Timing Your Foods for Stomach Health
Do you grab coffee for breakfast, pizza for lunch and steak for dinner? Those foods may not be best for keeping your stomach from becoming upset, according to Dr. Gina Sam, assistant professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City.
Many traditional morning, noon and night foods, however, are precisely what you should be eating. Sam takes us through our day:
- Yogurt. “Start your day with a healthy breakfast that factors in stomach health,” Sam advises, adding that Greek yogurt is a great choice. Probiotics found in Greek yogurt regulate the growth of harmful bacteria in the digestive tract while keeping the colon lining healthy. If you are lactose intolerant, she recommends lactose-free yogurt..
- Oatmeal. Top your oatmeal with blueberries for another gut-friendly food that causes no acid reflux, soothes any morning stomach upset and regulates the bowels.
- Fresh Fruit. Honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon are great options if you’re sensitive to reflux. Bananas help restore potassium, electrolytes and normal bowel function; they’re also high in fiber, which is great for digestion.
- Salads. Eating leafy greens daily is great for digestion. Go ahead and add grilled salmon, chicken or turkey to your lunchtime salad—they won’t cause reflux and will be easily digestible throughout the afternoon. If you are sensitive to acid, avoid onions, tomatoes and, for some people, even the seeds in cucumbers. Be careful with lemon juice and vinegar in salad dressings, which can promote reflux. Add fennel with arugula and baby spinach, and try parsley, which helps with digestion and settles the stomach.
- Kimchi. A Korean coleslaw, kimchi is made primarily with cabbage, which promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon and helps to eliminate waste. Sauerkraut is another option but, if you’re sensitive to spicy foods, make your own so you can regulate the amount of spice.
- Mediterranean plates. Lunchtime is optimal for grilled veggies, legumes such as lentils with olive oil and grilled fish or chicken. Get your midday fiber by preparing a plate of various whole grains with cauliflower, carrots, figs and pears.
“You really want to focus on ease of digestion at dinnertime,” Sam says. “High-fat foods can overwhelm the stomach, resulting in acid reflux and heartburn.
- Grilled Fish. Cold-water fish such as salmon, halibut or tuna, when grilled in olive oil, are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can neutralize inflammation in the digestive tract.
- Grilled Chicken with Couscous or Brown Rice. For a lean meat that offers protein and is easy to digest, chicken is a good choice and goes great with couscous or brown rice, especially if you tend to get acid reflux after late meals. Other side dish options that feed the good bacteria in your gut include artichokes, asparagus, lentils and guacamole or avocado slices with lime.
Between meals, Sam suggests: Granny Smith apples with almond butter; baby carrots and hummus; hallowed-out cucumber and cottage cheese; kale and zucchini chips; and assorted nuts (not peanuts).
“You know your body best,” Sam concludes. “Pay close attention to what agrees with you at varying times of the day. If you notice changes in how you react to certain foods, see your doctor.”