Foods for digestive problems

While an unhealthful diet may cause nothing more than a few uncomfortable hours, eating the wrong foods over a long time can lead to more serious complications. As a primer on foods to avoid, or at least reduce, listed below are the 10 worst foods for digestive health:

1. Grease

Fried food is at the top of most gastroenterologists’ worst food list because it is so difficult to digest. If you have the slightest digestive sensitivity, fried food can kick off a bout of heartburn and acid reflux. Some of the worst offenders are French fries, fatty steaks and deep-fried anything.

2. Processed Food

The carbohydrates in refined foods — like chips, soda and white bread — move through your digestive system quickly, leading to symptoms like bloating, cramping and gas. The high fat and calorie content don’t do much for your weight and blood sugar levels either.

3. Chili Peppers

You might enjoy the sweat they stir up, but spicy peppers can cause heartburn for hours after you eat them. Hot, spicy foods are particularly dangerous for your digestive system when you eat them close to bedtime or when you lay down.

4. Chocolate

Yes, that sweet tooth you indulge is affecting more than the size of your thighs. Chocolate can trigger digestive symptoms like heartburn and upset stomach, especially if you have a disorder. For some people, it can even cause diarrhea and loose stools.

5. Artificial Sweeteners

While you think you’re doing your body a favor by shaving calories off your intake, your digestive system suffers when you substitute artificial sweeteners for natural sugar. The pink, yellow and blue packets are filled with ingredients that can cause bloating, diarrhea, and gas.

6. Alcohol

It’s not technically a food unless you consider the three-martini lunch. Even drinking alcohol in moderation can relax the sphincter in your esophagus, causing heartburn or acid reflux. Too much alcohol can inflame your stomach lining, negatively affect your liver, or lead to diarrhea. It also can prevent you from absorbing nutrients properly.

7. Corn

Too much of anything is bad for digestion, but corn in large amounts, because of its high cellulose content, can lead to significant gastrointestinal symptoms. Cellulose cannot be broken down by the human digestive tract. Corn passes through your system undigested; as such, it can cause cramps, abdominal pain, and gas in the process.

8. Coffee

Again, while it’s not a food, coffee definitely deserves a spot on this list. Coffee so irritates the stomach lining that nearly 40 million Americans have kicked the habit. Coffee can cause heartburn, acid reflux, and bowel habit– among other things. What’s in your mug?

9. Acidic Fruits

Just the name alone conjures up visions of acid reflux — and for good reason. Oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes and lemons are high in acid. Eating too much acidic fruit leads to the condition that carries its name. Eating these fruits on an empty stomach irritates your stomach lining even more.

10. Raw Vegetables

Even though you may know about the many health benefits of crunching raw veggies, you can expect to pay an intestinal price for over-indulging in the practice. Raw vegetables contain a lot of insoluble fiber that, like corn, can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea and cramps when they pass through your system undigested.

Use caution when trying a new food. If you have a diagnosed digestive condition, pay attention to what you eat. Sufferers of GERD, colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Celiac disease, for example, already know to avoid fried and fatty foods. Book an appointment with your doctor if your symptoms last for more than a day. Getting a proper diagnosis is the first step to making healthier choices in the future.

Contact NYC Gastroenterologist, Dr. Shawn Khodadadian, for more information on unhealthy foods for your digestive health.

Learn about which foods are the best for your digestive system!

The Best (and Worst) Foods for Your Gut

“I pooped three times today and feel great!” maybe isn’t something you shout from the mountaintops, but gut health is popping up more and more often in conversation these days. That’s because your gut microbiome (basically all the bacteria that live in your digestive tracts) has been associated with everything from allergies, obesity, and diabetes to irritable bowel syndrome, heart and brain health, and much more.

One way more and more people are trying to improve their gut health is by taking probiotics (that’s the more palatable term for bacteria) and prebiotics (the food bacteria eats). Nearly 3.9 million American adults take probiotic and prebiotic supplements to help improve their gastrointestinal health. And while taking a pill may help, it’s important to remember that supplements should be treated as just that—supplements to a healthy diet.

We’ve compiled some of the top gut-friendly foods to help boost your gut-health game. And be sure to keep reading for the foods that don’t help—and may actually hurt.

Foods That Help Your Gut

When it comes to foods that help promote a healthy gut, we really have two categories: probiotics and prebiotics. That’s one of the reasons fermented foods are so hot right now: Fermentation not only creates a wide range of tangy, funky foods, but it also results in a natural source of probiotics. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are fibers that we don’t digest ourselves, so they are consumed by the good bacteria in our gut. Taken together, prebiotics and probiotics can turn into a healthier, happier gut. Here are the top foods for better gut health.

1. Kimchi

This fermented cabbage Korean staple is rich in two classes of good bacteria associated with better gut health (they’re called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium if you want to get technical). Early research suggests fermented kimchi alters the bacterial environment of the gut, potentially reducing the risk of insulin resistance, obesity, and blood pressure. Not a fan of kimchi? Try other fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, or tempeh.

2. Yogurt

Like kimchi, yogurt is a naturally fermented food that can offer some serious probiotic power. Research found that women who ate a probiotic-rich yogurt for four weeks reported better gastrointestinal health, digestive comfort, and an overall improvement in quality of life.

While most yogurts contain bacteria, sometimes the strains used aren’t super beneficial or the heat-processing protocol kill off the good stuff. For that reason, you’ll want to look for a yogurt that has at least 1 billion live or active colony-forming units (CFUs) on the label. Sick of yogurt? Try kefir instead.

3. Jerusalem Artichokes

Also known as a sunchoke, the Jerusalem artichoke is a tasty tuber packed full of the prebiotic fiber inulin. Early research suggests that inulin from the sunchoke increases the good bacteria in the gut, suppresses the bad pathogenic bacteria, and helps promote regularity.

But a word to the wise—inulin in excess has been known to cause some serious gas. Hey, there’s a reason these babies are affectionately nicknamed “fart chokes.” We suggest introducing them to your diet slowly in small amounts until your gut adjusts. If you can’t find these nutty-sweet tubers, other great sources of inulin fiber include chicory root, asparagus, dandelion root, onions, and garlic.

4. Garlic

In addition to providing inulin fiber, garlic is also rich in the natural prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Early in vitro research has found that garlic increases the good Bifidobacteria in the gut, which may help prevent some gastrointestinal diseases and irregularity. If you want to double down on those FOS fibers, other rich sources include leeks, asparagus, and onions.

5. Green (Unripe) Bananas

Unripe bananas are loaded with prebiotic fiber-resistant starch, which is broken down by gut bacteria to develop those SCFAs (like butyrate) we discussed. Findings from a meta-analysis and systematic review of randomized control trials suggest that supplementing the diet with resistant starch significantly improved bowel movements and the overall function of the gut.

Research suggests you’ll likely want to aim for at least 6 grams of resistant starch per meal to reap the most benefits. So in addition to eating green bananas, you’ll also want to up your root veggies, legumes, and grains. And not just any grains—believe it or not, cooling off your starch (a.k.a. eating leftover cooked rice right from the fridge) can significantly increase the resistant starch content.

6. Barley

Barley is loaded with the prebiotic fiber beta-glucan, which research has found can increase the growth and probiotic benefits of four different good Lactobacillus strains. A randomized control trial also found similar outcomes for the good Bifidobacteria when volunteers supplemented their diets with fiber-rich barley. Not a fan of the grain? Try whole oats to get the same effect.

7. Apples

An apple a day keeps the gastroenterologist away, and that might be largely due to its pectin content. Pectin makes up about 50 percent of the fiber content in an apple and has been shown in exploratory animal research to help increase the total SCFA content (a.k.a. bacteria’s favorite food) in the bowels. It also appears to help reduce bad bacteria in the gut, so keep an apple on hand for your daily snack attack.

8. Shirataki Noodles

You know those weird low-cal noodles the keto world is crazy about? Yep, those are surprisingly good for your gut. This faux pasta is made from the konjac root, which is high in a prebiotic fiber called glucomannan. Research has shown glucomannan may help improve the frequency and volume of bowel movements as well as the overall bacterial composition in your gut. One study found that even a small dose of the fiber helped reduce constipation by 30 percent.

9. Cacao

Hey, we’ll take any excuse to double down on the chocolate. Cacao, the unprocessed version of chocolate, is rich in polyphenol flavanols, which, in addition to their heart-healthy properties, also have a prebiotic effect. One study found that consuming a drink rich in cocoa flavanols significantly increased the good Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli content of the gut while reducing the bad bacterial counts. To get the biggest flavanol bang for your chocolate buck, make sure you’re choosing cocoa nibs or a good quality dark chocolate with at least 70 to 80 percent cocoa content.

10. Wheat Bran

There’s a reason dietitians insist on eating more whole grains—it’s because they haven’t been stripped of their beneficial bran. Wheat bran contains a unique prebiotic fiber called arabinoxylan oligosaccharides (AXOS), which has been shown to increase the good Bifidobacteria in the gut. Studies have found that in comparison with refined white breads, whole-grain breads rich in AXOS helped improve bowel movement frequency, so make sure you’re looking for the words whole grain on the ingredient list of your morning toast.

Foods That Hurt Your Gut

While getting in lots of probiotics and prebiotics may help you improve your digestive health, avoiding some of these gut-busters may help too.

1. Too Much Alcohol

We know that too much alcohol isn’t a good thing for our health overall, but it turns out it’s really not good for our guts. Early research looking at alcoholics suggests that chronic alcohol intake is associated with changes in the bacterial microbiome, which may play a role in alcohol-induced tissue injury and liver disease.

2. Artificial Sweeteners

The health of non-nutritive sweeteners has been a hot topic of debate for years, but with increasing interest in gut health, we may see a clearer story emerge. Rat research dating back to the 1980s had linked the use of artificial sweeteners to shifts in the bacterial populations in the animal microbiome. Follow-up studies have even found an association between the use of artificial sweeteners and glucose intolerance, an outcome affiliated with the shift in gut bacteria. This has led to research on humans that also has noted an association between artificial sweeteners, metabolic outcomes, and changes in our gut microflora. Maybe it’s time to try to cut back on the fake stuff in favor of smaller amounts of real sugar.

3. High Saturated Fat Diet

Despite the popularity of high-fat diets, early research suggests that a diet rich in saturated and trans fat may not be so good for the gut. Studies in both animal and human populations have shown that a diet rich in saturated fat (like from butter or fatty cuts of meat) may increase the “bad” gut bacteria population and decrease the “good” bacteria. In contrast, enjoying more unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts may help your gut.

4. High Animal Protein Diet

Research has linked animal products, especially red meat, to an unfavorable microbiome. Studies suggest that red meat may reduce the beneficial short-chain fatty acids that help feed the bacterial community, promote the growth of “bad” bacteria, and potentially increase the risk of irritable bowel disease. We believe everything fits in moderation, so you don’t need to quit meat cold turkey (pun intended), but we can all likely benefit from eating less of it.

5. Food Additives

While research in humans is still lacking, early rodent research found an association between common food additives such as polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose (don’t worry, there won’t be a spelling quiz) and shifts in the microbiome. It also found evidence of intestinal inflammation and an increased risk of irritable bowel disease. What does this mean for humans? At this point, we’re not sure, but considering most food additives are present in high-fat, low-fiber, and heavily processed foods, it’s probably safe to say this type of food isn’t great for the gut.

6. Carrageenan (Possibly)

A common stabilizer found in cheese, ice cream, bread, jam, milk, and lunch meat, carrageenan has gotten a bad rap for its proposed role in gut inflammation. The vast majority of animal studies have found some evidence of intestinal damage with a carrageenan-rich diet, but how applicable this is to humans is another question.

And while the early human studies we do have displayed some signs of inflammation in response to carrageenan, it’s important to note that the studies didn’t even take place in the human body and the carrageenan wasn’t added into food, so it’s hard to know how things would fare in the real world.

Not surprisingly, building a better gut comes down to basic nutrition 101: Increase fiber-rich fruits and veggies; reduce refined, processed foods; and go easy on the booze.

For more great fitness tips, healthy recipes, and inspiration, check out our friends at Greatist.

Trouble with dairy? A new type of milk could provide a solution.

Maria Elena Sullivan could tell that her daughter Sofia, now 3, had trouble digesting milk from the moment she offered it to her at a year old. Sofia immediately spit it up. By the time she was 2, it was clear from her “serious reaction to it,” which included abdominal pain and vomiting, plus the fact that she routinely pushed it away when it was put in front of her, that Sofia could not tolerate regular milk at all. Then the Lakewood, Colo., mother came across a coupon for a free half-gallon of A2 milk, did a little research on it and decided to give it a try. She said Sofia “did just fine with it,” and now her daughter requests “A2 milk, please.”

At first glance, you might think that this new milk product is a quasi-natural, tinkered-with version of the real thing, but it is not. It is pure cow’s milk. It has no special additives — it is not lactose-free. What makes it different is that instead of containing A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins like ordinary cow’s milk does, it comes from cows that produce only the A2 variation of the protein. Because A1 can be hard for many people to digest, milk that contains only A2 is a helpful option, allowing people like Sofia to enjoy milk again. If you have trouble digesting milk — even if you think it is due to lactose intolerance — A2 milk could be the answer for you, too. The milk has been sold in Australia for more than a decade, was introduced to the United States in 2015 by the A2 Milk Company and is now available in grocery stores nationwide.

Goat, sheep, water buffalo and human breast milks all contain only A2-like proteins, and thousands of years ago, cow’s milk also had only A2. But with modern farming methods, European cow herds evolved to produce A1 as well. Today, some cows produce only A1, some only A2 and some both proteins. In regular milk production, all the cow’s milks are typically blended together so you get a mix of proteins in the carton. To get A2 milk, a simple genetic test is used to determine which cows make only that protein variation, and their milk is used exclusively.

Several animal and human studies show that A2 milk is more easily digested than A1 milk. Scientists are just beginning to understand how the protein affects people, but we do know that during the breakdown of A1 in the gut, a peptide fragment (a chain of amino acids) called BCM-7 is formed. This fragment can slow down digestion, trigger inflammation and cause symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation. No such fragment is formed with A2 digestion.

If those symptoms sound similar to those of lactose intolerance, it’s because they are. And many people may be misdiagnosing themselves when it is really A1 they need to avoid. That was the case for Manuel Villacorta, a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay area. “I always thought I was lactose intolerant but was never officially diagnosed,” he explained. He was skeptical about trying A2 milk and was taken aback when he tolerated it. “It really changed my life when it comes to milk.” Now when clients tell him they are lactose intolerant, he advises them to try it.

Scientists have long questioned why there are so many more people who say they are lactose intolerant than who actually have lactose malabsorption when tested. A sensitivity to A1 might just explain that gap. What’s more, even people who are officially diagnosed with lactose intolerance may do better with A2 milk because the inflammatory response caused by the BCM-7 fragment in the gut has been shown to worsen lactose intolerance.

With all the nondairy milks on the market (almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk . . . the list goes on), a person who has trouble digesting dairy has more options than ever, and you can certainly have a healthy diet without cow’s milk. But unlike those alternative milks, cow’s milk naturally provides a multitude of important nutrients such as protein, calcium, B vitamins and potassium. Plus it is a cornerstone of many wonderful dishes. If you are fine with regular cow’s milk, there is not enough reason to recommend switching to A2. But if you have difficulty digesting dairy and want to have it in your life, A2 milk just might be the solution.

  • Proteins take longer to digest in the stomach than do carbohydrates, and milk contains some of the slowest digesting proteins.
  • Casein proteins are soluble in milk but form insoluble curds once they reach the stomach, making it hard for digestive enzymes to break them apart.
  • Slower digestion also is associated with delayed release of the protein’s amino acids into the bloodstream.
  • Combined with the more quickly digested whey proteins, milk offers two sources of complete protein that help increase satiety and provide a consistent source of essential amino acids.

Foods traveling from the mouth to the intestines are a bit like drivers off to work on a four-lane interstate. Some foods get in the fast lane and are quickly digested, whereas others stay in the slow lane, taking longer to reach their final destination. Why some foods are speed demons and others Sunday drivers depends on the particular properties of the nutrients in the foods. For example, proteins take longer to break down in the stomach than do carbohydrates, and milk contains some of the slowest digesting proteins of all. What makes milk proteins such slow pokes?

Milk’s casein proteins actually go about making themselves more difficult to digest, forming small insoluble little balls, or curds, when they reach the stomach. Digestive enzymes have to work hard to break these curds apart, resulting in longer digestive times and slower release of the protein’s nutrition. These properties of milk caseins may have evolved to benefit mammalian infants, but slowed digestion offers the benefit of increased satiety to milk drinkers of all ages. Eating foods, like milk, that take the slow lane may mean eating less food overall.

Protein digestion: one brick at a time

At the simplest level, proteins are strings of amino acids held together by peptide bonds. But the foods we eat contain proteins in their most complex form—those strings of amino acids are rolled into balls, which need to be unrolled and snipped apart in order for the intestines to absorb and then transfer the individual amino acids into the bloodstream.

Imagine that a protein is a skyscraper awaiting demolition. Although a wrecking ball and some explosives might be the quickest way to knock it down, doing so will damage the individual bricks used to construct the building. For proteins, the bricks are the amino acids the body needs to manufacture other proteins (e.g. muscle fibers, antibodies, hormones). Proteins, thus, must be broken down, brick by brick. (This can explain why proteins appear to have a more satiating effect than carbohydrates—they spend more time in the stomach than do carbohydrates, which require little processing by the stomach .)

Stomach acids help to unfold all the twists and turns of the amino acid chains, allowing digestive enzymes produced by the stomach’s wall to get to work breaking the peptide bonds apart. The easier it is to get to the individual amino acids, the quicker the protein can be processed. As such, proteins with less structural complexity have quicker digestive rates.

Taking it slow: milk casein proteins

As proteins go, individual casein proteins from milk are fairly simple in their structure, lacking the high degree of coils, turns, and folds found in many other proteins . In theory, they should quickly move through the stomach and transfer their amino acids to the bloodstream soon after ingestion. In practice, however, researchers have found the exact opposite.

Casein proteins in milk form small spheres, called micelles, with the hydrophilic (water-loving) portions of the protein on the outside of the sphere and the hydrophobic (water-fearing) portions on the inside. With hydrophilic structures on the outside, the micelles are soluble in water (or milk, which is mostly water) . But when the micelles reach the stomach, “one of the most ingenious events in nature takes place” . The digestive enzyme chymosin snips one of the bonds on the exterior protein (known as the kappa subunit), leaving only the hydrophobic subunits inside . Without their protective layer, the now insoluble proteins form a curd. (If the term curd sounds a lot like curds and whey, there is a reason. In the process of making cheese, chymosin is also responsible for producing casein curds). Thus, by effectively turning a liquid into a solid, the enzyme makes casein proteins more difficult to digest.

Why would proteins that evolved to help nourish mammalian infants want to take longer to move through the gut and release their nutrients? There are obvious benefits to rapid digestion; nutrients and energy become available quickly after consumption, fueling immediate needs. Indeed, whey protein in milk is regarded as a “fast” protein because its amino acids appear in the bloodstream relatively quickly after digestion (one of many reasons milk’s whey proteins are promoted as recovery foods after exercise). One of the disadvantages to fast delivery, however, is the need to replace those nutrients more frequently. Evolution solved this problem by equipping milk with complementary “slow” casein proteins. In addition to keeping the infant feeling satiated, slower digestion also means a slower release and subsequent absorption of casein’s amino acids. By having complete proteins that take both the slow and fast lane, milk provides mammalian infants with a nearly consistent supply of amino acids needed for their growth and development.

Filling up on cow’s milk

When a human adult drinks a glass of cow’s milk, chymosin acts the same way it does in an infant. Curds are produced, and these take longer to break down into individual amino acids. So, does this mean that casein proteins keep adults feeling full for a longer period of time than other proteins, such as whey? Surprisingly, there is not a consensus on the satiating effects of casein from the nutritional research .

A 2013 review of clinical trials on the effects of casein, whey, and other dietary proteins on appetite found that, although several studies supported the hypothesis that casein would be more satiating than whey, many actually found the opposite . One reason for these confounding findings was the time period used to assess satiety. If satiety was measured within 1–2 hours after ingestion, whey seemed to be more effective, but if was measured 3+ hours after, casein kept the participants feeling more full . With longer-term supplementation (days compared with hours), casein supplementation influenced overall food consumption. Participants supplemented with casein proteins consumed less total food at the end of the 7-day study period compared with those on a whey supplement .

Taken together, the studies reviewed by Benndtsen et al. suggest positive effects of both whey and casein on appetite regulation. For those looking to reduce total food intake, the results of the longer-term studies are most encouraging. After all, weight loss or maintenance is not about how much food is consumed over the span of hours, but over weeks, months, and years. Milk is the only food to deliver both proteins simultaneously. If milk proteins can help reduce snacking in the short term and total food consumption in the long term, it could be an ideal food choice for those looking to reduce their total energy intake without compromising nutrition.

Caseins and cockroach crystals

There is another “milk” that could provide a satiating protein for humans, but it might not be as appetizing as are dairy milk, cheese, and yogurt. In an elegant example of evolutionary convergence, mammalian infants are not the only animal offspring that utilize a slow-digesting protein. Pacific Beetle cockroach embryos are fed a milk-like substance from their mothers, and researchers recently reported that the proteins from this liquid transform into high-energy crystal structures in the embryo’s gut . Although casein curds and roach milk crystals are not structurally similar, both effectively slow the release of the nutrients in the digestive tract of the offspring. Making milk a meal, rather than just a drink, appears to be an important evolutionary innovation for organisms as different as roaches, humans, and cows.

Contributed by
Dr. Lauren Milligan
Research Associate
Smithsonian Institute

Gastrointestinal Diet 2

This diet is designed to reduce gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort (abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea) after eating. The diet is based on the following guidelines:

  • Low fat: Fats are hard to digest and can increase diarrhea.
  • Low fiber: Certain fibers (insoluble fibers, such as in whole wheat products) can increase diarrhea or gas. However, the fibers allowed in the GI 2 diet (soluble fibers, such as apples and pears) help to form stools.
  • Low lactose: Dairy products contain a sugar called lactose that may be hard to digest during GI illness. Signs of poor digestion are bloating, gas, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Lactose-free milk is available as a substitute for regular milk. Talk with your dietitian about use of oral lactase enzyme tablets with other dairy products.
  • Low acid and irritants: Foods that are high in acid or spicy can irritate the mouth, stomach or GI tract.

The following are recommended as you start the GI 2 diet:

  • Carbohydrate-rich and protein-rich foods are easier for your body to digest than high-fat foods. Limit fatty foods to three servings each day to start with.
  • Limit meal size. Smaller, more-frequent meals are easier to digest.
  • Try one new food at a time. Wait at least three hours before trying another new food.
  • If your GI symptoms (abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea) increase, do not eat the most recently introduced food again. Tell your dietitian, nurse or doctor about your symptoms.
  • If your GI symptoms (abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea) increase, do not eat the most recently introduced food again. Tell your dietitian, nurse or doctor about your symptoms.

Most importantly, each person is different. What may be best for you may not be best for someone else. Your dietitian can give you additional guidelines based on your specific needs.

Special Guidelines

New Foods
Try new foods in the morning or mid-day. Often, foods are easier to digest when you are sitting up and are not tired.

Citrus and Tomato Products
Some people develop heartburn or an upset stomach after eating or drinking acidic foods, such as orange juice, lemonade, lime juice, tomato sauce, catsup, salsa and tomato soup. Foods containing vinegar, such as salad dressing, mustard and tartar sauce, may also cause discomfort. If you want to try any of these foods, talk to your dietitian.

When you add these foods to your diet, start with small amounts, such as ¼ cup orange juice, juice diluted with an equal amount of water, or 2 teaspoons catsup. You can also try different recipes. For example, tomato soup made with lactose-free milk may be easier to digest than tomato soup made with water.

If the foods you try cause no discomfort, then you can try slightly larger amounts in the future.

Some dairy foods have very small amounts of lactose. Your dietitian may suggest that you do not need to take lactase enzyme tablets with these items. Examples are:

  • Half-and-half (if using only 1 to 2 tablespoons)
  • Sour cream (if using only 1 to 2 tablespoons)
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Cream cheese
  • Certain cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, parmesan, provolone, brick and colby

Sorbitol is a sugar that can cause diarrhea in some people. It occurs naturally in some juices. Sorbitol is sometimes used as a sweetener in candies and gums, especially sugar-free varieties.

Natural juices with sorbitol are apple juice, cherry juice, peach juice or nectar, and pear juice or nectar. If you choose a juice containing sorbitol, start with a small amount (1/4 cup). If it does not cause diarrhea, you can increase the portion size next time.

Examples of candies and gums which may contain sorbitol are BreathSavers sugar-free mints, no-sugar-added ice cream and sugar-free gum. Look for sorbitol in the ingredients list on the food label.

Gas (Flatulence)
Some foods and eating habits may cause uncomfortable gas. The following suggestions can help prevent gas:

  • Avoid carbonated beverages. (Flat soda is fine.)
  • Eat slowly.
  • Chew with your mouth closed.
  • Do not gulp food.
  • Do not drink with a straw.

Fat Substitutes
Avoid products with Olestra or Olean. These are fat substitutes found in some fat-free chips and crackers. They may cause flatulence and diarrhea.

Some people are sensitive to certain spices. The GI 2 diet excludes spices known to cause problems with digestion. Some people may have discomfort after eating other spices. You should avoid spices that seem to cause heartburn or upset stomach.

Food Labels
You can make better food selections by reading labels. Here are some things to watch for:

  • Serving sizes: What is one serving? Remember that the amount of fat, calories or protein listed on the label is based on the printed serving size.
  • Choose lunchmeats and cheeses with 5 grams of fat or less per serving. Choose crackers, chips or other snack foods with 2 grams of fat or less per serving. Be sure to limit your portion based on the serving size!
  • Look for milk, lactose, nonfat milk powder or other forms of milk or cheese in the ingredient list. Ask your dietitian if you should take lactase enzyme tablets with foods containing forms of milk or cheese.
  • Compare the amount of fat per serving in regular products with the amount in reduced-fat or low-fat versions. Some products differ by only 1 to 2 grams of fat per equal serving size. How much of the food will you eat at one time? If you plan to eat a larger amount of the food, it makes sense to choose the lower-fat product. If you will eat very little of the food (one serving or less), choose the product that you enjoy most.

Gastrointestinal Diet 2 and Daily Food Allowances

All foods must be selected and prepared according to the Diet for Immunosuppressed Patients. Some people may not tolerate all foods listed on this diet. It is important to work with a dietitian when advancing from the Gastrointestinal Diet 1 to the Gastrointestinal Diet 2.

Dairy and Supplements

Recommended foods (3 or more cups per day)

Note: Chocolate flavored beverages are allowed.

Take with lactase enzyme tablet as needed (discuss with nutritionist):

Foods to avoid

  • Any milk or milk-based product not pre-treated or not taken with lactase enzyme

Meat or Meat Substitutes

Recommended foods (3 or more 3-ounce servings per day or suggested portion size)

  • Well-cooked, lean cuts of broiled, baked or roasted fish, meat, skinless poultry or ham
  • Crab and imitation crab
  • Canned, water-packed tuna or other seafood
  • Casseroles prepared with allowed foods
  • Eggs, well cooked
  • Cooked tofu (follow immunosuppressed diet guidelines)
  • Lean luncheon meats (such as turkey, chicken or ham)
  • Low-fat hot dogs
  • Turkey bacon

Foods to avoid

  • Luncheon meats (including Spam)
  • Hot dogs
  • Corned beef
  • Pepperoni
  • Pickled or cured meats or fish
  • Fried meats or fish
  • Beans and legumes

Fruits and Fruit Juices

Recommended foods (2 or more ½-cup servings per day)

Foods to avoid

  • Juices: citrus, prune, V-8, V-8 Splash, tomato and pineapple
  • All raw fruits except those specifically allowed
  • Canned or fresh: berries, figs, oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, grapes, pineapple, prunes, rhubarb and cherries
  • Dried fruit: raisins, Craisins, dates, apricots, pineapples, prunes and bananas


Recommended foods (2 or more ½-cup servings per day)

  • Well-cooked, tender vegetables, as tolerated: asparagus tips, beets, carrots, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and yams without skin, and winter squash
  • Skinless potatoes (baked, boiled, mashed, baked french cut, or baked hash browns)
  • Frozen potatoes: fat-free hash browns and low-fat fries (less than 4 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving)

Foods to avoid

  • Raw or undercooked vegetables
  • The following cooked vegetables artichokes, baked beans, bamboo shoots, bean dishes, bean sprouts, beet greens, broccoli, celery, brussel sprouts, cabbage, chives, corn, cucumbers, peas, eggplant, bell peppers, leeks, legumes, lentils, lima beans, mustard greens, parsley, rutabaga, sauerkraut, summer squash, tomatoes, turnips, spinach, collard greens, swiss chard and others not listed


Recommended foods (as desired)

  • Broth-based soups made with allowed meats and vegetables (*in moderation): beef broth, beef noodle, chicken broth, chicken noodle, chicken with rice, chicken vegetable*, scotch broth, turkey noodle, vegetable* or vegetable beef*
  • Ramen soups, without flavor packet
  • Homemade milk- and cream-based soups and chowders (made with low fat, lactose-free milk)

Foods to avoid

  • Highly seasoned soups
  • Soups with more than 2 grams of fiber per serving: bean with bacon, beef noodle with vegetables, chili, chunky varieties, green pea, Manhattan clam chowder, minestrone, onion, split pea and tomato
  • Tomato-based soups
  • Ready-to-eat cream soups

Bread and Cereal Products

Recommended foods (4 or more servings per day)

  • Bagels, plain
  • Breads, enriched and refined: corn, white, sourdough and pita
  • Cereals with less than 2 grams of fiber per serving: Cheerios, Corn Chex, corn flakes, Cream of Rice, Cream of Wheat, Froot Loops, Kix, puffed rice, Rice Chex, Rice Krispies, Special K, Sugar Pops, Sugar Smacks, Trix, Cocoa Krispies, Captain Crunch, instant oatmeal, instant grits
  • Cornmeal
  • Cornstarch
  • Crackers: animal, graham, saltine and low-fat crackers
  • English muffins: white and sourdough
  • Macaroni, noodles, spaghetti and other refined pastas
  • Polenta
  • Pretzels
  • Rice cakes, plain
  • Rolls, white
  • Tortillas, corn or flour
  • White flour
  • White rice
  • Couscous
  • Zwieback
  • Low-fat, baked tortilla chips and baked potato chips

Take with lactase enzyme tablet as needed (discuss with nutritionist):

  • Pancakes, waffles: frozen, mix or home recipe using allowed ingredients

Foods to avoid

  • Whole-grain bagels, breads, English muffins or rolls (including cracked wheat, rye, whole wheat and pumpernickel)
  • Breads and cereals with raisins, nuts or seeds
  • Brown or wild rice
  • Bulgur
  • Cereals with more than 2 grams of fiber per serving: bran, cracked wheat, granola, Grapenuts, Nutri-Grain (all varieties), puffed wheat, Shredded Wheat, Wheaties, regular oatmeal
  • Whole-grain macaroni and noodles
  • Whole-wheat tortillas
  • Wheat germ
  • Crackers with more than 2 grams of fiber per serving

Note: Avoid products with Olestra or Olean.


Recommended foods (as desired; read ingredient list)

  • Cake (plain, without frosting)
  • Custard made with lactose-free milk
  • Jello
  • Homemade fruit cobbler made with allowed fruits
  • Pastries and pies made with allowed fillings (omit spices): apple, peach, pear, cherry (use commercial filling), pumpkin (use evaporated milk treated with lactase) and sweet potato
  • Popsicles
  • Pudding made with lactose-free milk
  • Plain cookies (such as vanilla wafers, graham crackers and gingersnaps)
  • Rice Krispie Treats
  • Angel food cake
  • Low-fat, non-dairy ice cream

Take with lactase enzyme tablet as needed (discuss with nutritionist):

  • Canned puddings
  • Sherbet (check labels for milk in package)
  • Sorbet (check labels for milk in package)
  • Low-fat hard-pack ice cream and frozen yogurt (less than 3 grams fat per serving)
  • Smoothies made with allowed ingredients

Foods to avoid

  • Cake with raisins, nuts, coconut or other foods and spices that are not allowed
  • Pastries and desserts with dried or candied fruit, coconut, nuts, raisins or seeds
  • High-fat cream-filled cakes and pastries
  • Premium high-fat ice creams
  • Sugar cookies, wafer cremes and other cookies not recommended


Recommended foods (as desired)

  • Non-cola caffeine-free (check labels) carbonated beverages
  • Chocolate milk or Strawberry Quik made with lactose-free milk
  • Fruit-ades: Hawaiian Punch, Hi-C and Tang
  • Gatorade and Powerade
  • Kool-aid
  • Tea, weak decaffeinated and herb teas, in moderation (except peppermint)

Take with lactase enzyme tablet as needed (discuss with nutritionist):

  • Cocoa

Foods to avoid

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Coffee: regular or decaffeinated
  • Tea (including instant): regular tea, strong decaffeinated tea, peppermint tea
  • Carbonated beverages containing caffeine
  • Cola-type carbonated beverages


Recommended foods

Low-fat or non-fat choices

Take with lactase enzyme tablet as needed (discuss with nutritionist):

  • Fat-free or light cream cheese
  • Fat-free sour cream
  • Low-fat whipped topping
  • Fat-free cheeses

Fats with limited portion size

Take with lactase enzyme tablet as needed (discuss with nutritionist):

  • Cream cheese (1 tablespoon)
  • Sour cream (2 tablespoon)
  • Whipping cream (2 tablespoon)
  • Half-and-half (2 tablespoon)


Recommended foods

  • Gum drops, jelly beans, hard candy and gummi bears
  • For seasoning: basil, bay leaf, oregano, rosemary, thyme and cinnamon
  • Honey
  • Jelly
  • Marshmallows
  • Fruit Roll-ups
  • Ripe olives (moderate)
  • Salt
  • Sugar (any type)
  • Soy sauce
  • Syrups
  • Vinegar

Foods to avoid

  • Fried snack foods, such as corn chips, Doritos, potato chips and Cheetos
  • Jams with seeds or skin
  • Nuts, seeds, dried fruit and coconut: alone or in any food product
  • Pickles
  • Popcorn
  • Spices: cayenne, chili powder, garlic (fresh, powder or salt), mustard, onion powder or onion salt, paprika and pepper
  • Condiments: catsup, chili sauce, horseradish, jalapeno peppers, prepared mustard, steak sauce, relish and BBQ sauce
  • Salsa
  • Tabasco

Hard to Digest Foods: Are You Ready for Some Surprises?

By: Julie Mancuso, B.A., R.H.N., JM Nutrition

In this post you’ll find a list of foods that are hard to digest and the underlying reasons why.

Some foods are hard to digest, pure and simple. It’s also a fact that most of us experience some form of digestive problem at one point or another, no matter how robust the digestive system. For many of us, the digestive distress is often caused by the foods we eat. Some of these are well-known while others will surprise.

My Personal Struggle with Digestion

Reducing digestive distress is naturally important to me professionally, but also personally because I struggled with all sorts of gastro-intestinal problems the better part of my adult life. It was the primary reason why I decided on a career in nutrition over fifteen years ago. You can read about how my own health problems led to my becoming a nutritionist here.

In all honesty, I still find food digestion challenging at times, but it sure has gotten better since I improved my own eating habits.

Because of my digestive problems, I’ve learned—from extensive research, personal experience, and the experience of my clients—a great deal about what foods are hard to digest and which are more benign.

When digestive trouble strikes, it can leave us frustrated, often making it difficult to determine the root causes. Not to mention, the grumbling, churning and general discomfort can sometimes make it hard to enjoy life, especially food.


Well, the solution may just be found in the foods we eat, the analysis of which should be the first course of action to take when suffering from digestive distress.

We all know that if we consume large amounts of fatty, greasy, fried, salty or sweet foods, we are likely to trigger some form of digestive discomfort, varying from slight churning in some to debilitating cramps and pain in others.

But other, less obvious hard to digest foods exist, ones which can greatly upset the digestive system, causing seemingly inexplicable rumbling, pains and a generally uncomfortable existence.

Hard to Digest Foods

Raw Onions

Raw onions can be hard to digest, for some.

Besides leaving you with that pungent and to some, repugnant onion-breath, the resulting gas and general digestive discomfort can be a nuisance. Others can burp and bloat shortly after ingesting onions in their raw form.

Onions are hard to digest largely because they contain fructans, which are not absorbed well in the small intestine. In fact, as fructans ferment, they can cause a great deal of digestive distress in the form of bloating, gas and diarrhea. I recommend avoiding raw onions if your digestive system is sensitive, especially if you have a hot date.

Read more about which foods contain fructans in this article from Healthline.

If you’re just not prepared to give up those beloved raw onions and must have them on your burger or sandwich, try reducing the portion and see if the unpleasant symptoms go away.

Cooking the onions may also reduce the severity of the mentioned symptoms, so you can try this as well.

Furthermore, taking digestive enzymes may help to alleviate some of these gastrointestinal disturbances caused by raw onions. Probiotics can be of assistance in this area as well.

When considering taking supplements, it is always a good idea to seek the help of a qualified practitioner who can help you select the right digestive enzymes. Please don’t take it upon yourself to do so.

Raw Fruits and Vegetables

And you thought all fruits and vegetables were good for you…

Well, they no doubt are, for a number of reasons.

Some people, however, experience gastrointestinal problems when certain fruits and vegetables are digested, something that is often omitted from lists of hard to digest foods.

Fruits and vegetables, however, may cause digestive agitation.

Some fruits and vegetables contain an insoluble fibre—a fibre that does not dissolve in water. While such fibre has the benefit of passing through a person’s system rather quickly, taking other foods with it, and thereby helping to clean out your system, it can also irritate the walls of your colon in the process, causing discomfort and even pain.

Specifically, I encourage limiting some vegetables (more on that later) and the skins of fruits and vegetables as they can be harder to digest.

Again, the best way to tell if these are the culprits responsible for your digestive problems is to keep a food log where you note the eaten foods and how they made you feel shortly consumption for at least a week. If you find that your digestive system reacts well to fruits and vegetables, then move on to the next food item on the list.

Cabbage and Cruciferous Vegetables

While cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower have a number of important nutrients needed by humans, they also contain indigestible sugars. As a result, many people experience gas, flatulence, belching and general abdominal discomfort after ingesting these.

Consume in small quantities if you suspect these to aggravate the symptoms.

Keep in mind that cruciferous vegetables are much easier on the digestive system when cooked rather than when eaten raw. If cooking does little to avert the mentioned aches and pains, try to eliminate them altogether to see if you feel the difference.


Despite the fact that it contains a good deal of the necessary, healthy fibre, which we all need to promote digestive movement and to keep us full for longer, corn also has another type of fibre called cellulose—something humans have a difficult time breaking down.

The end result: abdominal pain and gas.

If you’re going to consume corn, chew thoroughly to help digestion.


For some time now dairy has been increasingly identified as potentially hard to digest. It’s important to remember that dairy doesn’t adversely affect all people, only some. It also affects people in varying degrees, so it may be hard to digest for you but not your loved one.

Furthermore, dairy contains lactose, which is not easily broken down by the digestive system.

As you no doubt know, some people have a complete intolerance to lactose and can become seriously ill upon its consumption. The rest of us, on the other hand, may just experience some gas and bloating, the intensity and frequency of which can vary from person to person.

Some people who reduce their dairy intake, experience immediate improvement in this area.

I highly recommend paying heed to how you feel immediately after ingesting any dairy product.

Keeping a food log that lists how you feel after certain foods are eaten can help you to identify a potential pattern. This applies to any ingested food, not just dairy.

Once a pattern is recognized, you can try to limit the hard to digest food or eliminate it altogether, if need be.

Spicy Foods

There’s a reason why for centuries the Europeans coveted spices like precious stones. Without them, food can be bland and, in some cases, barely edible. Spices are used by all cultures, and are so great in number that most of us aren’t even familiar with many of them.

Spices, however, may impact more than just the flavour of your food. While some people don’t seem to be negatively affected upon the ingestion of spices, others are not as lucky and find them hard to digest.

The matter is complicated even further by the fact that some people are only affected by certain spices, and not others. You’ll have to gauge this yourself by keeping a close eye on how your own body reacts.

The fact is that spices are known to irritate the lining of the esophagus, making them hard to digest, and as such, should be consumed in small amounts by people who experience digestive problems.


Sorbitol, a sugar-alcohol, is an artificial sweetener often found in sugar-free gum and a number of other sweets found at your neighbourhood supermarket.

Sorbitol takes a long time to digest and may cause gas build up as a result, particularly in those who are prone to various digestive conditions.

In addition, chewing gum itself can cause you to swallow a large amount of air, leading to trapped gas and possible discomfort or even pain, making the problem worse.

Read more about Sorbitol from

Acidic Foods

In short, foods such as tomatoes, oranges and lemons have been found to increase acid reflux. As such, they should be limited if you have digestive troubles.

More on acid reflux from

Processed Foods

Processed foods are packaged foods that are not in their natural form. These foods are often loaded with additives, preservatives, flavourings and other chemicals. They also contain sodium and frequently, white flour. Most of such foods are lacking the necessary fibre for proper digestion, and subsequently cause constipation, making them hard to digest.

Preparing foods from scratch and eating them in their most natural form is highly recommended. This is an effective way of eliminating the additives found in processed foods as the cause of your digestive disturbances.


We’ve all heard the old saying that beans are hard to digest and cause flatulation. Although we need to dismiss many of the nutrition old wives’ tales as they are simply outdated and have since been proven to be misconceptions, this one is largely true.

Why are beans hard to digest?

Beans contain a complex sugar called oligosaccharide that human cannot digest without the help of digestive enzymes.

Despite the fact that they are abundant in fibre and high in protein, which are both essential for a healthy diet, the mentioned sugar can cause digestive upset. When it enters the digestive system, it creates gas, which can be quite unpleasant for many.

That is not to say you should strike beans from your diet in their entirety, but consume sparingly if you’re hypersensitive.

Meats with Casing

Meats such as sausages are wrapped in casing, which can be hard to digest for some. This is especially true if the casing is artificial rather than natural.

Citrus Juices

Surprised to see citrus juices on the list of hard to digest foods? Most people are.

Citrus juices, however, can irritate the stomach and cause discomfort in people who are susceptible to digestive problems such as acid reflux, often aggravating such symptoms. Pay close attention and see if juice is responsible.

Carbonated Drinks

This one is not much of a surprise.

The vast majority of carbonated drinks aren’t good for overall health anyway. But being acidic in nature, carbonated drinks also distend the stomach, causing discomfort in some. Plain and simple. Avoid.


In addition to the many adverse effects of regularly consuming alcohol in significant amounts, certain alcoholic drinks such as beer have been known to trigger gas in some people—a fact that is not widely known by the general population.

Drinking alcohol can also inflame the lining of the stomach, preventing nutrients from being properly absorbed by your system.

In addition, alcohol dehydrates the body. This lack of proper water intake in itself can lead to constipation, discomfort and pain. Unfortunately, the bottoms up can make your digestive system bottom out, so pay heed.

Related: How to Make Healthier Alcohol Selections


Gluten can be difficult for some to digest, not just celiacs—as I’ve written before. You may even have a sensitivity to it and not know it.

The usual suspects here can be breads, pastas and cereals. But there are some less obvious foods that can also contain a fair amount of gluten: beer, certain sauces, dressings and processed foods, and as such, should not be discounted when trying to limit gluten intake.

It’s important to keep in mind that not all people may experience troublesome symptoms after ingesting gluten, but its reduction should be considered if plagued by ongoing digestive problems.


The list I offer here is by no means an exclusive one, but more of a sweeping guideline. Some of the foods to which I listed may be common knowledge, but the others not so much. And these are often the ones that people tend to overlook when trying to pinpoint the causes of their digestive troubles.

If you’re a sufferer who’s looking for answers, I strongly encourage you to start with a reduction or elimination of the above foods. Look at the list, follow the suggestions, observe how you feel and discover for yourself. That’s the only sure way of knowing what affects you as an individual.

As always, I encourage everyone to seek the help of a trained professional in the process to guide you along, offering insight and support. Digestive problems can be overwhelming and exasperating—something with which I can certainly empathize, and as such, they require attention.

If you found this article informative, or know anyone suffering from any type of digestive problem who could find this information useful, please pass it along.

Julie Mancuso is a registered holistic Toronto nutritionist who has been counseling clients for over 15 years. Julie’s personalized approach has helped thousands reach their health, wellness and nutrition goals.

Julie regularly lends her expertise to a variety of health publications such as Livestrong, Business Insider, MyFitnessPal, Toronto Star, Elle Magazine and many more. For more information, see In The Press.

Julie’s blog has been named one of the Top 100 Nutrition Blogs, Websites and Newsletters to Follow in 2018 by Feedspot.

Are apples causing your stomach problems?

An apple a day can cause gastric distress if you’re one of the estimated 10 percent of Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, commonly known as IBS. That’s why apples are losing their shine among people who embrace an increasingly popular way of eating — called the low FODMAP diet — to improve their digestion and health.

It’s a marked departure from a food long considered a nutritional powerhouse, despite its reputation as the “forbidden fruit” in the biblical Garden of Eden.

Mothers have told their children “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” for more than a century, and more recently, Spartan Fit! founder Joe De Sena famously prescribed an all-apple diet for 10 days for a man who who showed up at his complex seeking better health. Others opt for a two- or three-day apple diet to jumpstart their health.

But the oddly named low FODMAP diet that is getting attention these days is calling some people to rethink apple consumption. Should the apple be a forbidden fruit today? The answer may be yes if you suffer from a range of gastric problems that include irritable bowel syndrome and fructose malabsorption.

For everyone else in your family, the fruit still contains a wealth of nutrients and is generally an inexpensive, low-calorie food.

Irritable bowel syndrome is commonly diagnosed for chronic digestive problems that include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. The condition is thought to affect more than one in 10 people, more than 60 percent of them women.

The low FODMAP diet that is designed to treat IBS was created by researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. The diet draws its clunky name from an acronym describing types of carbohydrates that can contribute to gastric distress among IBS sufferers. They are fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.

More simply put, they represent a range of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy foods and sweeteners that some people have trouble digesting. When such a person eats a high FODMAP food — like, say, an apple or onion — the undigested food attracts extra fluid into the digestive tract, causing bloating. And bacteria in the large intestine feed on the undigested food, causing fermentation and gas. (Here’s an animated video from Monash University that shows how this happens.)

Because people differ in how their bodies handle different types of foods, the Monash researchers believe that the best way to deal with IBS is for sufferers to test their own tolerance, becoming what the late physician George Sheehan called “an experiment of one.”

People trying the diet eliminate a large group of high-FODMAP foods for about six weeks and then gradually re-introduce them to their diet, one at a time, while monitoring their response. The ones that cause problems again are the ones to avoid in the future.

The foods to avoid include onions, celery, garlic, asparagus, legumes and pulses among vegetables; apples, pears, watermelon, peaches and plums among fruits; milk, yogurt, ice cream and soft cheese among dairy; wheat-based bread, pasta and cereal; and cashews and pistachios.

It’s a daunting regimen that so far has only a modest number of small studies to recommend it. The largest, USA Today reported, is a study of 92 people undertaken at the University of Michigan. It found that 52 percent of participants following a low FODMAP diet experienced relief from IBS symptoms.

“The data are not overwhelming. But I think it’s a reasonable thing to try,” Brian Lacy, chief of gastroenterology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, told Kim Painter for USA Today.

What’s wrong with apples?
Apples make the FODMAP list because, according to the Cleveland Clinic, they’re particularly high in fructose, which, along with lactose, tends to be problematic for IBS sufferers.

In an essay for the U.K. newspaper The Daily Mail, British journalist Ross Clark described how eliminating apples and other fruit vastly improved his sense of health and well-being. He believes his body does a poor job of absorbing fructose, a condition that has been linked not only to bloating and other gastric woes, but also to low moods. (Fruit sugar seems to interfere with serotonin levels, Dr. Emily Deans confirmed in Psychology Today.)

Livestrong, however, blames apples’ high fiber content for their role in digestive problems, and some people find they’re able to tolerate apples if they don’t eat the peel, which is high in fiber. Others find a derivative of apples — apple cider vinegar — taken daily offers relief of stomach discomfort.

For people who don’t suffer from gastric disorders, apples remain one of nature’s healthiest foods. Prevention magazine calls them “an icon of health,” and the late American mystic Edgar Cayce advocated a three-day apple diet several times a year, not for weight loss, but to restore vitality.

The U.S. Apple Association touts the apple’s nutritional benefits, which include antioxidants and fiber, and notes that as far back as the time of Galen and Hippocrates, sour apples were used as medicine. But it’s the “apple a day” saying that is most responsible for the apple’s wholesome reputation, and that can only be traced back about a century or so, according to an article by Margaret Ely in The Washington Post.

Before then, the proverb was a bit more stilted: “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

Despite its current unpopularity among some sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome, the apple has weathered far worse press, going back to the Garden of Eden.

The Old Testament book of Genesis does not identify the fruit that Eve disobediently plucked from the tree, but by the Renaissance, artists were depicting it as an apple, possibly because the Latin word for “apple” and “evil” — malus — is the same, according to National Geographic. It may have actually been a fig, an apricot or a grape, some people have speculated.

But the case of mistaken identity has not affected apples’ popularity among families. According to a 2015 study published in the journal Pediatrics, apples are the most popular fruit among children ages 6 to 11, accounting for 22.4 percent of fruit consumed.

What Foods Are Easy to Digest?

Foods that are easy to digest tend to be low in fiber. This is because fiber — while a healthy part of the diet — is the part of fruits, vegetables, and grains that isn’t digested by your body. As a result, the fiber passes through your large intestine and may cause a number of issues, from gas to bloating to difficult-to-pass stool.

Eating foods that are low in fiber lessens the amount of undigested material and may ease your symptoms.

Canned or cooked fruits

Whole fruits contain high amounts of fiber, but cooking them lowers the amount significantly. As an example, a 148-gram serving of raw pear with its skin contains 4.6 grams of fiber or 18 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake. A 148-gram serving of canned pears contains about half the amount of fiber at 2.4 grams.

Good choices in this food category include:

  • very ripe banana
  • cantaloupe
  • honeydew melon
  • watermelon
  • avocado
  • applesauce
  • canned or cooked fruits without the skin or seeds

Canned or cooked vegetables

Just like fruit, whole vegetables have a lot of fiber. Once they’re cooked, they have less fiber. For example, a 128-gram serving of raw carrots contains 4 grams of fiber or 14 percent of your daily recommended fiber intake. A 128-gram serving of canned carrots contains less than 2 grams of fiber.

You can cook your vegetables at home or find canned varieties on the shelves at your local grocery store. Potatoes without skin and tomatoes sauces are other options for low-fiber vegetables.

Both fruit and vegetable juices that don’t contain pulp are also low in fiber.

Good choices of canned or cooked varieties of vegetables include:

  • yellow squash without seeds
  • spinach
  • pumpkin
  • beets
  • green beans
  • carrots

Meat products and protein

Main courses of chicken, turkey, and fish tend to digest well. Tender cuts of beef or pork and ground meats are other good options. You may also find that skinless hot dogs or skinless sausage patties (without whole spices) are easy to digest. Vegetarians might try incorporating eggs, creamy nut butters, or tofu for added protein.

How you prepare meat can also affect how easy it is to digest. Instead of frying it, try grilling, broiling, baking, or poaching.


You may have heard that hearty whole grains are healthiest to consume in your diet. If you’re looking for easy-to-digest grains, you’ll need to stick to:

  • white or refined breads or rolls
  • plain bagels
  • toast
  • crackers

You can also find low-fiber dry or cooked cereals at the grocery store. Look for varieties that contain less than 2 grams of fiber per serving.

Processed cookies that don’t contain dried fruits or nuts may be gentle on your system. Chips and pretzels made with refined flours also fall in this category.

Refined flours (grains) have been modified to remove the bran and germ, making them easier to digest. This is in contrast to unrefined flours which go through less processing and contain higher fiber. Typically, refined flours are not recommended in large quantities as part of a healthy diet.

Dairy products

If you’re lactose intolerant, dairy may upset your digestion or cause diarrhea. Look for products that are lactose-free or low in lactose. Otherwise, dairy is low in fiber and may be easy to digest for many people. Try drinking plain milk or snacking on cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.

Easily digestible dairy-based desserts include:

  • milkshakes
  • puddings
  • ice cream
  • sherbets

Other foods

Cooking with herbs and spices should be used with caution. Whole spices may not digest well. Varieties that are ground should be OK.

The following foods are also safe on a low-fiber or soft foods diet:

  • sugar, honey, jelly
  • mayonnaise
  • mustard
  • soy sauce
  • oil, butter, margarine
  • marshmallows

Cutting any food you eat into small pieces and chewing each bite well before swallowing can also help with digestion. Make some time for your meals so you aren’t eating in a hurry.

When eating a diet that’s low in fiber, you may notice that your stools are smaller and your bowel movements are less frequent. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids — such as water and herbal tea — throughout the day to avoid constipation.

If you’ve been eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away but haven’t been consuming the core, you are likely missing out on some of the most beneficially nutritious parts of the apple.

That’s according to a new study conducted by researchers at Graz University of Technology in Austria.

In addition to fiber and flavonoids, apples contain bacteria (the good, gut health-promoting kind) and most of that bacteria is found in the fruit’s core, including the stem and seeds.

A girl surrounded by apples.Getty Images

According to the study, which was published this month in the journal Frontiers of Microbiology, a single apple contains about 100 million bacterial cells — but if you toss out the core, you’re only consuming about 10 million of these precious cells.

“Overall, stem and seeds showed highest bacterial abundance, followed by calyx end, stem end and fruit pulp; peel microbiota were lowest abundant,” the study states.

The majority of the 100 million microbes in the human body live in our gut, particularly the large intestine. Of these gut flora, there are both good ones and bad ones.

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

The good flora are incredibly important for healthy bodily functions. They “help digest our food, regulate our immune system, protect against other bacteria that cause disease, and produce vitamins including B vitamins B12, thiamine and riboflavin, and Vitamin K, which is needed for blood coagulation,” according to The Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health at the University of Washington.

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Good bacteria can be destroyed by taking antibiotics or other drug therapies, as well as colonics and diarrhea, which is why it’s beneficial to eat foods that feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, like yogurt or whole apples.

The study also found that organic apples have an edge over conventionally grown ones when it comes to bacteria diversity. “Freshly harvested, organically managed apples harbor a significantly more diverse, more even and distinct bacterial community, compared to conventional ones,” professor Gabriele Berg, the study’s senior author, said in a press release.

Berg continues, “This variety and balance would be expected to limit overgrowth of any one species , and previous studies have reported a negative correlation between human pathogen abundance and microbiome diversity of fresh produce.”

While the researchers’ results suggest it is advantageous to consume the entire apple, many people believe that it’s dangerous to eat the seeds or pits of many fruits — including apples — because they contain cyanide. While this is technically true, the reality is a bit more complicated.

Apple seeds (along with cherry and pear seeds) contain a small amount of a compound called amygdalin, which, when metabolized in the digestive system, degrades into highly poisonous hydrogen cyanide, a substance that’s lethal in large doses. This might sound grim, but to put it in perspective, the seeds first have to be crushed or chewed. Secondly, apple seeds contain such a small amount of the potentially harmful chemical that you would likely have to consume hundreds seeds to be at risk of poisoning.

Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, told TODAY Food that “eating the occasional apple core is not a big deal from a safety standpoint.” However, she added, “It’s also probably not going to magically heal your gut.”

In her opinion, eating the core is relatively harmless and it does have the added benefit of potentially cutting down on food waste. She did not advise eating a bunch of apple cores at once, though. The National Capital Poison Center advises people eating seed-containing fruits to proceed with similar caution.

“People panic about swallowing fruit seeds or pits because they are known to naturally contain cyanide. Truth is, poisoning from unintentional ingestion of a few pits or seeds is unlikely. Still, ingestion should be avoided. Seeds and pits should never be crushed or placed in a blender for consumption,” according to Poison Control of the National Capital Poison Center.

If you’re really concerned about poisoning dangers (or happen to eat a lot of apples), eating the seeds to obtain the beneficial bacteria may not be worth it. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of, and author of “Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table,” told TODAY that there are plenty of other ways to get healthy bacteria into your gut

“Although there may be some gut health benefits from eating apple seeds , the risks of consuming them may out weigh their benefits,” Taub-Dix said via email. “There are so many other foods that have been shown to enhance gut health and fuel bacteria, so why eat something that could do more harm than good?”

She recommended adding foods like kefir, kimchi and yogurt “before resorting to apple seeds.” However, she does advise eating everything else — peel, core and flesh — to make the most of the apple’s nutrition.

If consuming apple seeds doesn’t concern you since the risk of poisoning is very unlikely, but you’re still wondering how to eat an apple core, a video published by The Atlantic claims that the core is just a “myth” and all you have to do is bite from the bottom of the apple towards the top to easily consume the entire fruit.

Apples, lentils, avocados, more: 5 foods that can help lower cholesterol

Feb. 1, 201704:10

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