So you know the drill that the mainstays of your diet should be fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products and whole grains.
But as you wander the grocery aisles, you're wondering, "What should I purchase that will truly benefit my digestive health?"
I have often wondered that as well, which is why -- after perusing several health information sites -- I have selected five foods to always toss into my grocery cart.
It contains whole soy protein that serves as a good, occasional replacement for red meat and chicken. Soy is being studied for many properties, not the least of which is its potential to attack the fat hidden in your liver.
Soy protein appears to benefit fat metabolism in liver cells and to lower triglycerides, a study from the University of Illinois has suggested.
Whole grain bread
The more grains, the better. I look for loaves not only with whole wheat flour, but also barley, oats or rye. Health experts say not to shy away from bread unless you truly have gluten intolerance or a food allergy.
Whole grains help provide the fiber your digestive system needs, along with fighting heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Blueberries or strawberries
Blueberries have been touted as a "superfood," and they frequently are mentioned when the topic is disease prevention. Along with strawberries, blueberries contain a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanidin.
So I choose one basket of berries or another, depending on the season or what's available in the frozen food aisle, knowing that berries are a good addition to the mix of fruits that everyone must eat to take in sufficient fiber for digestion.
Again working with the idea that a variety of fruits and vegetables will aid digestion, I choose broccoli because of its many documented health properties and because I never get tired of it.
Cruciferous vegetables contain lots of good vitamins and minerals. Cauliflower is a good alternative.
Speaking of fiber, it's a good preventive measure against diverticula, the small sacs that can form on your colon and can occasionally lead to a painful condition called diverticulitis.
I have a few favorite brands, all offering probiotics and all good-tasting to boot.
The evidence continues to point to probiotics in some form or another as a way to balance bacteria in the gut and ward off irritable bowel syndrome -- those days when either constipation or diarrhea or both are wearing you down. Yogurt adds to my needed calcium intake as well.
Fortunately, I really like all of these foods and enjoy finding recipes to incorporate them. But these five foods are merely my personal guidelines.
There's always room for your own favorite spin. And watch out for foods that might irritate your stomach.
Try for a mix of insoluble and soluble fiber. Some foods pass through your system without much breakdown and other foods turn into a gel-like substance in your intestine.
I like to consult a chart from Harvard University Health Services, which you can print out by going to http://huhs.harvard.edu/assets/File/OurServices/Service_Nutrition_Fiber.pdf
In addition, realize that you can try many healthy foods, but your digestive system won't be happy unless you drink plenty of water.
I have come to the conclusion that I need six to eight glasses a day, whether I down eight ounces of water at once, or sip water throughout the day, or use it to dilute my iced tea and juice.
See for yourself which particular food items should be on your permanent shopping list and get your digestive system humming.
"Soy Protein for Fatty Liver." DrWeil.com. Web. 18 June 2012.
Tallmadge, Katherine. "7 bad foods that are actually good for you." The Washington Post. Web. 18 June 2012.
"America's Healthiest Superfoods for Women." Health.com. Web. 18 June 2012.
"Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis." National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Web. 18 June 2012.
Reviewed June 19, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith