Why are some foods hard to digest?

Many people often have problems with digesting foods due to a variety of reasons. Conditions like diarrhea, nausea, gastroenteritis, diverticulitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and inflammatory bowel disorder require the intake of easily digested food.

We all experience some form of digestive distress in our life. While many like to blame much of this on wheat, many food scientists do not agree. Our digestive system remains strong when we are young, but as the age develops, we face trouble digesting the same food. Somewhere along the way, our ability to digest foods that are inherently harder to digest (such as wheat and dairy) became compromised.

See: Cure Indigestion with Amlapittantak Rasayan and Dhatri Rasayan

What are easy to digest foods?

How are easy to digest foods beneficial?

All of us, at some stage in our lives, experience some type of stomach upset. This discomfort can be attributed to a selection of things and can appear to be heartburn, acid reflux, a bloated stomach, feeling gassy, or indigestion. It is often a somewhat uncomfortable experience. Several studies investigated the intake of a low-fiber or low-residue diet as an adjuvant to cathartic regimens concerning colon-cleansing efficacy and patient compliance. Low-residue or low-fiber diets may also be of value in specifically indicated clinical situations. Conditions that may require a low-residue or low-fiber diet are many. These conditions include gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, bowel obstruction, diverticulitis, pre- and/or post abdominal surgery, and other gastrointestinal or inflammatory disorders.  In a flare-up, the diet can reduce the frequency and volume of stools and induce a primary remission in disease.

To facilitate this, you can make dietary changes to include food that is low in fiber as the body digests them faster. Fibers are the part of fruits, vegetables, and grains usually not digested by your body. When these undigested fibers pass through your large intestine, they cause issues like bloating and difficulty to pass stool. Here are some easy foods on the stomach, which you can eat to reduce digestive symptoms like bloating, constipation, and gas.

- Rice – White rice is easily digested owing to its low fiber content. White rice is a source of energy and protein. Having plain white rice, without any toppings, is good for the stomach. On the other hand, brown rice has many nutrients, and the bran layer on it has a profound effect on digestion. Brown rice inhibits the absorption of moisture from the intestines, which delays rice disintegration and its dissolution. This action, in turn, slows the emptying of solids and is not easily digested. However, brown rice can be a good option for people suffering from diarrhoea.1. 

- Toast – Toast is the easiest food to digest compared to bread as it has lesser carbohydrate content. It helps reduce nausea and heartburn. Whole wheat bread is higher in fiber and is often difficult to digest. It is often advisable to try white bread in such problems. You can try whole wheat bread in small amounts to check whether you can tolerate it or not, since it is healthier.

- Bananas – Bananas are rich in carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, and other vitamins and minerals. It is filling as well as easily digestible. Bananas provide fluids that are necessary for people with diarrhea or constipation to heal. People with diabetes, however, should not consume bananas as the carbohydrates in bananas turn into sugar.3.

People suffering from IBS may face bloating, cramping, and other IBS symptoms when eating bananas. They must focus on a diet with low FODMAP. Bananas come under high FODMAP food.3.

- Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes have soluble fibers which come under easy to digest foods. Soluble fibers increase the number of good bacteria in our intestines, making our digestive system healthy. It is also high in electrolytes, like potassium, that is lost during diarrhea. It is a medium source of FODMAP, and so, people with IBS should have only small portions of it.5.

- Saltine Crackers – Saltine crackers help those experiencing nausea to settle down, especially during pregnancy. They help absorb the gastric acid in the stomach and settle a nauseous stomach. They are easy to digest and provide nutrition and energy.6. 

- Oatmeal – For long term usage, saltine crackers are highly processed, and oatmeal is a healthier option. Oatmeal is less processed, but a good source of energy, minerals, B vitamins, and vitamin K. Making oatmeal with water reduces the fat content. If you wish for some flavor in healthy foods, honey is an excellent add-on. However, stick to raw oats rather than packages instant ones.  

- Yogurt: Yogurt is easy to digest and full of good bacteria that help heal your stomach. Try natural yogurt without any flavors. Flavored yogurt has high sugar content, meaning more carbohydrates and taking longer to digest.

- Nuts: Nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pecans are least acidic and easiest to digest. They are high in vitamin B, good for metabolism and growth, and contain omega three fatty acids and natural oils that improve digestion. If you are not allergic to nuts, these are easiest to eat and digest since they are essentially seeds of plants.4.

- Eggs: Are eggs easy to digest? Well yes! Eggs have a high nutritive value, and the egg components are also reported to be highly digestible. Eggs are better digested when consumed after cooking because a small amount of egg proteins is not assimilated when consumed raw. The higher digestibility of cooked eggs results from structural protein denaturation induced by heating. This process facilitates the hydrolytic action of digestive enzymes. Eggs are also suitable for people who are recovering from nausea or stomach virus. The white part of the egg is easier to digest, but people can most easily digest the yolk .2. 

Chicken: Chicken contains a lean protein that helps the body heal itself. It is rich in a range of minerals and vitamins B. They do not contain any fibers, which makes them very easy to digest. People with IBS are also recommended to eat chicken. Healthy ways to eat chicken are baking, grilling, or eating them skinless as these reduce the fat.

- Bone Broth: Bone broth is among the best foods you can eat to promote a healthy and robust digestive system. Bone broth boosts your immunity against gut infections and inflammation while at the same time promoting healthy bowel movement because of the rich source of hydration and the gelatin that comes out of it. The broth also contains glycine, which studies reveal further assists digestion and the breakdown of fatty acids. Moreover, bone broth includes an amino acid called glutamine. This compound has been proven to heal the intestinal obstruction and benefit those suffering from leaky gut syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.

- Tuna: Tuna is a lean fish that's full of easily-digestible protein. Animal protein, unlike plant protein, is simple to get and not hindered by tannins. This fact makes tuna a perfect choice should you're struggling with digestive troubles. Tuna is eaten steamed, baked, or straight from a tin, but try to avoid skillet because this adds excess oils, which are more challenging to digest. Other fishes that are low in fat and high in protein work well for upset stomachs, e.g., cod and haddock. Make sure not to consume excessive quantities of tuna as it's high mercury levels.

- Ginger: Ginger has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries and, using a high volume of potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus, among other nutrients, its health benefits are many. It has proven scientific benefits for eliminating nausea and several ailments, including digestion and stomach pain. It's a versatile root spice and is well worth considering if you don't be feeling great. If directly eating ginger could be too unpleasant for you, then a fantastic choice is ginger tea. Even though you can not eat it, it will still create an excellent combination with another food for soothing the stomach.

- Kimchi: Kimchi is a fermented vegetable food good for digestion and bloating. Its fermented veggies are easy to digest for a similar reason as to why steamed vegetables are easier to digest. Additionally, kimchi generally contains fermented carrot, is a classic Korean favorite, and contains the science to back up its claims to help out your digestion. What's not to love in this intriguing alternative?

- Applesauce: While being a stewed fruit,  applesauce is a staple of the BRAT diet and those suffering from an upset stomach. This benefit is because raw fruits contain more enzymes and nutrients, which are more difficult to break down. With stewed fruits, you are essentially skipping a digestion stage that is easy on your digestive tract. However, applesauce also contains pectin that could help re-establish a wholesome gut. Applesauce is soft food that is kind in your digestive system and simple to make at home and is no surprise as to why it is considered among the best foods for digestion.

- Avocado: Avocados are a low-FODMAP berry that is also regarded as a superfood. The avocado is a low-FODMAP fruit and useful for individuals suffering from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They're a well-known supply of minerals, nutrients, vitamins, and carotenoids, and the protein from avocados contains all of the essential amino acids that benefit digestion.

- Melons: These soothing and refreshing fruits are perfect for eating if you be experiencing stomach issues. They're packed with water and help you to stay hydrated that aids the digestion procedure. Melons contain a great deal of vitamin C, which helps to reduce the common colds.

- Pumpkin: There is a reason why pumpkins are often among the first foods given to infants. When cooked well, a pumpkin is soothing, nourishing, and quite easy to digest. Given that pumpkins are connected with lower glucose blood levels, this makes the pumpkin, among other things, great for individuals suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, or mobile oxidation stress.

- Khichdi: If you're vegan, let the Ayurvedic khichdi function as a replacement for chicken soup. Khichdi is created with a combination of rice and many different lentils like yellow, green, or red split lentils is a healthful and quite a comforting meal. It's not just a combination of lentils and rice but the origin of carbs, vitamins, calcium, dietary fibers, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. You can add various vegetables, improve their nutritional values and flavor. As it doesn't consist of strong spices, Khichdi is always easy on intestines and the stomach, which makes it a perfect meal for sick men and women. This meal, packed with nutrients, is also a perfect supply of nourishment for infants, little kids, and elderly folks.

See: Probiotics benefits for digestive health

Summary

If you are experiencing indigestion, avoid spicy food, fatty foods (including red meat), acidic foods (citrus fruits included), artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols. Those who are lactose intolerant must steer clear of dairy products to avoid indigestion. Pregnancy also induces digestive problems when the baby begins to push against the stomach. 

See: Ginger for acid reflux relief

References

1. Physical Changes in White & Brown Rice During Simulated Gastric Digestion

2. Réhault-Godbert S, Guyot N, Nys Y. The Golden Egg: Nutritional Value, Bioactivities, and Emerging Benefits for Human Health. Nutrients. 2019;11(3):684. Published 2019 Mar 22. DOI:10.3390/nu11030684

3. Falcomer AL, Riquette RFR, de Lima BR, Ginani VC, Zandonadi RP. Health Benefits of Green Banana Consumption: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2019;11(6):1222. Published 2019 May 29. DOI:10.3390/nu11061222

4. Maria, Dinu & Soare, Rodica. (2015). Research on the sweet potato ( Ipomea batatas L.) behavior under the soi land climatic conditions of the South-West of Roumania. Journal of Horticulture, Forestry and Biotechnology, volume 19

5. Rasane P, Jha A, Sabikhi L, Kumar A, Unnikrishnan VS. Nutritional advantages of oats & opportunities for its processing as value-added foods - a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2015;52(2):662-675. DOI:10.1007/s13197-013-1072-1

6. Khan IT, Nadeem M, Imran M, Khalique A. Impact of post-fermentation cooling patterns on fatty acid profile, lipid oxidation, and antioxidant features of cow and buffalo milk set yogurt. Lipids Health Dis. 2020;19(1):74. Published 2020 Apr 15. DOI:10.1186/s12944-020-01263-1

7. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Low fiber diet do’s and don’ts. mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/low-fiber-diet/art-20048511

8. Pears, canned in light syrup. (n.d.).calorieking.com/foods/calories-in-canned-or-bottled-fruits-pears-canned-in-light-syrup_f-ZmlkPTYzNjkw.html

9. Carrots, raw. (n.d.). nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2383/2

10. Discover the digestive benefits of fermented foods. (2014). nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/10_2/current-articles/Discover-the-Digestive-Benefits-of-Fermented-Foods_1383-1.html

11. Gastrointestinal soft diet overview. (2014). my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15637-gastrointestinal-soft-diet-overview

12. Pears, raw. (n.d.). nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/2005/2

See: Ayurvedic Diet

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