By: Kelly Atyeo, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.
People choose to eat healthy for a variety of reasons. You may eat healthy to feel more energized or for specific health reasons. Some people eat healthier for their digestive health, which is great, because this is the part of the body that changes the food we eat into energy to survive and strengthens our immunity.
The following article gives you some simple tips on eating for a healthy digestive system:
There are about 400 types of bacteria naturally present in the human digestive tract, some good and some bad.1 The key is having the right balance of “healthy” bacteria to keep the environment in the digestive system optimal for good digestion and immunity.2,3 Certain periods of your life can change the “healthy” state of your digestive tract, including: stress, travel, and taking antibiotics.2 This is where probiotics can become bacteria superheroes.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that you can eat, which help maintain that important “healthy balance” in the digestive tract.3 Studies show that probiotics may be beneficial to improve digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.2,3
Naturally probiotic foods: yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, miso, tempeh4
Although their name is similar, prebiotics are NOT live bacteria like probiotics. They are carbohydrates that can’t be digested, but provide fuel for the bacteria in your digestive system.3
Naturally prebiotic foods: asparagus, artichokes, bananas, garlic, tomatoes, barley, whole grains3,5
If you eat a complement of prebiotics and probiotics, they will work together to help keep your digestive tract healthy!
Try this refreshing breakfast smoothie recipe for a punch of prebiotics and probiotics.
- ½ cup (125 mL) plain yogurt
- ½ cup (125 mL) skim milk
- ½ cup (125 mL) strawberries
- > 1 banana
- ¼ cup (60 mL) oats or high-fibre granola
- In a blender add yogurt, skim milk, and fruit together. Blend to a smooth consistency.
- Sprinkle with oats or a high-fibre granola of your choice (preferably low in sugar).
Fibre may not be glamorous, but it is definitely important for digestive health. Yet, many Canadians are not eating enough fibre.2 This makes it important to fibre-up! every day!
Insoluble fibre: This type of fibre helps control how fast food is absorbed which is necessary for digestion. It also has the important function of promoting regularity so your body removes waste efficiently.6,7
Sources of Insoluble Fibre: whole grain breads, wheat cereals, barley, beets, carrots, turnip, apple skin7
Soluble Fibre: This type of fibre gets broken down by the bacteria in the large intestine. Although it does not get absorbed, it provides nutrients to the large intestine.8 Soluble fibre has been shown to reduce cholesterol – a bonus!
Sources of Soluble Fibre: oats, oat bran, beans, peas, strawberries, apple pulp7
It is recommended that a healthy diet include 25-38g of fibre/day.
Here are some tasty ways to help meet this recommendation:9
- Puree vegetables into your tomato sauces
- Eat whole grain breads and pastas
- Add oats to yogurt
- Try to eat a salad every night with your evening meal
Also – find high-fibre recipes that can become family favourites. Usually, this means looking for a recipe that has a vegetable/legume base or oats/whole grains added.
Chicken Farmers of Canada’s higher fibre recipes contain 4 grams or more of fibre per serving. Here are 2 great recipes to get you started:
- Autumn Chicken & Apple Stew; providing 6 g/serving of fibre.
- Tasty Health Burger; providing 4 g/serving of fibre.
Make sure you drink plenty of water as you increase your fibre intake!
Eat in Moderation
Having a healthy diet is important for digestive health. This includes limiting certain foods such as caffeine, alcohol, and saturated fats.10 Try your best to eat in moderation and stick to wholesome, nutritious foods to fuel your body.
- Hao, W. & Lee, Y. (n.d.). Microflora of the Gastrointestinal Tract. Retrieved June 5
- Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. (2012). Food and Digestive Health. Retrieved April 9, 2013
- Eat Right Ontario. (2013). The Pros of Probiotics. Retrieved April 9, 2013
- WebMD. (2013). The Truth about Probiotics and Your Gut. Retrieved April 9, 2013
- International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. (2009). Prebiotics: A Consumer Guide for Making Smart Choices. Retrieved June 5, 2013
- Eat Right Ontario. (2013). Focus on Fibre. Retrieved April 9, 2013
- American heart Association. (2011). Whole Grains and Fiber. Retrieved April 9, 2013
- FAO Corporate Document Repository. (2013). Physiological Effects of Dietary Fibre. Retrieved April 9, 2013
- Dietitians of Canada. (2012). Healthy Eating Guidelines for Increasing Your Fibre Intake. Retrieved June 11, 2013
- Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. (2013). Protecting your Digestive Health. Retrieved June 5, 2013