Simply put, digestion is the breaking down of food by your body into much smaller particles that can be absorbed and used. Your body is able to digest some foods better and easier than others, namely those which are absent of artificial chemicals, preservatives and GMOs. The best diet will include probiotics, prebiotics and natural, organic foods. That last category is especially important because it’s what helps limit your exposure to toxins used in food production and manufacturing. To support your digestive health, include the following sixteen natural foods in your diet.
Yogurt has gotten a lot of publicity in recent years and it’s deserved. Organic yogurt delivers probiotic benefits as it provides bacterial colonies needed by the human digestive tract to break down many foods and nutrients. Additionally, probiotics encourage the development of healthy flora in the gut and a balance of good and bad bacteria. When choosing a yogurt, be sure to look for organic and avoid those which contain toxic junk like aspartame.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Both orange and purple-fleshed sweet potatoes provide a wide range of nutrients. These potent sources of Vitamins A, C and B6, potassium and tryptophan also contain powerful flavonoids. Researchers are currently exploring the impact of several of these flavonoids, especially peonidins and cyanidins, for reducing gastrointestinal irritation by removing oxidative factors and toxic metals in the digestive tract. An excellent nutrient source on their own, sweet potatoes offer digestive support as well.
Kiwis have received a lot of attention for their positive impacts on digestion. A potent source of Vitamins C, K, E and folate, they also appear to improve mucin production in the gut.  Mucin is helpful because it protects the lining of the gut – stomach and intestines – from acids, toxins and other potentially damaging compounds. Making kiwi part of a balanced diet supports digestive health and healthy cholesterol and blood pressure. 
Apples contain pectin, a prebiotic. This feeds and supports intestinal flora (bacteria) needed for digestion. Apples also contain vitamin C, fiber and water which help with digestion and the removal of toxins from the body.
This gourd has been historically used to remedy digestive distress. Recent studies have explored its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cucumbers also contain a mixture of proteolytic enzymes which help to digest amino acids.
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a nutrient dense food. A serving contains vitamins C, E, K, folate, thiamin and vitamin B6. They have high nutritional values of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and manganese and are a significant source of fatty and amino acids. Studies have found this high nutrient density is the reason chickpeas provide beneficial effects for digestive health. 
Papaya extract has traditionally been taken to relieve heartburn and aid digestion. A digestive enzyme in papaya, papain, breaks down protein facilitating nutrient absorption. It has also been found to possess properties that may help protect the gut flora from harmful organisms.  As a sidenote, do be careful to avoid GMO papaya which is very common.
Carrots are high in fiber, specifically pectin. While the insoluble fibers help move food through the digestive tract, soluble fibers like pectin act are prebiotics. This improves digestive function by stimulating gut flora and improving the assimilation of nutrients and minerals.
Yacon, also known as jicama, is an Andean root possessing powerful digestive effects. It contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS), phenolic compounds and inulin, an important digestive enzyme. FOS and inulin are prebiotics that encourage the growth of a specific bacteria, bifidobacteria which enhances absorption and intestinal function. Consumption of these prebiotics facilitate digestion and have even been reported to support immune function and regulate healthy lipid levels. 
Cocoa, the main source of chocolate and coffee, has been found to have powerful polyphenols that exert an antioxidant effect. These polyphenols have also been found to be a prebiotic to gut bacteria. A study of these polyphenols found that they increased the presence of gut bacteria and improved the conversion of polyphenols into phenolic acids, which aid digestion. 
Fish provide omega-3 fatty acids, necessary amino acids and essential vitamins and minerals. Omega 3’s help reduce redness and swelling. The protein, vitamins and minerals contribute to overall health, protecting the digestive environment for the essential bacteria needed to assist in human digestion.
Ginger has been used for centuries as a remedy for nausea and digestive complaints. The traditional applications have been supported by a significant amount of research.  The active components of ginger, gingerols 6, 8, and 10, have been observed to provide immediate impact on digestive metabolism without any long term side effects. 
These tiny veggies offer an extensive range of concentrated vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, starch and phytochemicals. While the extent of their health benefits continues to be studied, research has identified galactose oligosaccharides as a prebiotic for bacteria in the colon.  Combine this with its antioxidant properties and its selenium and folate content and peas offer a simple way to enhance dietary nutrition and digestive health.
Almonds have been used in folk medicine to calm acid reflux. They have also been recognized for their sugar stabilizing and cholesterol lowering effects…and now they can be recognized for their positive impact on digestive health. Researchers have found almonds provide prebiotic effects, encouraging the growth of intestinal bacteria aiding digestion and encouraging nutrient absorption. 
15. Onions and Garlic
These two potent herbs provide an extensive array of health benefits. Of specific note is their prebiotic effect as a result of their inulin content. Season foods with these two flavorful herbs to assist digestion.
Bananas are known for their high magnesium and potassium levels, and as an excellent source of B vitamins. They also contain inulin, an important prebiotic that stimulates Bifidobacterium function.  Making bananas a part of the diet will do more than provide vitamins and minerals – it will aid digestion to get you the most nutrients possible!
Got a favorite that I missed? Please leave a comment below and share it with us!
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM
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