When it comes to staying regular, it's all about your diet. Certain foods can back you up, while others can get your bowels moving fast. So, if you happen to be suffering with a bout of constipation (which is never fun), you'll definitely want to add some poop-provoking foods into your meal plan to get things rolling again.
Pictured recipe: Low-Carb Seeded Quick Bread
Why must you poop? "Pooping is so important because our digestive health says a lot about our overall health. Our poop or lack thereof can give us a lot of clues as to what's going on internally," explains Maggie Michalczyk, RDN. One example we can all relate to is having diarrhea after eating something bad or not feeling well. Yet, if this is a regular occurrence, it can also be a clue that something more serious is going on in our digestive tract. And, keep this in mind: pooping one to three times a day is considered normal, she says (fewer than three bowel movements per week is considered constipation).
No one wants to be constipated. "My first suggestion there would be to make sure you are drinking enough water and taking a look at sources of fiber in your diet," she says. That fiber aspect is key. "Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes the parts of plant foods your body can't digest or absorb," she says. Fiber isn't digested by your body; instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon, and then out of your body, and it increases the weight and size of your stool (often softening it in the process, which helps it pass easier).
"Eating a wide variety of foods that contain fiber is beneficial to the digestive system and ensures everything is moving along," Michalczyk says. Not sure what to fill up on? Here are some of the best foods to help you poop, so you can get back to feeling less bloated and more comfortable.
You know the saying about this musical fruit—well, it's true! "Fiber is a key nutrient for maintaining a healthy digestive tract and decreasing the risk for constipation," says Keri Gans, M.S., RD. A 1/2-cup serving of black beans has 8 grams of fiber, which will certainly help things move along in your digestive tract to relieve pent-up gas and decrease bloating.
View Recipe: Black Bean Tacos
That morning cup of oats can be your bowels' best friend. There are 4 grams of fiber in a 1-cup serving of oatmeal. "Insoluble fiber is not broken down in our digestive tract and does not absorb water, but rather, it adds bulk to our stool, stimulating bowel regularity," explains Gans. Plus, "oats contain a fiber called beta glucan, a powerful soluble fiber with many health benefits including reduced LDL cholesterol and reduced blood sugar and insulin response," says Michalczyk.
Try starting your day with overnight oats, or keep handy instant packets (you can buy plain instant oatmeal or look for flavored ones that are lower in sugar) at the office to satisfy midday munchies.
View Recipe: Apple Oatmeal
Getting sick of oatmeal for breakfast? Swap it for yogurt, which is also great for your gut health and helps keep you regular. There's no fiber in yogurt, but the probiotics are super helpful to digestion, and you can add fiber by way of fruit (try raspberries—they have 8 grams of fiber per cup) or seeds. "Yogurt is a good source of probiotics, live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you and have been associated with digestive health," says Gans. "For many individuals, consuming probiotics daily helps to alleviate constipation and promote bowel movement," she explains.
View Recipe: Sweet Beet-Raspberry Yogurt
Figs are an incredibly rich source of fiber. There are 4 grams of fiber per 1/4 cup of dried figs. "Easy to eat or snack on, dried figs are a good source of fiber that can add to your overall daily fiber intake," says Michalczyk. In fact, a study showed that among 40 people with chronic constipation, eating fig paste each day reduced intestinal discomfort and improved colonic transit time. Figs also contain an enzyme known as ficain, which aids in helping you poop. Eat the tasty fruits plain, use as a summertime pizza topper, or spread some on toast with cheese like burrata or ricotta. Yum!
View Recipe: Fig & Goat Cheese Salad
Feel free to nosh on healthy sweet potato fries when you want something sweet, salty and crispy for a snack. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber to keep your digestion moving, and they're easy to incorporate into meals, says Michalczyk. They boast 4 grams of fiber per cup. Definitely use some sweet potatoes as a starch when you're looking for something nutritious and slightly dessertlike.
View Recipe: Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Prunes (aka dried plums) are perhaps the best-known food remedy for constipation (thanks, Grandma) and for good reason. Prunes contain both soluble and insoluble fiber to help you poop easier and add bulk to your stool. You can eat prunes as-is or you can sip on prune juice. Five prunes or 1 cup of prune juice both deliver 3 grams of fiber. "Make a trail mix with dried prunes to reap the benefits of extra fiber," says Michalczyk.
View Recipe: Filet Mignon with Madeira-Prune Sauce
An apple a day might not always keep the doctor away, but it certainly improves your digestion. Apples are another great source of fiber, and in this case a soluble dietary fiber known as pectin. There are 4 grams of fiber in one medium apple. "It can't get simpler for a good source of fiber to incorporate into your diet," says Michalcyzk. Don't peel off that skin—that's where a lot of the fiber is.
View Recipe: All-American Apple Pies
Chia seeds are not only high in fiber, but they're also rich in protein to keep you full for hours. They have 10 grams of fiber per ounce, which is pretty awesome. "An excellent source of fiber, chia seeds are a small-but-mighty seed in terms of nutrition! They are also a good source of protein and potassium," says Michalczyk. They're an easy add-in for a high-fiber boost to smoothies, yogurt or oatmeal.
View Recipe: Berry Chia Pudding
Eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and seeds is part of an overall healthy eating pattern and is also great for getting those bowels moving and helping you feel more comfortable. When you start adding more fiber to your diet, remember to do it gradually and drink plenty of water as you go. Moving more can also help get things going.