Sweet treats and alcoholic drinks are adjacent to holiday cheer and though they make us feel jolly, our gut has a very different experience.
Still, you can enjoy the holidays, and avoid unwanted issues like bloating and constipation, by eating certain foods that shore up your gut health, according to Daryl Gioffre, celebrity nutritionist and gut specialist.
“You have to look at your gut like a garden, you want lots of flowers, you don’t want lots of weeds,” Gioffre says. Metaphorically speaking, good bacteria are your flowers and bad bacteria are your weeds, he explains.
“Unfortunately for most of us, the weeds have overtaken the garden.”
There are some foods that can help replace the bad bacteria in your gut with good bacteria, Gioffre says.
Here are some gut-healthy foods that he and Caroline Margolis, registered dietitian with Lifeway Foods, recommend adding to the menu during the holiday season.
4 types of gut-friendly foods to eat during the holidays
1. Green leafy vegetables
“The key component of why green leafy vegetables help your gut [is because] they’re all high in minerals like potassium, but especially magnesium,” Gioffre says. “They’re really good because they lower inflammation in the gut, and those minerals neutralize a lot of the acids because a lot of people eat acidic foods that can make the gut more acidic.”
Reach for leafy greens like:
- Sprouts, especially broccoli sprouts
This holiday season, aim to start your day with a green juice or green smoothie, Gioffre suggests. You can also have soups and salads, but avoid salad dressings high in vinegar because vinegar is typically high in yeast, “which can be detrimental to the gut,” he adds, with the exception of apple cider vinegar.
2. Fermented foods
Fermented foods are high in probiotics, “the beneficial bacteria that can help improve gut health and lower inflammation, and defend against the bad bacteria that creates inflammation in the gut,” Gioffre says.
A few great fermented foods you should add to your diet include:
- Sauerkraut with live cultures
- Coconut yogurt
In addition to digestive health benefits, fermented foods are also associated with a boost in immune health, Margolis says, “which is important during the holidays.”
3. Fiber-rich foods
“These are really good because they promote regular bowel movements, and they kind of help keep your gut in motion,” Gioffre says. “It’s critical because once the gut becomes constipated, then it just backs up the entire system.”
Make meals with foods rich in fiber like:
- Wild rice
- Sweet potatoes
Most people aren’t getting enough fiber in their diet, Gioffre notes. He still advises not exceeding more than one full cup of fiber per day because too much fiber can cause digestive issues as well.
4. Omega-3 fatty acids
“Omega-3 fatty acids [are] so powerful. They lower inflammation in the gut,” Gioffre says. “The goal of everything we do with our gut is to lower inflammation because it’s our first line of defense. The gut is the first line of defense to everything happening, from the water that we drink, the air that we breathe [to] the food that we eat, so we’ve got to take care of the gut for so many reasons.”
Some omega-3 fatty acids that you can add to the menu are:
- Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts
- Seeds including chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds
As a healthy reminder, Gioffre and Margolis both recommend being compassionate with yourself during the holidays and not being hard on yourself about what you’re eating.
“Enjoy your food,” Margolis says. “Don’t limit yourself. Don’t not have dessert. Enjoy the holidays!”
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