Feed Your Gut the Greens It Needs Over the Holidays

Especially for those with digestive issues, feasting during the holidays can be a huge source of discomfort. 

Cookies, gluten, candy, fudge, heavy dishes with red meats and sauces, eggnog, fried latkes, creamy potatoes, cheese plate after cheese plate… 

They’re all pretty much an irritated bowel’s worst nightmare. The last thing you want to experience when you’re packing double your normal activity itinerary into busy days laced with the stress of insistent merriment is an upset tummy and an extra-long retreat to the bathroom.

But since everyone is a sentient creature, with the ability to make their own informed decisions, it can help to know going into the holiday cycle what you can eat to actively balance your microbiome.

It’s okay for it to be out of whack for a few days, a week, even for a month. No one is perfect and the human body is designed to heal and correct itself from the inside. (Besides, stressing about it can cause damage to your gut’s microbiota too.)

That’s why you want to focus on going green. In fact, before we get into specifics, let’s take a quick look at the overarching benefits of green vegetables as regards to your gut.

  • Densely packed nutrition
  • Sugar and starch are effectively absent
  • High in fiber and low-carb at the same time
  • Heavy in chlorophyll, which mitigates inflammation all over the body

What does all of this mean?

It means your gut doesn’t have to work as hard to digest green veggies as it would with legumes, grains, dairy, sugar, and other popular holiday fare. In other words, eating an abundance of green veggies allows for a smaller margin for error.

But not all green vegetables were created alike.

These five specifically target and improve the efficiency of your digestive tract. If you can work them into your holiday menu, your tummy will thank you.


Because arugula is high in magnesium and Vitamin C, it’s one of the best greens for gut health. You see, those two nutrients assist in bowel regularity, lower stress, and less inflammation of the digestive tract.

And since it’s high in fiber, it keeps you feeling full for longer than other salad greens might, which helps prevent you from overeating. 


Asparagus is the king of digestive health. It’s very high in folate and protein, which helps to regulate the bowels and suppress bloating, one of the more uncomfortable holiday hallmarks.

It has a detoxifying effect on your body, which is important during a time when you’re loading your body full of alcohol, sweets, and other toxins. 


One of the best benefits of zucchini is that it’s very low in starch — great for not packing on holiday weight and great for those who have difficulty digesting starch. 

It’s also got strong potassium and Vitamin C quantities, more regulatory and inflammation reducing nutrients. Because of its decent balance of soluble and insoluble fibers and its nutrient contents, it pushes things along better in the digestive tract. 

Plus, the high water and chlorophyll content is easy on the tummy. 


Part of the allum family (like onions and garlic), leeks are wonderful for your digestive health. The insulin fiber in leeks strengthens healthy gut bacteria and also helps to break down fat, which is often high in rich holiday dishes. It’s also rich in Vitamin K, which your healthy gut bacteria should be producing naturally. 

Not only that, but because they’re high in flavonoids, they regulate your body’s oxidative stress response. 

Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance of free radicals (molecules containing oxygen and an uneven number of electrons) and antioxidants. Stress and depression can also increase oxidative stress, so it’s important to regulate that any way you can during high stress periods. 


High in dietary fiber, artichokes promote healthy bowel regulation and low irritation. 

It also feeds and replenishes stock of the healthy bacteria in the colon, and reduces your risk of bowel cancers and disorders, and helps to prevent constipation and diarrhea.

Their high antioxidant and water content also builds up healthy stool, making it pass more easily.

If you pay attention to what you eat during the holidays, either by making dietary requests or bringing your own dishes to feasting events, you can protect the sanctity of your gut health.

That doesn’t mean you can’t also enjoy your favorite holiday dishes!

Just make sure that you’re also using your agency to give your gut the best medicine you can: nutrient and fiber rich foods.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.