Fuel Your Gut
We all know how tempting it is to indulge in unhealthy foods like pizza, chips, ice cream and fried foods, but we also know the familiar regret when our body rejects that food. We feel tired, sluggish, moody and unsatisfied. Feeding your body with nutrient-rich food is like filling your car with the highest quality fuel. You can guarantee better performance.
Eating with colon health in mind is quite simple. The major building blocks for a colon-healthy diet include fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are rich in fiber. Another component for optimal digestion and health is adequate hydration.
It is as straight-forward as this: instead of filling your pantry with boxes of processed food, fill your refrigerator with colorful foods that are crunchy, juicy, nutty and full of new flavors and textures.
Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables
Studies on colon health have found that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is best because each fruit and vegetable offers specific nutrients and antioxidants that the body needs.
When you are selecting fruits and vegetables, choose fruits and vegetables in a wide array of colors so you are “Eating a Rainbow.” Having each color represented in your diet will ensure that you are getting all your vitamins and minerals for colon health.
At least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is a good place to start. Since fruits and vegetables are filling and low in calories, they can help you manage your weight so you are not hungry for those unhealthy foods that you used to eat!
Whole grains are an essential part of colon health. Along with carbohydrates, whole grains contribute protein and fiber to the diet. You probably eat more whole grains than you realize. A bowl of morning oatmeal, a sandwich made on whole wheat bread, or some popcorn are all good sources of whole grains. Most of us are also eating foods made with refined grains and bleached flour that are nutrient-poor, so the challenge is to replace refined grains with whole grains.
When you eat whole grains, you are getting valuable antioxidants which are not found in fruits and vegetables. You are also getting B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber. There is medical evidence that whole grains reduce your risk for cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity. For maximum nutrition, choose whole grains that are unrefined and vary your selections so your body can receive maximum benefit. Try adding some of these whole grains in your diet:
- Whole grain bread (unrefined)
- Whole oats (oatmeal)
- Brown rice
- Wild rice
- Whole-grain barley
Fiber acts as a cleaning agent for your colon and removes waste, debris and toxins left behind in the digestive process. The best kind of fiber to ingest is foods that are rich in fiber, so look for breads and cereals that are made from whole grains and are also rich in fiber. Nuts and seeds also provide fiber and are a delicious way to add texture to foods like salads, soups and even desserts.
Women should ingest at least 25 grams of fiber per day, and men should have 30-35 grams of fiber per day. Most of us are deficient in fiber, so we should be actively looking for ways to increase our daily intake of fiber. There are many fiber supplements available at grocery and health food stores that could help boost daily fiber, but the best source of fiber is from food. When you derive your daily fiber from your diet, you will be forced to make more healthy choices when you shop!
There are two types of fiber, and a healthy colon requires both:
Water and Proper Hydration
As you add more fiber to your diet, you must also increase your fluid intake. Everyone should drink at least 64 ounces of water per day, but you may want to drink more water to keep stools soft. Keep record of your fluid intake and consider using a water bottle that has volume markings so you can easily track your water consumption throughout the day.
A way to enhance colon health and the digestive process is to talk to your doctor about adding probiotics to your diet. Probiotics are live colonies of beneficial bacteria that aid digestion and eliminate harmful bacteria and toxins in the gut. Kefir, kombucha, kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut and some yogurts are good sources of probiotics. When choosing a probiotic, look for the term “billions of live cultures” instead of “millions of live cultures.” Although both terms seem to be the same, millions of cultures do not provide enough benefit to the digestive system.
The most common probiotics are part of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families because they are safe and generally have no side effects. If you have an immune disorder or are being treated for cancer, you should not take probiotics.
Studies show that vitamin D is an important component in colon health. Having adequate vitamin D in the diet can reduce your risk of colon cancer by as much as 33 percent. Unfortunately, three-quarters of American teens and adults are deficient in vitamin D. Very few foods are rich in vitamin D, so we depend on fortified milk, cereals and juices. Eggs, liver, liver oil, salmon, herring, catfish and trout are good sources of vitamin D, as well as some good, old-fashioned sunshine. Our bodies can convert sunlight to vitamin D with as little as 10 minutes of unprotected exposure to the sun. Absorb rays responsibly, and add some more vitamin D to your diet to help prevent colon cancer.
As you expand your diet to include all the colon-friendly foods that will nourish your digestive system, your body will crave nutritious, healthy foods and not junk food. Eating healthy is satisfying and delicious.