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How to Boost Your Digestive Health

Gut health is in the spotlight, and for good reason. A healthy gut is the foundation for overall health. When your gut feels good, your whole body works in sync. You’re more able to fight off illness, and your mood is improved, too.

The gut is also referred to as the microbiome, which includes all the microbes in your intestines, both the good and not-so-good bacteria. The more good bacteria you have, the better you can digest food and absorb nutrients. Optimizing your gut health can start today at your very next meal. It doesn’t need to be complicated or necessarily involve a lot of supplements. With that in mind, here are three suggestions to boost your digestive health and get your gut in tip-top shape.

1. Eat the Rainbow

At your next meal, take a look at your plate and count how many colors you see. A meal with more colors not only looks better, but it’s also more beneficial to your gut health. Produce rich in color, like cherry red tomatoes and bright orange carrots, are a result of the plant’s phytonutrients. These are compounds that are responsible for a plant’s color as well as their unique taste. Phytochemicals have anti-inflammatory properties that help protect the body from illness as well as improve the gut microbiome.

Ideally, aim to eat at least 30 or more plants per week. Each color contains different nutrients that the gut thrives on. Blue and purple foods, like blueberries and eggplant, contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which is known to lessen digestive tract inflammation. And green foods like spinach, kale, and broccoli contain chlorophyll, which helps remove toxins from the digestive system.

When you’re at the grocery store, pick out as many vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables as possible. Making a soup out of onions, carrots, celery, peppers, sweet potatoes, and lentils, for instance, will already provide you with six helpings of produce for the week! If you’re short on time, try adding a super greens powder to your water or protein smoothie to up your vitamin and mineral intake. Many greens powders are packed with natural ingredients — such as bromelain, prebiotics, and probiotics — that are beneficial to the gut.

2. Up Your Fiber Intake

As you begin to add more color to your meals, you’ll also be serendipitously adding more fiber as well. Fiber is essential to improving and maintaining good gut health, as it regulates the healthy, good bacteria found within the microbiome. There are two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, which is found in brussel sprouts, avocados, broccoli, and black beans, helps you feel fuller, as it draws water into your gut. Spinach, almonds, and flaxseed are full of insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to your stools, making them easier to pass.

There are different schools of thought when it comes to how much fiber is optimal per day, but the American Heart Association advises around 25 to 30 grams. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans are not coming close to this recommendation, with many only getting half of this amount. Increasing your fiber intake shouldn’t happen too quickly, as it may cause excessive intestinal gas, leading to bloating or cramping. Rather, start slowly and work your way up to the recommended amount.

Adding more fiber will soon become second nature to you. Choose whole grains like quinoa and barley instead of refined grains like white rice. Snack on whole fruits like apples instead of applesauce or apple juice. While juice may be delicious, it is stripped of the fiber found in the fruit’s pulp. And make a healthy trail mix with fiber-rich popcorn and a variety of nuts to munch on as a between-meals treat.

3. Eat Slowly and Mindfully

This last tip has nothing to do with what you’re eating but everything to do with how you’re eating. Think back to your last meal. Were you in a calm, peaceful, and relaxed state? If you’re like the majority of Americans, the answer is probably no. You may have wolfed down a granola bar during school dropoff this morning or eaten lunch while working at your desk. These are both common practices, but changing your routine can be advantageous to your gut.

That’s because eating too quickly or hurriedly doesn’t give your gut the chance to actually digest your food. Digestion begins in the mouth, the moments during which you taste your food, chew it, and swallow it. The more time you spend chewing, the less work your digestive tract actually has to do.

Also Read: Powerful Forms of Pranayama and It’s Health Benefits

Eating slowly and mindfully is easier said than done, however. Avoiding distractions during mealtime in today’s world can be difficult. Scrolling through Instagram or watching a television show as you eat dinner may be a ritual for you, but it inhibits mindfulness. To break this habit, try to have one meal where you are away from your devices and give yourself at least 20 minutes to fully enjoy the experience. Especially if you’ve prepped and cooked the meal, you’ll find that you’ll appreciate it more.

Good Gut Health Takeaways

Diet and lifestyle changes can impact not only your gut health, but your overall health as well. As you begin to eat a variety of nourishing plant-based foods, you’ll likely improve your cholesterol levels, heart health, and immunity at the same time. Additionally, eating without distraction may decrease your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Start incorporating these three tips into your daily life, and your gut and whole body will surely thank you.

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