods with fiber when they’re ready (and easy to see). Check out these fiber-rich recipes for more details.

Slow start

Instead of adding fiber-rich foods all at once, add 1-2 servings per day to your regular diet. Do this for a week, let your body adjust, then add another serving the following week.

Consider Simple Swap

For example, your regular cereal bowl with high-fiber cereal, white pasta for 100% whole-wheat pasta, berries instead of bananas, and a high-fiber protein bar instead of a regular take-out snack usually yours.

Creation

Food is fun! Enjoy an alternative weekend breakfast, like this beautiful (and functional) breakfast table. Eat more fiber without having to grind wheat bran.

Pictures of Michelle Nash

Which foods have fiber?

You’ll find fiber in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. As a general rule: whole foods — rich in color — are usually high in fiber. Just another reason to eat rainbows! Cooked or raw produce is an incredible source of fiber. However, Studies show that for maximum fiber retention, eat vegetables as raw (or almost raw) as possible. Cooking vegetables, boiling, roasting, etc., can reduce fiber by almost half. If you’re new to fiber, cook your vegetables thoroughly. By trial and error, you will find what works best for your body. Start slow and work your way up.

Here is a short list of high-fiber foods, with approximate fiber content:

  • 1 cup of edamame: 18 grams
  • 1 cup lentils: 16 grams
  • 1 cup black beans: 15 grams
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans: 12 grams
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds: 10 grams
  • 1 cup raspberries: 8 grams
  • 1/2 cup raw pistachios: 7 grams
  • 1 persimmon: 6 grams
  • 1 cup broccoli: 5 grams
  • 1/2 cup butter: 5 grams
Pictures of Michelle Nash

How vegetables improve digestion

So, how do vegetables improve digestion? They are high in fiber, which acts as a cleaning cloth for your intestines and colon. They sweep out toxins and keep things moving in the gut. In turn, vegetables help prevent constipation. Not to mention, fiber-rich vegetables signal to the body that you’re full and full. And don’t skip the skins! The skins of vegetables (potatoes, beans, and legumes) are rich in fiber, so it’s best to eat the skins whole.

Pictures of Suruchi Avasthi

5 easy-to-digest vegetables

From the aforementioned list, you can gather which foods support gut health. They are known to improve digestion. That said, take this list with a grain of salt. We all have different allergies and food intolerances!

Pictures of Michelle Nash

Leafy green vegetables

Green vegetables, such as spinach, bok choy, or kale, are excellent sources of fiber. They’re also rich in nutrients like folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, and vitamin A. Research shows that leafy greens also contain a specific type of sugar that promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Plus, green vegetables help your gut push waste out of your body. Along with salads, add greens to eggs, smoothies, and pasta.

Artichoke

Did you know that a medium artichoke has almost 7 grams of fiber? Studies show that artichokes can actually help manage symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and they have been shown to have a protective effect on the liver. Most importantly, artichokes contain prebiotics, which allow good bacteria in your gut to grow. They’re incredibly versatile – canned (marinated in olive oil) artichokes are delicious on charcoal, in sandwiches, on salads, etc.

Pictures of Suruchi Avasthi

Broccoli

Cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are gut-healthy foods. They are associated with better digestive health and microbiome diversity. They are known to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and reduce colon inflammation. Their prebiotic fiber may also help reduce inflammation. If you don’t regularly eat cruciferous vegetables, add them to your diet in small amounts (to start). Consult your doctor if you have a thyroid disorder, as large amounts of cruciferous vegetables are generally not recommended.

Pictures of Catherine Sanderson

Bean

Legumes — a vegetable that includes beans, peas, and lentils — are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. And they contain a lot of fiber. Specifically, they contain a type of fiber called oligosaccharides. In essence, beans help transport nutrients into your bloodstream and remove toxins. They are a great way to kill two birds with one stone: increase your fiber intake and increase your plant diversity. Keep canned beans on hand to mix and match!

Butternut Squash

As it turns out, pumpkin is one of the best foods for improving gut health and digestion. The reason is? It contains a lot of fiber. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains about 7 grams of fiber. That said, no matter which squash you choose – pumpkin, kabocha, summer squash, etc. – you’ll find a decent amount of fiber. These easily digestible vegetables provide both insoluble and soluble fiber. We love squash in a salad, as a side dish, or with scrambled eggs.

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