Preventing constipation, which is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, and keeping your bowel movements healthy depends a lot on what you eat. Eating more foods that are high in fiber adds bulk to your stools while keeping them soft, making them easier to pass. Aim to consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day from foods like whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables to avoid constipation.
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Switch from eating foods made with refined grains to those made with whole grains, since the refining process removes most of the fiber. For example, each cup of cooked bulgur gives you 8.2 grams of fiber, brown rice provides 3.5 grams of fiber per cup and a slice of whole-wheat bread contains 2.3 grams. Consuming more whole grains may also have other health benefits, including lowering your risk for high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, according to an article published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in May 2011.
Add beans to your soups and salads, and use them to replace part or all of the meat in chili, casseroles or other meat-based dishes. These nutritious foods also provide protein, vitamins and minerals and may help lower your risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and obesity, according to North Dakota State University Extension. Each cup of boiled navy beans provides 19.1 grams of fiber, each cup of cooked lentils gives you 15.6 grams and each cup of canned kidney beans contains 13.6 grams.
Fruits and Vegetables
Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, filling about half of your plate with these healthy foods at each meal. Exceptional sources of fiber include artichokes, with 14.4 grams per cup, thawed frozen raspberries, with 11 grams per cup, Asian pears, with 9.9 grams each, and cooked peas, with 8.8 grams per cup. Fruits and vegetables not only provide fiber, but they are also good sources of vitamins A and C, folate and potassium.
Increasing your fiber intake too quickly may increase your risk for intestinal problems like gas and bloating. Add fiber into your diet gradually, increasing your water consumption at the same time, to avoid this. Exercising regularly will also help keep your bowel movements healthy, since it helps stimulate activity in your intestines.
- MedlinePlus: Constipation
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber: Essential For a Healthy Diet
- The Journal of Nutrition: Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nutrient Information for Fruits and Vegetables
- North Dakota State University Extension: Now Serving: Beans!
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25: Fiber, Total Dietary (g) Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, Sorted By Nutrient Content