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After a winter’s worth of heavy, fatty foods, your gut may be ready for a thorough spring cleaning. Why it’s necessary: the colon (also called the large intestine) is the cleanup crew of the digestive tract, escorting waste and toxins from the body—so it’s important to keep it healthy. Promote daily detox with these seven foods that can help increase bowel movements, improve gut bacteria, and protect your colon from disease.
Also called Jerusalem artichokes, are high in inulin, a type of fiber that acts as a prebiotic to nourish beneficial bacteria in the intestines, improving their diversity and activity. Be sure to cook sunchokes well to prevent gas and bloating.
Recipe Tips: Thinly slice sunchokes, toss with olive oil, salt, and paprika, and roast until tender; dice sunchokes, and sauté with shredded Brussels sprouts, diced sweet potatoes, and garlic for an easy hash; cook sunchokes, celery, and leeks in broth until soft, then purée into a creamy soup.
Are packed with fiber—a one-cup serving has only 65 calories and 8 grams of fiber, about a third of what you need in a day. They’re also high in polyphenols, antioxidants that have been shown to help protect against colon cancer.
Recipe Tips: Combine raspberries, chopped red onions, minced serrano peppers, and lime juice for a fruity salsa; toss raspberries, arugula, goat cheese, and pecans with raspberry vinaigrette; purée raspberries, then stir in chia seeds and let stand until thickened for an easy, raw jam.
Are loaded with fiber to promote regularity, prevent constipation, and sweep toxins from the colon—a one-cup serving contains13 grams, about half the recommended daily intake. Chickpeas and other beans and lentils are also linked with decreased risk of colorectal cancer.
Recipe Tips: Toss cooked chickpeas with olive oil, garlic salt, and black pepper, and roast until crispy; combine cooked chickpeas with diced cucumbers, red bell peppers, onions, chopped olives, and feta cheese, and dress with vinaigrette; sauté chickpeas, shallots, finely chopped broccoli florets, and garlic in olive oil for a simple side.
Are rich in inulin, flavonoids, and sulfur-containing compounds that fight pathogens in the gut, and studies suggest they reduce the risk of colon cancer. Garlic, leeks, scallions, and shallots have similar effects.
Recipe Tips: Thinly slice red onions, combine with apple cider vinegar and honey, and let stand 30 minutes for quick pickles; cut onions into thick slices, brush with olive oil, grill until tender, and sprinkle with minced rosemary; simmer chopped onions with puréed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for a savory chutney.
Is rich in fiber to prevent constipation and sweep toxins from the colon. And studies show that a high-fiber diet improves gut bacteria, protecting against inflammation and disease. Cauliflower also contains glucosinolates, compounds found in cruciferous veggies that have been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Recipe Tips: Slice cauliflower heads lengthwise into steaks, brush with olive oil, and grill until tender; chop florets into small pieces in a food processor, and simmer in broth for grain-free couscous; simmer cauliflower, onions, red peppers, spinach, and curry powder in coconut milk until tender.
Contains papain, a naturally occurring digestive enzyme that combats indigestion and constipation. It’s also rich in fiber and antioxidants that fight gut inflammation and improve inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other gastrointestinal disorders.
Recipe Tips: Purée papaya, Greek yogurt, and lime juice into a refreshing smoothie; thread cubes of papaya on skewers with shrimp, red onions, and green peppers, and grill until tender; toss sliced papaya with avocado, jicama, olive oil, and lime juice.
7. Oat Bran
Is brimming with beta glucan, a type of fiber that increases the diversity of gut bacteria and may improve ulcerative colitis and IBD. It’s also high in avenanthramides, polyphenols found primarily in oats that have been shown to protect against colon cancer.
Recipe Tips: Combine oat bran with coconut milk and cinnamon, simmer until thick, then top with walnuts and chopped dates; stir oat bran and raspberries into vanilla yogurt; add oat bran, blueberries, slivered almonds, and vanilla extract to any batter and cook into waffles.
Try our Raspberry-Papaya Oat Breakfast Bowl recipe.