No one likes traffic jams, especially when it comes to your colon. When things are backed up, everything from your mood to your energy level can suffer. Before you grab a “quick fix” fiber supplement, focus on food first, says Molly Morgan, RD, CDN, CSSD, author of Drink Your Way to Gut Health. Here, our top food picks to help you poop.
Raspberries are fiber rock stars, with 8 g per cup—that’s double the fiber of strawberries! “Fiber increases the bulk of your stool to help food move smoothly through the digestive system; plus, it feeds good bacteria in the gut for optimal digestion,” says Erica Sonnenburg, Ph.D., a senior research scientist in the department of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine and co-author of The Good Gut. Top your morning oatmeal or yogurt with raspberries or pop ’em plain as a snack.
The citrus powerhouse is a triple threat: Oranges have lots of stool-softening vitamin C, fiber to increase bulk in your stool, and naringenin, a flavonoid that researchers found can work as a laxative. Pack an orange as a portable snack or add orange segments to your salad.
“Staying hydrated is essential to helping things move,” says Morgan. Without ample H2O, stool can’t soften and move smoothly through the digestive tract. No wonder dehydration is a common cause of constipation. Drink up: Sip straight H2O, add lemon or cucumber slices for extra flavor
The fermented dairy drink is packed with probiotics, “good” bacteria vital to gut health. And kefir has 10 times more strains of bacteria than yogurt does, says Sonnenburg: “The greater diversity improves the chance that some of these microbes will be beneficial to your particular gut microbiota,” she adds. What’s more, British researchers found that probiotics can ease constipation, soften stools, and even increase the No. 2 frequency. Drink kefir on its own or add it to smoothies.
Almonds are loaded with heart-healthy fats, protein, and fiber, but it’s the high magnesium content that has our intestines excited. “Magnesium neutralizes stomach acid and moves stools through the intestines,” says Morgan. And just a small handful (1 ounce) contains 25% of your daily dose. Almonds make the perfect portable snack, or you can add almond flour to baked goods and smoothies.
6. Black beans
Just 1 cup of black beans has a whopping 15 g of fiber (women need 25 g a day), as well as magnesium and potassium for a smoother-running digestive system. Add to salads, salsas, and soups or sauté with greens.
The age-old constipation cure is not only high in fiber (6 g per ½ cup), but prunes also contain dihydroxyphenyl isatin, a natural compound that stimulates the bowel, as well as sorbitol, a sugar that has a laxative effect. Plus, prunes have double the potassium of bananas. Not consuming enough potassium can cause constipation and fatigue. Chop ’em up and add to salads, oatmeal, and yogurt parfaits.
8. Leafy greens
Spinach, Swiss chard, and kale are packed with nutrients that have poop powers, including fiber (1 cup of Swiss chard has 4 g of fiber), magnesium to help the colon contract, and potassium, which helps regulate fluid balance and muscle contractions.
9. Wheat Bran
No surprise that studies show wheat bran can relieve constipation and improve digestion. The outer layer of the wheat kernel is a fiber force with a whopping 25 g per cup. Sprinkle it over your oatmeal, whip up a batch of bran muffins, or eat a bowl of All-Bran cereal.
10. Coffee, tea, or decaf
Your morning cup of Joe can get your bowels moving, but it’s not just the caffeinated stuff. One study found that coffee—including decaf—means a bathroom visit for about 30% of people. Experts believe coffee’s acidity is key, notably its chlorogenic acid, a compound that gives java its bitter flavor.