Sure, a low-carb diet can help you slim down and reach your fitness goals, but it's not always effective for keeping you regular. Thankfully, simply making a few tweaks -- including getting more fiber and water -- can get you back to normal. If you're still struggling with constipation after adjusting your diet, visit your doctor for help getting things moving.
Eat Veggies to Avoid Constipation
You can avoid constipation on even the most low-carb restrictive diet by adding more veggies to your meal plan. Fibrous veggies that are low-calorie and water-packed -- including celery, carrots, broccoli and asparagus -- aren't high in carbs but offer plenty of dietary fiber. Fiber is important for preventing constipation. Instead of breaking down for energy during digestion, it bulks up and softens your stool, which keeps you regular.
Include generous servings of veggies to get your recommended fiber intake, which can range from 21 to 38 grams daily, depending on your gender and age. A cup of frozen spinach, for example, will supply 4 grams of fiber, while winter squash and Brussels sprouts each contain 3 grams per cup.
Eat Beans and Nuts, Too
While following a low-carb diet will generally mean limiting your bean intake, you shouldn't cut them out of your meal plan entirely. A significant amount of the carb content of beans actually comes from fiber, which makes them great for preventing constipation. A cup of black beans, for example, has 41 grams of total carbohydrates, but 15 of those grams come from dietary fiber. Chickpeas offer 35 grams of carbs per cup, which includes 10 grams of fiber.
You can also up your constipation-fighting fiber intake by eating nuts, which are naturally low in carbs. An ounce of almonds, for instance, has just 6 grams of total carbs, with 4 of those coming from fiber. And walnuts are virtually carb-free; an ounce has less than 3 grams, with 2 grams accounted for by dietary fiber. Or, snack on pistachios, which have 8 grams of total carbs including 3 grams of fiber.
Snack on Lower-Carb Fruits in Moderation
While most low-carb diets recommend restricting fruit intake to avoid its natural sugar, that doesn't mean you need to avoid fruit entirely. Satisfy your sweet tooth and up your fiber intake by reaching for berries, which tend to be lower in sugar and higher in fiber than other fruits. Raspberries, for example, have just 15 grams of total carbohydrates per cup, with 8 grams of that coming from fiber. And blackberries have 14 grams of total carbs with 8 grams of fiber. Blueberries are slightly higher in carbs -- offering 21 grams of total carbs and 4 grams of fiber per cup -- but can still fit into a low-carb diet if you practice portion control.
Enjoy the berries as a snack on their own, or mix a cup of mashed berries with a half-ounce of chia seeds for a low-carb snack. Chia seeds supply just 6 grams of total carbs per half-ounce, with 5 grams coming from dietary fiber. The chia thickens as it mixes with the berries, forming a jam-like texture for a flavorful snack.
Hydrate on a Low-Carb Diet
While fiber is key for preventing constipation on a low-carb diet, you'll also need to take in plenty of fluids. Liquids help soften and add bulk to your stool, making it easier to pass. And some types of fiber absorb fluid, so upping your fiber intake without also drinking more water can actually make constipation worse.
You need about half an ounce of water for each pound of body weight, according to the University of Missouri. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you need 60 ounces of water each day before factoring in physical activity. To stay hydrated, adjust your water intake for physical activity. You need an extra 12 ounces per 30 minutes of activity.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Fiber
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Black Beans, Chickpeas, Almonds)
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Pistachios, Chia, Walnuts)
- HealthAliciousNess: Nutrient Facts Comparison Tool (Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries)
- University of Missouri: How to Calculate How Much Water You Should Drink