The benefit of veggies for digestive health
Veggies are naturally packed with good nutrition, including that all important nutrient, fiber. As such, they play a HUGE role in gut health and are an important value-add for how our bodies process and digest food.
We chat to Dietician-Nutritionist Whitney Stuart about the importance of veggies for digestive health, with five easy ways to get more of the good stuff into your diet…
HOW VEGGIES SUPPORT DIGESTION
That old saying ‘you are what you eat’, couldn’t be truer when it comes to our digestive systems. If you think about how you feel after an afternoon of sugary foods and starchy processed carbs (most likely sluggish, lethargic and bloated) it’s a direct correlation to what’s happening inside your body as your digestive system slows down to try and process the food.
Colorful, vibrant, nutritionally dense – veggies have very much the opposite effect – bringing plenty of fiber to support the smooth running of our digestive processes.
“A healthy and well-functioning digestive system ensures that food provides the critical components we need to thrive, says dietician”, Whitney Stuart (@whitnessnutrition).
“Vitamins, minerals, macro and micronutrients…the food we eat not only fuels our body, but fuels (or hinders) our gut microbiota. This microbiota gut foundation thrives on a variety of well-balanced, colorful, dietary inputs! And, a major contributor to dietary color, and in turn, good digestion and gut health comes from fiber-rich foods like vegetables.”
A FOCUS ON FIBER
Our biggest alliance when it comes to healthy digestion, fiber performs little daily miracles inside our bodies that keep our systems ticking along nicely. But there’s more than one type, as Whitney explains:
“There are two types of fiber needed for a well-balanced diet - soluble and insoluble. These types of fiber function very differently in the body so it’s important we seek out the right types of foods to include in our diets.
- Insoluble fiber maintains a good system flow; moving through your gut to increase its integrity. Rich sources are found in oats, cauliflower and chia seeds.
- Soluble fiber slows digestion to bulk the stool and to ensure the body has time to absorb nutrients. Examples being broccoli, avocados and flaxseeds.
According to Whitney, many vegetables contain both soluble AND insoluble fiber, such as sweet potatoes, making them doubly nutrient-dense. The same applies to prunes, dried plums, almonds and kale – giving you a duo of fiber to support good digestion.
CRAM IN THOSE CRUCIFEROUS VEGGIES!
Cruciferous vegetables are excellent fiber sources to add to your diet that are rich in vitamins K, A and C which can help lower inflammation. And fortunately, there’s lots of tasty choices to chow down on - from cauliflower and kale to broccoli, cabbage, sprouts and arugula.
“If you're concerned about gas and bloating make sure you cook them well,” Whitney adds. Cooking cruciferous veggies breaks down the glucosinolates, the chemical compounds found in cruciferous vegetables that can contribute to the gas/bloating effect. Try a stir-fried riced cauliflower to ease the digestive process and enable the GI tract to absorb more nutrients.”
Remember – digestion starts in the mouth! Chewing the heck out of your food activates important enzymes in your saliva that kick start digestion. Try not to rush meals, chew slowly and saviour every mouthful – not only will your meal last longer, you’ll be reaping the digestive benefits too…
Add more gut-friendly veg to your diet with Whitney’s top tips:-
- Blend Riced Broccoli Cauliflower into your smoothies
- Stir Riced Cauliflower into your oatmeal, plus collagen and flaxseeds!
- Fold in fresh or frozen spinach to scrambled eggs.
- Add Riced Sweet Potato to tomato sauce to serve over spaghetti squash
- Go 50/50 on starchy carbohydrate at dinner; add half brown rice and half Riced Cauliflower.
A Whitness Nutrition favorite? Adding Riced Cauliflower to a breakfast skillet or hash.
Whitney is a registered dietitian-nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, advanced level award-winning Whole30 coach. Her virtual practice, Whitness Nutrition, helps individuals radically improve their health through empowered education and a focus on real food for real joy, for the real busy. Whitney has been voted best Dallas Dietitian since 2019. She has been featured on ABC, NBC, WFAA & Business Insider.