Digestive Health Diet

Digestive problems-from constipation to lactose intolerance-affect up to 70 million people, according to the National Institutes of Health. Modifying your diet to treat a digestive problem requires a lot of trial and error and should be done in conjunction with your health-care provider. Still, making a few simple dietary changes (e.g., eating a healthful diet rich in fiber and making sure to drink plenty of fluids) often can go a long way in improving your digestive health. The nutrition experts at EatingWell recommend following these guidelines for healthy digestion.

Eat Plenty of Fiber
Fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps it move through the colon quicker, which helps prevent digestive problems like constipation and diarrhea. A fiber-rich diet may also play a part in lowering your risk of colon and rectal cancer. Shoot for 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day-most Americans only get half that-by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and beans. If you have trouble getting enough fiber in your diet, consider a fiber supplement. [Note: Eating high-fiber foods is a healthy choice for most people, but they can exacerbate symptoms of a few digestive conditions. If you've ever received medical treatment for a digestive problem, check with your health-care provider before you start loading up.]

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Fill Up on Fluids
Liquids lubricate the colon and soften stool so it's easier to pass, helping to prevent constipation. Aim to drink at least 8 cups per day. Since it's calorie-free, water is an excellent choice, but most beverages-such as milk and juice-are about 90 percent water, so they count too.

Go Easy on Fatty Fare
Too much fat slows digestion, which can lead to heartburn, bloating and constipation. What's more, research suggests that a diet high in saturated fat may increase your risk of colon cancer.

Watch Alcohol Intake
Drinking too much alcohol can irritate your stomach lining and relax your lower esophageal sphincter-the valve that prevents stomach acid from backing up into your esophagus. This can cause bleeding or heartburn. If you drink, do so in moderation-no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. Alcohol is also dehydrating, which can worsen constipation.


Curried Burgers with Chutney Sauce
Burgers are a backyard passion, but-dare we admit it?-sometimes the passion wears a little thin. But once the patties are spiked with curry powder and topped with a creamy chutney sauce, the old spark is back and everyone's happy at the table.

Makes 4 servings

ACTIVE TIME: 15 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 25 minutes

2 tablespoons low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared mango chutney
1/2 teaspoon curry powder, divided

1/2 pound lean ground pork
1/2 pound lean ground turkey
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (see Tip)
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted
1 cup stemmed watercress leaves

  1. To prepare sauce: Mix 2 tablespoons yogurt, mayonnaise, chutney and 1/2 teaspoon curry powder in a small bowl. Cover and chill.
  2. To prepare burgers: Preheat grill to medium-high or preheat broiler.
  3. Combine pork, turkey, breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons curry powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Shape into four 3/4-inch-thick patties.
  4. Grill or broil the patties until no longer pink inside and an instant-read thermometer reads at least 160°F, about 5 minutes per side. Serve the burgers on buns, topped with the sauce and watercress.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 385 calories; 13 g fat (4 g sat, 4 g mono); 62 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 31 g protein; 6 g fiber; 660 mg sodium; 283 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Calcium (25% daily value), Iron (25% dv), Folate (24% dv), Selenium (24% dv). 2 Carbohydrate Servings.

Tip: To make fresh breadcrumbs: Trim crusts from firm sandwich bread. Tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until a coarse crumb forms. One slice of bread makes about 1/3 cup crumbs.

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Zesty Wheat Berry-Black Bean Chili
Feel free to add an additional chipotle pepper to crank up the heat in this one-pot meal. Cooked wheat berries will keep for up to 1 month in your freezer; there's no need to thaw them-stir them directly into the chili.

Makes 6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each

ACTIVE TIME: 25 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 1 hour

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
2 14-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1-2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (see Tip)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 cups Cooked Wheat Berries (recipe follows)
Juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, chipotle to taste, broth and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
  2. Stir in cooked wheat berries and heat through, about 5 minutes more. (If using frozen wheat berries, cook until thoroughly heated.) Remove from the heat. Stir in lime juice. Garnish each bowl with avocado and cilantro.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 386 calories; 11 g fat (1 g sat, 7 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 61 g carbohydrate; 14 g protein; 15 g fiber; 703 mg sodium; 311 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (130% daily value), Fiber (72% dv), Folate (48% dv), Iron & Vitamin A (25% dv). 3 Carbohydrate Servings. Exchanges: 3 Starch, 1 vegetable, 1 Very-lean meat, 2 Fat

Tip: Canned chipotle peppers (smoked jalapenos) in adobo sauce add heat and a smoky flavor. Look for the small cans with other Mexican foods in large supermarkets. Once opened, they will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.

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Raspberry, Avocado & Mango Salad
Pureed berries give the tangy wine vinegar dressing a creamy texture that gently clings to the lettuce and fruit. This is a salad to enjoy when fresh berries are in the market.

Makes 5 servings, about 2 cups each

ACTIVE TIME: 25 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 25 minutes

1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries, divided
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 cups mixed salad greens
1 ripe mango, diced (see Tip)
1 small ripe avocado, diced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts or sliced almonds (see Tip), optional

  1. Puree 1/2 cup raspberries, oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender until combined.
  2. Combine greens, mango, avocado and onion in a large bowl. Pour the dressing on top and gently toss to coat. Divide the salad among 5 salad plates. Top each with the remaining raspberries and sprinkle with nuts, if using.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 215 calories; 16 g fat (2 g sat, 12 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 7 g fiber; 122 mg sodium; 564 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (70% daily value), Vitamin A (60% dv), Folate (36% dv), Potassium (16% dv). 1 Carbohydrate Serving. Exchanges: 1/2 fruit, 2 vegetable, 3 fat

Tips: To dice a mango:
1. Slice both ends off the mango, revealing the long, slender seed inside. Set the fruit upright on a work surface and remove the skin with a sharp knife.
2. With the seed perpendicular to you, slice the fruit from both sides of the seed, yielding two large pieces.
3. Turn the seed parallel to you and slice the two smaller pieces of fruit from each side.
4. Cut the fruit into the desired shape.

To toast chopped or sliced nuts, heat a small dry skillet over medium-low heat. Add nuts and cook, stirring, until lightly browned and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

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From www.eatingwell.com with permission. © 2008 Eating Well Inc.

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