6 Foods for Better Digestion (and a Flatter Belly), According to a Nutritionist

Amanda Montell

So much of our daily health and emotional state hinges on how our body is reacting to the foods we put in it. A day of bad digestion and bloating can ruin your day. Over the past few years, fermented foods and the probiotics they contain have become a large part of the conversation about how to improve digestion. In fact, a Byrdie article from 2015 stated that fermented foods were “so hot right now.” 

As a refresher, fermented foods are products “that have been left to sit and steep until the sugars and carbs become bacteria-boosting agents,” says natural foods expert Annalea Krebs, CEO of Social Nature, a product sampling community that connects people to natural wellness products. “Consuming fermented whole foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir, goes way back to the diet of our ancestors, but they’ve seen a reemergence due to a plethora of research showing fermented foods provide a potent source of probiotics, which are key for immunity, digestion, disease protection, and even emotional health.” 

But knowing that fermented foods help improve digestion is only half the story. The other half is understanding exactly how they function in the body and then learning how to incorporate these seemingly bizarre items (kefir…?) into our everyday diets. Keep scrolling to learn how to use fermented foods to beat belly bloat!

Why Fermented Foods?

The essential thing to know about fermented foods is that they contain the power to fix what processed foods have ruined in our digestive systems. “We’re literally killing our gut flora, one potato chip at a time!” Krebs says. Here’s what went wrong: “As a society, we have increased the use of broad spectrum antibiotics and also consume a diet of highly processed foods: This combination has [diminished the] ecosystem of bacteria in the microbiome of our digestive organs,” explains Rebecca Lewis, a registered dietitian at HelloFresh.

Consequently, digestive issues are widespread in the United States, but in recent years, scientific research has highlighted the importance of gut health for making things better. Thus, probiotic-rich fermented foods “have been enthusiastically called the new cure-all,” Lewis says.

What makes probiotics so wonderful for gut health and digestion is the fact that they are live bacteria. “In other words, they don’t just sit in our stomach after consumption, but rather [they] go to work, helping to balance gut bacteria and stomach acids, releasing enzymes,” Krebs says. These enzymes encourage digestion, making it easier for our bodies to eliminate toxins and extract and absorb nutrients. Probiotics also help stave off infection, reduce bloating and inflammation, and influence the hormones our brains release, which affects our mood.

The only tricky part with fermented foods is knowing what they are (and how to eat them). That’s where the following grocery list comes in.

What to Eat (and How)

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