Robyn Youkilis is the good-digestion guru. In fact, she wrote the book about it. Here's her ultimate list of foods for great digestion, and yes, optimal pooping.
Aim for local and organic, and they should always be unpasteurized and refrigerated. You want a living, growing product, so it's important to choose products that don't contain vinegar. Vinegar kills the live bacteria. These foods should be used in small doses, like a condiments, with each meal. They're great, but not better than fresh veggies! You can aim for roughly one cup per day total.
- pickled vegetables
- tempeh (fermented soybean cake)
- kombucha (a fermented tea beverage, drink in much smaller portions than the bottle says — only up to 4 ounces at a time)
- beet kvass (another fermented beverage primarily made from beets and water)
Dairy based (if you can digest dairy):
Unusual and fun:
- bean curd
- fermented breads such as sourdough and injera
- fermented drinks such as amazake (Japanese rice drink)
- ginger beer
- coconut water kefir (from fermented water kefir grains)
Foods rich in prebiotics provide probiotics for the good bacteria in your gut. Think of them like food for the seeds you plant in your internal garden. Note that most of these foods must be eaten raw or lightly cooked to obtain the good gut benefits. Try to eat 3 servings of prebiotic foods a day.
- dandelion greens and root
- green onions (anything from the allium family)
- Jerusalem artichokes
- chicory (used in coffee substitutes)
Healthy Oils & Fats
All oils should be organic, cold-pressed, and unrefined (you want them minimally processed and tampered with). Keep shelf-stable oils in a dark cabinet and away from sunlight so they don’t oxidize. Eat a little healthy fat with each meal.
Any of the flavoring and medicinal oils benefit from being refrigerated.
Multi-use shelf-stable favorites:
- red palm (sustainably sourced and harvested only)
Flavoring only (not to be heated):
- pumpkin seed
- sacha inchi (an oil from the sacha inchi seed)
- cod liver
- evening primrose
Nuts & Seeds
Always purchase organic, sprouted when possible, and raw (or sprout them yourself by soaking in water, then drying).
Nuts that have been commercially roasted, salted, etc., will add more salt and fat than you want and typically use poor-quality oils and salt. They can trigger other cravings as well.
For example, I have a client who upgraded from overconsumption of sugar to overconsumption of tamari almonds. While the latter is technically a little better for her body and digestive system, it sabotaged her progress toward a healthier weight until we discovered this issue.
A note on flax seeds: Whole flax seeds cannot be broken down and will pass through your digestive system unused. Grind fresh whole seeds in small batches with a spice grinder or simply purchase as flax meal (but only if it’s a heavily trafficked store and/or kept in the refrigerator aisle). Be sure to refrigerate them and use shortly after grinding.
Note: Nuts are not popcorn! Mother Nature designed a nut perfectly — with a shell that’s hard to crack so we would only consume a small serving at a time.
This is a gentle reminder once again that overconsumption of anything is tasking your belly with more than it needs and can deal with, in this case with too much of a good thing, those healthy fats, so eat your nuts and seeds sparingly. A small handful is a good serving size.
- sesame (I especially love a traditional macrobiotic seasoning called gomasio — ground sesame seeds and sea salt)
Healthy Fat-Containing Foods
Our bodies need fat to help us feel full and metabolize the nutrients we are receiving from the foods we eat. You want to make sure every meal you eat has some source of quality healthy fat from natural sources from this list, or the Healthy Oils & Fats or Nuts & Seeds sections.
Wild-caught fatty fish:
Note: Do not be afraid of eating the skin and little bones in your fish; they nourish your skin and bones, too.
The collagen that breaks down from the connective tissue of bones simmered to make broth is an important component to help heal the lining of the gut. This creates a happier home for healthy bacteria.
The bioavailable minerals from the bones help increase mineral reserves in the body, making it more alkaline and supporting your body’s natural buffering system. Try introducing 1 to 2 cups of bone broth to your diet each week.
Greens & Herbs
These provide perfect roughage for your colon; you’ll want to aim to have an item from this list at every meal. Pile these foods on!
- kale (all varieties)
- turnip greens
- beet greens
- mustard greens
- all lettuces (Boston or bibb, romaine, radicchio, red or green leaf, frisée, mesclun)
- Swiss chard
- bok choy
- and more!
Digestive-Enhancing & Immune-Boosting Foods
Sprinkle these spices and alliums into meals for extra flavor and digestive benefits.
- cayenne pepper
- black pepper
- all peppers
- bitters: from the health food store, not the kind used to make cocktails. You want them to be really bitter to produce digestive juices. Have a few drops before any meal.
Depending on your specific needs, some of these supplements may be helpful for optimizing digestion.
- aloe vera: soothing, cooling, and calming. It also promotes growth of cells.
- magnesium powder
- marshmallow root
- licorice root
- slippery elm bark: create a mucilaginous coating of the gut walls
- activated charcoal: eases digestion and removes toxins
- triphala: an Ayurvedic treatment
- rose essence
- colostrum digestive enzymes
Immune boosters and illness fighters:
- olive leaf extract
- oil of oregano