Constipation can make you feel sluggish, weighed down, and cranky. Most people only experience it from time to time, but it can become chronic for others. It’s also more likely to happen as you age.
Wondering whether you’re constipated? The red flags include fewer than three bowel movements a week and hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.
When you’re constipated, a good first step is making changes to your diet. What you eat can have a major impact on how smoothly your digestive system runs — especially how much fiber you get. Fiber is a carbohydrate that naturally helps keep you regular, but most adults only get about half the amount they need every day.
Women should get 22-25 grams of fiber a day, men 28-31, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. You don’t need to count every gram. Instead, seek out foods that are high in fiber and swap them in for lower-fiber foods.
These 10 foods are all rich in fiber (plus other nutrients that are good for health), so try to add them into your meals and snacks:
- Pears: Pears are one of the highest-fiber fruits, with 6 grams per medium pear. Keep the peel on for maximum fiber.
- Oats: All varieties are whole grain and rich in fiber. Each cup of cooked oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber. If you top your bowl with fresh or frozen fruit, you’ll get even more.
- Potatoes: French fries aside, potatoes are nutritious, packing a surprising amount of vitamin C plus 3 grams of fiber per medium spud. Eat the skin to get all of it.
- Flaxseed and chia seeds: Sprinkle these seeds into oatmeal, smoothies, and even baked goods for an easy way to nab a few bonus grams of fiber.
- Beans: Swap at least one meat-heavy meal per week for one with beans. They’re loaded with protein, iron, and fiber. A half-cup portion of cooked kidney beans has about 6 grams of fiber.
- Popcorn: When you’re hankering for a crunchy snack, this is a perfect choice. It’s a natural source of whole grains, with 1 gram of fiber in each cup.
- Lentils: A half-cup serving of cooked green lentils has 9 grams of fiber, plus the amount of protein in 2 ounces of beef.
- High-fiber cereal: Check labels for brands that contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. Plain shredded wheat and bran cereals are good places to start. Add a handful of blueberries or a sliced banana for extra fiber.
- Apples: Keep the skin on since both the skin and the flesh have fiber. There are 4 grams of fiber in a medium apple, plus lots of water to keep you hydrated.
- Edamame: Popped out of their pods, these nutty, satisfying soybeans contain 4 grams of fiber per half-cup.
What Else Can You Do?
- When you start adding more fiber to your life, you’ll also want to:
- Drink plenty of water: Eating high-fiber foods won’t help if you’re not getting enough fluids. They help stools pass more easily.
- Go slow: Add in these fiber-rich foods slowly, or else you’ll also have gas and bloating.
- Move your body: Being active is good for digestion. Just adding a daily walk around the block can help get your system moving more efficiently.
When Food Isn’t the Fix