Ten digestion-friendly foods

Daniel Coughlin / 05 May 2016

Whether you're getting over a stomach bug, nursing a hangover or prone to gas and bloating, discover what to eat when your digestive system is playing up.



Feeling delicate?  Certain foods can irritate the gut and make you feel worse, these include spicy foods, fatty meats and gas-inducing cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, as well as hard-to-digest beans and foods that are particularly high in insoluble fibre such as wheat bran. “You need bland but nutritious, easily digestible foods,” says registered dietitian and nutritionist Sarah Schenker.

To give you more of an idea about what you should eat when you're having digestive issues, here are 10 go-to stomach-friendly foods most people find very easy to digest.

Banana

This stomach-soothing fruit is one of the key components of the temporary BRAT diet, recommended for people who are recovering from an upset stomach.

BRAT stands for

  • bananas
  • rice
  • apple puree
  • toast (white)

These four foods are 'binding' and easily absorbed, helping to prevent diarrhoea.

Bananas are also an excellent source of potassium and help replenish the electrolytes lost as a result of vomiting or diarrhoea.

Related: Learn more about the benefits of potassium

White basmati rice

The second component of the BRAT diet, white rice coats the lining of the stomach with a starchy barrier, which helps relieve digestive irritation. Its nutrients are easily absorbed and the low fibre content won't have you rushing to the toilet.

Rice is one of the least allergenic foods, so it's more than likely you'll tolerate it well even when you're feeling fragile. Opt for the healthier basmati variety if you can and simply steam or boil.

Related: How to cook rice

Apple purée

Stewed whizzed-up apples – sweeter, less tart varieties work best – can help calm the digestion. Easy to absorb, they provide much-needed nutrients after a bout of sickness or night out and form a cornerstone of the BRAT diet for good reason.

It's worth bearing in mind however that if you're prone to acid reflux, apples may actually exacerbate the condition, so you may want to stick mainly to bland starchy grains until you're feeling better.

Related: Indigestion symptoms, causes and treatments

White toast

While most people have zero difficulty digesting white toast – hence its inclusion in the BRAT diet – the gluten content may create a whole host of other digestive issues if you're intolerant.

If you're sure you don't have any trouble digesting bread or wheat, a slice of white toast, nibbled rather than wolfed down, should help calm any mild stomach problems.

Related: Learn more about Coeliac disease and other wheat-related disorders

Coconut water

Not a food as such, but this refreshing beverage is definitely worth snapping up if you're feeling nauseous.

Coconut water is packed with electrolyte-balancing minerals, perfect for rehydrating during or after a tummy upset or when you're feeling hung-over, and studies show it does the job more effectively than plain water or sugary energy drinks.

Related: The health benefits of coconut oil

Chicken breast

Fatty meats are best-avoided when you're feeling on the dodgy side because the high saturated fat content tends to irritate the stomach lining.

Lean protein on the other hand, especially steamed or poached chicken, not to mention fat-free turkey breast, can actually be beneficial, especially if you're feeling gassy. “Lean protein can prevent bloating,” says registered dietitian Anna Daniels.

Related: Bloated stomach? Discover the causes and treatments

Chicken broth

Fresh chicken stock is bursting with collagen-rich gelatin, which coats the stomach and improves digestion in many people.

A bowl of comforting chicken broth when your digestive system is flaring up will provide soothing gelatin and easily absorbed nutrients, plus it'll help hydrate your body and replenish lost electrolytes.

Related: Try this recipe for chicken soup

Mashed potato

Mashed potato – without the lashings of milk, cream or butter – is another go-to stomach-friendly food for when you're feeling ropey.

Potatoes are an easy to digest starchy food at the best of times but mashing them into a puree helps breaks down the fibres, making them even more of a doddle to digest. They also provide essential nutrients, including electrolyte-balancing potassium.

Related: How to make mashed potatoes

Bio yogurt

Plain, sugar-free bio yogurt is packed with friendly bacteria that help regulate digestion. Easily absorbed, it can work wonders on a tender tummy.

You may want to give it a miss though if you're lactose-intolerant. While yogurt is much lower in lactose than milk, it may still be problematic for people who are ultra-sensitive to dairy.

Related: The benefits of probiotics

Ginger

Nibbling on a piece of ginger is a tried-and-tested folk remedy for an upset stomach, and there's even some scientific evidence for its effectiveness.

A 1982 study published in The Lancet found that ginger was more effective at treating sea sickness than a common anti-nausea drug.

If you find raw ginger too harsh, chewing on a piece of crystallised ginger should work just as well.

Related: Learn more about the health benefits of ginger

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.