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Five Foods for a Healthy Digestive System


The following is a list of five foods that contain an abundance of nutrients that can significantly improve the health of your digestive system and your ability to break down and absorb nutrients.

Red beets and beet greens

If you have a problem with constipation, red beets and their green tops should be a regular part of your diet. Both contain significant amounts of fibre that can help to keep waste materials moving through your small and large intestines at a healthy pace.

Red beets contain large amounts of potassium and magnesium, while beet greens are an excellent source of beta-carotene, iron, and calcium. All of these nutrients are directly or indirectly essential to maintaining the health of your digestive tract lining and the smooth muscle fibres that create the waves of contractions that produce bowel movements.

Steaming is the cooking method of choice for red beets and beet greens. Cut the greens off right where their roots meet the red beet heads. Give the greens a good wash with cold water and set them aside. Peel the skin off the red beets, slice them into 1/4 slices, and place them in a steamer for about 8-10 minutes or until they start to become slightly tender. At this point, place the beet greens right on top of the red beet slices, place the lid back on the steamer, and allow it to run for another 5-7 minutes or until the beet greens have softened up to a texture that you enjoy. The greens and red beet slices can be served with a bowl of brown rice or quinoa, along with some avocado slices. Don't add any sea salt to this dish before you try it, as beet greens have a natural salty flavour to them.

You should limit your consumption of beet greens to a couple of servings per week, as they contain an acidic substance that can weaken your enamel if eaten too often.

If you don't enjoy beet greens, you should still buy red beets that have their green tops, as loose red beets are typically not as fresh as those that still have their green tops.

Yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes

If prepared and eaten with their skins Yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes are an excellent source of dietary fibre. They also provide complex carbohydrates, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese.

I consider Yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes to be critical in the treatment of peptic ulcers, duodenal ulcers, and some stages of inflammatory bowel disease. A simple soup made by blending together steamed Yukon gold potatoes or sweet potatoes along with freshly pressed celery juice or vegetable broth has worked wonders for many of my patients who have suffered from various ulcerations in their GI tracts. I have yet to come across a published study supporting this natural remedy, but have seen enough people use it successfully to recommend as a first-line approach for inflammatory lesions in the digestive tract.

Avocados

One medium sized avocado contains a whopping 15 grams of fibre, making it one of the most fibre-rich fruits around. Avocados are extremely easy to digest and contain plenty of healthy, raw fat, most of it monounsaturated. I cannot think of another fruit or vegetable that contains as much healthy, raw fat in its whole food state.

Healthy, raw fats are important to the health of your digestive tract for several reasons, the most important of which are to stimulate healthy functioning of your pancreas, gall bladder, and liver, and to provide an environment in which beta-carotene can be converted efficiently into vitamin A, which is the one vitamin that is absolutely essential to having a healthy mucosal lining throughout your GI tract.

Oats

Not only do whole oats contain plenty of soluble-fibre, they also provide significant amounts of selenium, thiamin, phosphorus, and manganese, and smaller amounts of copper, folate, vitamin E, and zinc.

Of all the varieties of oats on the market, the best choice is steel-cut oats, which are whole oat groats that have been cut into small pieces. No heat is used in making steel-cut oats, which leads to better nutrient preservation than other processing techniques that produce rolled oats or quick oats. If you have to choose between rolled oats and quick oats, choose the rolled variety. Rolled oats are made with a steaming process that doesn't destroy many nutrients, while quick oats are made with dehydrating and pre-cooking processes, which typically leave oats extremely nutrient-depleted.

Cod liver oil

Cod liver oil provides plenty of natural vitamin A, which we've already mentioned as being essential to the lining of your digestive tract. It also provides natural vitamin D, which we know is an extremely powerful immune system modulator, with research indicating that vitamin D may be critically important in preventing the development of autoimmune conditions, including those of the GI tract.

If you want to build and maintain a healthy digestive tract for the long term, you really have to take a holistic approach and address several areas of your life: your food choices, eating habits, exercise habits, resting habits, and emotional health.

But within the realm of your food choices, including red beets and their green tops, Yukon gold and sweet potatoes, avocados, oats, and cod liver oil in your diet are simple and concrete steps that you can take right away to begin your journey to your best digestive system and overall health.



May 7, 2010

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