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The best carbs for gut healing and how to prepare them

When gut healing is a priority, knowing what to eat can feel daunting. We're going back to basics and breaking down all the wonderful food options to choose from while you support your body's healing process, starting with carbs.

The best whole-food carbs for gut healing include:

  • Root vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, rutabaga, turnips, celeriac, winter squashes like butternut, acorn, etc.

  • Low-sugar fruits like berries and kiwi

  • Maybe beans, properly prepared

  • Maybe gluten-free grains, properly prepared

Why whole-food carbs are important

Whole food carbs:

  • Provide energy

  • Enhance feelings of safety and reduce stress

  • Provide fiber and feed your intestinal bacteria

  • Fruit and vegetable-based carbs provide phytonutrients - substances that protect and revitalize, prevent disease, and regenerate tissue

What about low carb diets?

While there are absolutely times when a low-carb diet can be useful, I've found that many people - especially women - do best with at least a moderate carb intake. I hesitate to give a number of grams, as everyone's metabolic needs are unique and change over time, but for reference, under 100g of carbs daily is typically considered "low carb," and <50g daily can put someone into ketosis.

Some nuances:

White potatoes can be an issue if you are sensitive to nightshades (tomato, eggplant, pepper family) - the best way to know is to do a trial elimination for at least 3 weeks (I recommend working with a practitioner on this).

Many root vegetables, especially beets, are high in oxalates. While I've found oxalate sensitivity to be rare and indicative of deeper underlying gut and detox issues, pay attention to how your body feels if you eat a lot of them, and consult a practitioner if you're not sure whether they're an issue for you.

People with yeast/Candida overgrowth or SIBO may need to temporarily reduce intake of certain carbs (but not always).

Legumes and grains contain compounds called lectins, phytates, as well as certain enzymes that can interfere with nutrient absorption. When properly prepared, I've found they are much better tolerated.

Preparing legumes

"Traditional societies whose cuisines are based on legumes prepare them with great care. Beans are soaked for long periods before they are cooked — some varieties in acidic water and some in neutral or slightly alkaline water. The soaking water is poured off, the beans are rinsed and, in the case of chickpeas, the skins picked off. As the legumes cook, all foam that rises to the top of the cooking water is carefully skimmed off.

"Such care in preparation ensures that legumes will be thoroughly digestible and all the nutrients they provide well assimilated, because such careful preparation neutralizes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors and breaks down difficult-to-digest complex sugars."

- Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions

Preparing Grains

"All grains contain phytic the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies...

"Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains.

"Soaking in warm water also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors, present in all seeds, and encourages the production of numerous beneficial enzymes. The action of these enzymes also increases the amounts of many vitamins, especially B vitamins."

- Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions

Basic Bean Prep

From Nourishing Traditions

Makes 8-10 cups cooked beans

2 cups black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas or white beans

Warm filtered water

2 tablespoons lemon juice (for black beans only)

Sea salt and pepper

Optional: 4 cloves garlic

Cover beans with warm water (for black beans, stir in lemon juice). Leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours, depending on the size of the bean. Drain, rinse, place in a large pot and add water to cover beans. Bring to a boil and skim off foam. Reduce heat and add optional garlic. Simmer, covered, for 4-8 hours. Check occasionally and add more water as necessary. Season to taste.

Tip: I prefer to make beans in a pressure cooker, it's much faster and just as good - recipes are easily found online!

What about canned beans?

"High temperatures and pressures used in the canning process do reduce phytate content, but the danger is that such processing overdenatures proteins and other nutrients at the same time."

- Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions

I do not recommend canned beans, even in BPA-free cans, because they can still be a source of aluminum (a toxic heavy metal)

Simple ways to eat carbs

Roasting or steaming starchy vegetables

Rice quickly prepared in a rice cooker

Squash-based soups

Bean-based soups - lentil soup, white bean soup, etc.

Spiralized noodles made from starchy vegetables


Rice cakes

Rice crackers

Beans, grains and starchy vegetables on as part of a salad

Porridge, congee

Jovial brand's beans in a glass jar - they are the only brand I've found that pre-soaks their beans!

What's right for you...

Everyone's needs are different and they will vary at different points along the healing path. Carb needs also change at different ages and different times of year.

Any of the foods mentioned here may not work for one person, for one reason or another.

Always listen to your body, and consider partnering with a knowledgeable practitioner to help guide you.

*All information shared in this post is intended for educational purposes only and does not serve as medical advice

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