Summer is eagerly peering around the corner, bringing with her the tastiest foods we might definitely wait for all year long. From ballpark hot dogs and boardwalk ice cream, to barbecue and cotton candy, summertime activities have a way of focusing on one food experience after another. (No judgment, here!)
Yet, unfortunately for you, all of those summer treats could be packing a one-two punch to your gut. Given the plethora of sweet and salty summer snacks, it’s easy to overindulge. That’s why it’s important to take note of the foods that are easy on your tummy to help ensure you don’t miss out on any of the fun because of stomach problems.
To set your gut up for summer success, we partnered with Walgreens and reached out to nutritional experts for their takes on the best foods for digestive health. Take a look below:
1. Start With A Healthy Dose Of Prebiotics
Contrary to the popular belief that probiotics are the be-all and end-all of gut health, prebiotics are secretly where it’s at. Prebiotics are nondigestible food components that promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Think of them as fuel for probiotics.
“Prebiotics are basically dietary fiber, but you want a variety of dietary fiber sources, both soluble and insoluble fiber,” says Keith Ayoob, nutritionist and clinical professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. That means you’ll want a good base of soluble fiber from fruits and veggies, beans, peas and lentils, as well as insoluble fiber from whole grains, seeds, and wheat and corn brans.
“These fiber sources also help grow good bacteria in your gut ― that’s what prebiotics do,” he continues. “And keep in mind ― a healthy gut is hugely important. It’s actually where about 80 percent of your immune system lives.”
2. But Don’t Forget About Those Probiotics
A healthy base of prebiotics allows a gut to grow chock-full of healthy bacteria, or probiotics. Probiotics appear to help with digestion and support gut health. “Probiotics actually add healthy bacteria to your gut,” Ayoob says. “Think fermented and cultured foods, like yogurt, kefir and kimchi, and have at least one of these daily.”
Probiotics are typically found in bacteria-rich foods like yogurt, cheese and other dairy as well as fermented foods like sauerkraut and kombucha. Be wary, however, of store-bought fermented foods, which can be loaded with added sugar and sodium. Look for the words “live cultures” on dairy products or consider making your own probiotic-rich kefirand kombucha at home.
3. Double Down On Fruits And Veggies
A hearty diet rich in fruits and veggies is good for, well, practically everything, including digestive health. The skins and peels of many fruits and veggies are chock-full of insoluble fiber, while the foods themselves are loaded with soluble fiber and are nutrient rich. “The fruit and veggie world usually mixes soluble and insoluble fibers,” Ayoob says. “I always recommend as wide a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans as possible.”
Soft fruits and vegetables like bananas and avocados are easy on the digestive system. But, be healthily cautious of cruciferous vegetables like kale, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts, warns Tracy Lockwood, a nutritionist in New York City. “Because they are so incredibly fibrous, they take a lot of energy to break down into a digestible form, thus causing bloat and stomach discomfort.” She recommends steaming or sauteing these veggies before eating to ease the digestion work your gut will have to do later.
4. And Remember: Stay Hydrated
The one thing all of our experts had to say about gut health? Drink up. Drinking water before and after meals actually aids in digestion, according to the Mayo Clinic, by helping break down food. Aren’t sure you’re getting enough H20? Jamie Logie, nutritionist and personal trainer, recommends an easy solution: Drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.
“Water is very critical for digestion, absorption and also circulation of nutrients in the body,” he says. “Many people try to get fiber intake up, add some probiotics [for digestive health], but forget how crucial water is in the whole equation. When you’re dehydrated you make digestion pretty difficult.” In addition to drinking water, eating foods high in water content ― like cucumbers, melons and tomatoes ― can help keep you hydrated throughout the day.