Healing Plant Foods for Your Gut

The 29th May is World Digestive Health Day (WDHD). This annual event was started by the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO) as a way to promote digestive health on a global scale. Each year focuses on a different aspect of digestive health, with this year’s theme being: ‘Diet and gut health’. As part of our series on Digestive Health we’re delighted to welcome back Jane Barrett to talk about the healing plant foods, which can help your gut.

Many foods have the ability to heal your gut. So, whether you have digestive woes, food intolerances or just want to ensure that your gut stays healthy, here are a few tips that may help you:

Cooked foods – gentle on the gut

You may love salads at this time of year, but your gut may not be too chuffed. Raw foods can be pretty tough on your digestive system, particularly if it is already compromised. Eating cooked foods can be particularly healing for your gut, especially if you have had infections or suffer with IBS or IBD.

What to do:
A useful tip is to use a slow cooker to produce long-cooked legumes and vegetables. The longer the cooking, the easier they are to digest and the higher likelihood that you will benefit from all the goodness in the food.

You can make a cold salad from cooked foods. Try cooked, then cooled, roasted veg with eggs or red lentils as they are one of the easier legumes to digest. The flavour of roasted vegetables often intensifies when eaten cold.

Essential fats – nourishing and soothing

Fats nourish and soothe and are key restorative foods for your intestinal tract. Healing fats include avocados, coconut oil, flaxseed, butter & coconut milk. Nuts, although a great source of essential fats, can be tough on your digestive system so may be better tolerated as nut butters in small amounts. Soaking or roasting nuts first also makes them easier to digest.
Ripe bananas – easily tolerated

Many fruits can often make digestive issues worse due to fermentation in the intestines. However, bananas are one of the most tolerated fruits (alongside avocado) and may have a regulatory effect on bowel movements, so can be equally useful for constipation or diarrhoea. They must be ripe. I’m talking brown spots all over. This makes them easier to digest as the resistant starch turns into a simple sugar. Note: Diabetics would be wise to avoid ripe bananas as it may raise insulin too quickly.

My clients’ favourite ways of enjoying ripe bananas are as ‘ice cream’ (100% ripe bananas, cut up, frozen, then blended till soft) and banana bread.

Coconut – a versatile food

This is a wonderful alternative if you cannot tolerate or choose not to eat dairy products. This easily digested fat supplies energy, increases your metabolism, is great for your brain and is also anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-viral – making it an essential food for your gut. Due to its medium-chain triglyceride fat content it is extremely stable at high heat, making it the go-to choice for healthier roasting, baking & shallow frying.

What to do:
You can consume coconut as milk, yoghurt, butter, oil, flour, desiccated, flaked or as fresh chunks. Even better if you make your own coconut milk from water and fresh coconut flesh or dehydrated coconut flakes. Coconut milk kefir made from kefir grains and home-made coconut milk can be an ideal way to get fermented foods into your diet that your gut will love.

Oh, and raw cacao, date and nut bliss balls just wouldn’t be finished without being rolled in desiccated coconut.

But hold on a minute…

You can be eating the best and most nutritious diet in the world, but if you can’t digest and absorb properly then those lovely nutrients may be going to waste. Discover the way to easier digestion with these three tips:

    1. Think about your food before you eat it: smell it, salivate while cooking (like dogs do) – these engage your brain’s cephalic response and rev up your digestive enzymes to digest the forthcoming food
    2. When your food is ready: be seated, be mindful (that means no mobile, tablet, TV), concentrate on enjoying your food slowly
    3. And then chew: I mean really CHEW. 20-30 times to take the pressure off your digestive system. This will extract the nutrients more readily

These tips work consistently well for my clients on their digestive healing journey. Let me know in the comments below which tips you are going to try today?