Constipation, or intestinal slowdown, is a symptom of either a temporary gastrointestinal problem or, less commonly, a more serious medical condition. Most often, the cause is simply a lack of fiber in the diet, which you can resolve easily by eating more high-fiber foods, particularly foods high in insoluble fiber, which your body cannot digest. Insoluble fiber, or roughage, helps move waste products through the intestinal tract and out of the body. One thing all naturally high-fiber foods have in common is that they are plant foods; meats and other animal products contain no fiber unless it is added during processing.
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Wheat bran is higher in insoluble fiber than any other ingredient. Breads, rolls and pastas that are made with whole-wheat flour contain wheat bran and are usually higher in fiber than products made with other types of flour. Baked goods and cereals made with oat bran, wheat germ, buckwheat flour, whole-meal rye flour and soy flour are also good sources of fiber. Popcorn is a whole-grain snack food recommended for its naturally high fiber content.
Dried beans such as black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, kidney beans, cannelloni beans and other legumes like lentils and green or yellow split peas are all high in fiber. To use legumes to boost the fiber in your diet, add them to soups, pasta dishes and salads, or season them with herbs such as rosemary and sage or spices like curry powder or chili powder and serve them on their own as a side dish.
Fruits and Vegetables
All fruits and vegetables contain fiber, and carrots, cauliflower, spinach and beets are especially high in insoluble fiber, as are kiwifruits, apples, bananas and strawberries. Mature vegetables contain more insoluble fiber than young or baby vegetables.
Nuts and Seeds
Peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and even the sesame seeds sprinkled on baked goods and other foods all contribute varying amounts of fiber to the diet.
Inulin is a natural, nondigestable, plant-sourced ingredient added to some commercially prepared foods to increase their fiber content. When you see foods like yogurt and white bread, which are normally low in fiber, marked “high in fiber,” you probably will see inulin on the label’s ingredient list.
To prevent constipation, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water or other fluids throughout the day. If you are already drinking that amount each day and you start to increase the amount of fiber-rich foods you eat, drink more fluids to help your body process the added fiber.