TOP 5: YOGI SUPER FOODS TO AID DIGESTION
Chef Alexander Russell Berger talks us through the five yogi super foods that can enhance the digestive benefits and cleansing effects of your yoga practice.
The practice of yoga has many positive effects on our mental and physical well-being, both internally and externally. Yoga gently manipulates the internal organs in such a way that aids digestion and nutrient absorption. By regularly massaging and stimulating the digestive tract and its supportive organs through yoga, the body works more efficiently and effectively. This enhanced functionality allows our organs to more effectively cleanse themselves, thus purifying body and leaving you clear in mind. There are many foods that have been shown to effectively enhance the cleansing and digestive functions of our organs that can make up part of a healthy diet and intensify the health benefits of yoga. Chef Berger shares five yogi super foods with you below.
Sauerkraut, Kim Chi, Kefir, Miso & Other Traditionally Fermented Foods
Raw fermented foods contain an array of healthy probiotic bacteria useful in colonizing and recolonizing the digestive tract. Healthy humans have between 3-4 pounds of bacteria in their gut at any one time and just like humans, these bacteria have lifespans and must be maintained and replaced regularly. As well as providing these supportive bacteria, fermented foods are easy to digest since the bacteria does some of the digesting for us. Because of their semi-digested nature, fermented foods decrease the stress put on the digestive tract and supportive organs. By combining foods like cabbage, which is a potent anti-cancer and detoxification agent, with spices like those found in Kim Chi such as cayenne and ginger that have digestive and cleansing effects of their own, the positive effect is intensified. Fermented Foods enhance both detoxification & digestion.
Fresh Green Herbs & Spices
Fresh herbs and spices have been used in culinary and medicinal applications for thousands of years since they aid in both digestion and detoxification. Many commonly used green herbs like mint, rosemary, thyme, sage, basil & oregano, known also as Lamiaceae, are particularly beneficial for digestion. Another common herb, dill, has been shown to support liver function and helps cleanse the liver. Spices like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and cloves in comparison, tend to be warming to the body whereas herbs tend to be cooling. Both are great for digestive health. Ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and coriander don’t have the same detoxification effects but they do stimulate digestion and have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Fresh Green Herbs & Spices enhance detoxification & digestion.
Coconut (Milk, Meat and Oil)
The fats found in coconuts have powerful antibacterial, antiprotozoal and antiviral effects. These medium chain fatty acids benefit our digestion in two ways. First, by removing some of the bad bacteria and fungus from our digestive tract and leaving beneficial bacteria to flourish, which benefits both digestion and our immune system. Additionally, MCFA’s are shorter and easier for the body to digest and require no pancreatic enzymes or bile for digestion, which reduces overall stress on the body. Due to this ease of digestion, nutrient absorption is also enhanced. Coconut fats have no direct cleansing effect but support, protect and enhance the body’s natural detoxification systems. Their antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant and protozoal effects help keep the body free of toxins and carcinogenic by-products. Coconut oil enhances the body’s metabolic processes and supports repair and growth in the body. Coconut promotes detoxification & digestion
Crucifers & Brassicas
Common crucifers include broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radishes as well as the leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, mustard greens and many Asian greens. These vegetables offer their own unique benefits but they share some qualities specifically these that contain glucosinolates which are powerful antioxidants and improve the body’s ability to detoxify and eliminate harmful chemicals. Although crucifers do not actively aid digestion, they contain a compound, sulforaphane, which has been shown to rid the body of the bacteria which is responsible for most peptic ulcers and other stomach ailments. Additionally, these vegetables also contain glutamine, an amino acid that aids the growth and regeneration of the cells that line the G.I. tract. Crucifers & Brassicas aid digestion and contain compounds that support optimal gut health.
Lemons Are Amazing! They have a cooling effect on the body and stimulate digestive enzymes in the mouth and the liver where it helps develop bile which is necessary to digest fat. In addition to being high in vitamin C, lemons contain limonene a phytochemical that has been used to dissolve gallstones. Lemon juice is also useful for cleansing the blood, enabling increased oxygen transport throughout the body. Lemons support detoxification & digestion.
Consuming these foods daily and drinking plenty of pure water will not only enhance the health benefits of yoga, but it is also likely to help your yoga practice. Beyond digestion and detoxification, these foods offer a range of health benefits including anti-inflammatory, alkalinizing effects and enhanced energy.
Have a happy and healthy day.
Fife, Bruce. Coconut Cures: Preventing and Treating Common Health Problems with Coconuts. Colorado Springs: Piccadilly Books Ltd, 2005.
Murray, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York City: Atira, 2005.
Wood, Rebecca. The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York City: Penguin Books, 2010.