7 Fall Superfoods for Sensitive Stomachs | Vital Plan
7 Fall Superfoods for Sensitive Stomachs
Carin Gorrell
By Carin Gorrell Posted 10-27-2017

It’s tough enough to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (they should fill half of every plate according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics!). Throw digestive issues into the mix, and things get even harder: Certain fruits and vegetables can cause painful bloating and gas, body aches, fatigue and more in those with sensitive stomachs.

If you’re in this camp and are struggling to find produce that delivers the nutrients you need without triggering an unwanted slew of side effects, we can help. Use our simple shopping guide below to help determine which seasonal produce to stock up on and which to avoid. Then try our delicious and healthy recipes to make the most of the fall bounty at your local farmers’ market.


1. Apples
2. Pears

Apples and pears are temperate fruits that grow seasonally in climates with cold winters, and they’re packed with antioxidants and other protective substances. They’re much lower in sugar than tropical fruits (such as bananas, pineapple, and mango) and other fall-season favorites like grapes — good news since excess and undigested sugars stimulate overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, which can lead to bloating and gas. Excess sugars can also stimulate yeast overgrowth in the intestines, which can potentially damage intestinal cells and disrupt nutrient absorption. And with so many varieties of both apples and pears, you’ll have plenty of options to enjoy.

Try them in:

Apples + Caramel Dip

Almond butter
Coconut oil
Raw honey
Crystallized ginger

1. Mix ingredients together and enjoy with sliced apples.

Pear + Avocado Salad

Pre-washed mixed greens
Ripe pear, thinly sliced
Ripe avocado, cubed
Blue cheese crumbles
Pistachios (chopped walnuts or pecans would also be delicious)

Creamy Balsamic Dressing
2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp minced fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
Minced garlic (optional)

1. Combine all dressing ingredients in a resealable jar; close and shake thoroughly.
2. In a bowl, toss dressing with mixed greens; spoon onto a plate.
3. Arrange pear and avocado on top and finish with a sprinkle of nuts.

3. Turnips

These root vegetables are low in oxalate, a plant substance that’s generally not a troublemaker. But if you have gut issues, you might be absorbing too much oxalate — and that can be problematic. Excess oxalate binds with calcium in the body to form sharp crystals that build up in tissues. Muscle pain, joint pain associated with movement, and fatigue are possible associated symptoms. And because oxalate is excreted by the kidneys, excessive oxalate is associated with increased risk of kidney stones (70% of kidney stones are calcium oxalate). If you’re prone to gut health issues or kidney stones, put these low-oxalate root veggies on your shopping list! At the farmers’ market or store, choose smaller turnips — they’re generally sweeter and more tender, and they’re excellent roasted or in the chowder below.

Try them in:

Fish Chowder

1-2 white fish filets
Rice or oat milk
Turnips (chopped into small pieces)
Cabbage (chopped or sliced)
½ sweet onion
Olive oil

1. In a two-quart pot over low heat, sauté the fish, cabbage, onions, and seasonings in a small amount of olive oil.
2. Add turnips and enough milk to cover everything.
3. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes.

4. Pumpkin
5. Acorn Squash
6. Butternut Squash

Good news: Like turnips, winter squash are low-oxalate veggies. Pumpkin has a very mild flavor and goes great in soups, smoothies, pies, bars—and waffles, like the yummy recipe below. Butternut squash is smooth, sweet, and slightly nutty, making it great for soups; acorn squash is sweet, too, and perfect roasted or steamed.

Try them in:

Wheat-Free Pumpkin Buckwheat Waffles

½ to 1 cup buckwheat flour (ratio of buckwheat to pecans should be 2:1)
½ to 1 cup ground pecans
2-3 tbsp sesame or canola oil
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1-2 tbsp agave nectar or stevia
1 egg
½ pumpkin, canned or cooked and pureed

1. Cook in a waffle iron as directed.
2. An olive oil/butter spread with a drizzle of honey is a perfect garnish, but any topping will work, including almond butter, berries, and nuts. Extra waffles can be frozen for use during the week.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 fresh butternut squash, cubed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
½ cup diced red onion
½ cup coconut milk
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Sage leaves (optional)
Pumpkin seeds (optional)

1. Heat a large saucepan over medium to high heat.
2. Add oil evenly to pan. Add onions and saute until soft, stirring occasionally.
3. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.
4. Add coconut milk, 2 cups water, salt, pepper, and squash. Bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until squash is tender.
6. Place mixture into blender. Allow steam to escape by removing center piece of blender lid. Avoid splatters by placing a clean towel over lid opening. Blend until smooth.
7. Garnish with black pepper, sage leaves, and pumpkin seeds, if desired.

Toasted Cinnamon Acorn Squash

Acorn squash
Butter or olive oil

1. For this recipe, either seed and peel the squash, cut it into chunks and steam it, or seed and halve the squash and cook in a toaster oven. Steaming takes about 15 minutes and baking in the toaster oven takes about 30 minutes.
2. Season with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg and a pat of butter or drizzle of olive oil.

7. Fennel

This flavorful and versatile bulb can be eaten root to stem—bulb, stalks, fronds, seeds, pollen, and all. And fennel is excellent for helping to ease intestinal spasms and decrease cramping. Licorice lovers are big fans of fennel seeds; if that’s not you, try them in the chai recipe below from Vital Plan founder Dr. Bill Rawls, where the licorice flavor is much milder.

Try it in:

Dairy-Free Chai

10 green cardamom pods, cracked and seeds removed (or ½ tsp cardamom seeds)
1½-inch cinnamon stick
2 black peppercorns
¼ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp ground ginger
2 cups milk or nondairy milk
1 tbsp packed light brown cane sugar
2 cups water
2 bags orange pekoe tea

1. Grind together the cardamom through the fennel.* A coffee grinder is great for this.
2. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the nondairy milk to a simmer. Add brown sugar, ground spice mixture, and ginger; simmer.
3. Meanwhile, steep the tea bags in 2 cups hot water for 2 minutes.
4. Add the steeped tea to the saucepan with the warm milk and simmer for 1 minute to blend the flavors.
5. Season further to taste as desired.


They’re a temperate fruit like apples and pears, but they’re very high in sugar.

Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, and Cabbage
All cruciferous vegetables, they can cause gas and painful bloating. A little bit might be fine, but too much could cause abdominal discomfort for some.

Beets, Dates, and Figs
All three are high in oxalate, which can cause joint and muscle pain and fatigue in some.

Nightshades like peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes are primary sources of lectins, plant proteins that can be erosive to the linings of stomachs and intestines of certain people when eaten in high levels.

For more information about what to eat and avoid to help ease digestive distress, check out these helpful articles:
How to Support Your Health Through Herbal Tea
6 Healthy Recipes for a Better Thanksgiving
10 Foods That Are Essential to Your Health

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About the Medical Director
Dr. Bill Rawls
Dr. Rawls is a licensed medical doctor in North Carolina and a leading expert in integrative health. He has extensive training in alternative therapies, and is the Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC.
  • Dr. Bill Rawls


    Dr. Rawls is a licensed medical doctor in North Carolina and a leading expert in integrative health. He has extensive training in alternative therapies, and is the Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC.

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