There is a lot of talk about getting enough fiber and fluid in your daily diet to prevent constipation. But beyond just making sure you get your fruits and vegetables, what foods can actually help ward off constipation?
Foods To Ward Off Constipation
There are many possible causes of constipation. Addressing it comes down to getting enough:
There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both soluble and insoluble fiber pass through undigested/unabsorbed by the body. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid (think of a fiber supplement such as Metamucil), while insoluble fiber passes through largely unchanged. Insoluble fiber is the one that helps promote regular bowel movement. Soluble fiber is associated with cardiovascular benefits (improvement in blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels).
Many good sources of fiber contain both types. Here are some high-fiber foods:
- Leafy dark green vegetables (high in insoluble fiber).
- Fruits: dried ones such as prunes (dried plums) or dried apricots, and fresh berries, kiwis, apples and oranges. Typically the insoluble fiber is found in the peel part.
- Root vegetables (the peel is high in insoluble fiber, while the flesh is high in soluble fiber).
- Nuts and seeds – high in both types of fiber.
- Legumes – high in soluble fiber.
- Whole grains such as oatmeal, hulled barley, popcorn, brown rice, and wheat berries – high in both types of fiber.
- Bran, like wheat bran or corn bran, is particularly high in insoluble fiber.
- Breakfast cereals that are high in fiber (meaning they offer 5 g or more per serving) can be a high-fiber snack alternative; check our Packaged Foods section for specific brands and pay attention to the amount of added sugar.
- Find out which fiber supplements or powder work.
Making sure you stay well hydrated is the other piece of the puzzle in preventing constipation. The fluids can be a combination of water, milk (including non-dairy milk), tea, or clear soups/broth. If you must flavor your water, simply add a bit of 100% fruit juice. Watch how much caffeine you are getting from drinks such as coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks because caffeine has a diuretic effect.
Note: Watch your caffeine intake if you’re pregnant. Limit your caffeine intake to no more than 300 mg a day.
Yes, it’s true: Regular physical activity helps with regular bowel movement. Another reason to get moving and keep a regular exercise routine.
The Bottom Line
While getting the right kinds of foods and fluid can help promote gut regularity, there are also cases where medications can cause constipation, so it is a good idea to check with your doctor. Finally, chronic constipation could be a symptom of an underlying medical issue, so it is a good idea to get evaluated by a physician.