Is it just us or did everyone suddenly become OK with talking about poop? Honestly, we’ve always been on board with that. After all, regular elimination is key for everything—from removing waste from the body to banishing bloat. Luckily there’s a lot we can do to support regularity, like putting healthy, whole foods on our plate. The key is to consume adequate amounts of fiber.
Soluble Fiber vs. Insoluble Fiber
Quick refresher: there are two types of fiber—soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is best known for its ability to bind with glucose (or sugar) in the gut and slow down its absorption into the blood. Soluble fiber also binds with cholesterol, helping to carry it out of the body. When it comes to bowel movements, or BMs, soluble fiber-rich foods help to thicken the stool. Translation: these foods are extra important if you’re dealing with diarrhea.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, is known to speed things up in the GI tract. Basically, it’s your BFF if constipation is your primary concern. Any plant food that contains fiber will naturally contain a combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The only difference is that some have a greater proportion of soluble to insoluble, or vice versa.
Just remember: both types of fiber are important for health, and plant foods will naturally contain a mixture of the two. So as long as you’re eating your fruits and veggies (and nuts and beans and whole grains and water), you’re golden.
Keep Healthy Fats in the Mix
When it comes to fats, striking a balance is key for healthy digestion. That is, a diet packed with unhealthy fats can contribute to slowed digestion, bringing on bloat and constipation. Plus, foods high in the types of fats we want to limit (think: bacon, processed cheeses, packaged snacks) typically don’t contain any fiber.
Putting too little fat on your plate is also not a good idea, since nutrient-dense fats like nuts, seeds and avocado are naturally loaded with gut-friendly fiber. Healthy fats are also critical for everything from maintaining hormone health to fighting inflammation and lowering heart disease risk, so it’s essential to include them in the diet.
And don’t forget about water. Adequate hydration (psst, go pour yourself a cup of H2O right now!) keeps our cells happy and our energy levels optimized. Water also supports healthy digestion by helping to soften and move material through our GI tracts.
Still, sometimes we all need a little extra help to “get going,” so to speak. Read on for 20 foods that can help you poop.
Foods That Make You Poop
Apples are packed with soluble fiber, but eat them with the skin on and you’ll get a hit of insoluble fiber, too. Pair an apple with a couple spoonfuls of almond butter for even more nutrients and longer-lasting fullness. Bonus points if you’re able to opt for organic because conventional apples are among the top 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residue.
We might adore artichokes in a dip, but this superfood has so much more to love about it. Like so many of the foods on this list, artichokes are a great source of fiber, with 6 grams in each one. Some of that fiber is in the form of inulin, which acts as a prebiotic, helping keep your gut healthy and strong. And artichoke’s gut benefits don’t stop there. Cynarin, a compound that occurs naturally in artichokes, may reduce bloat and gas by improving digestion of some fats, stimulating bile production and generally helping move things along in the gut.
Not just a trendy toast topper, avocados are an excellent source of fiber (both soluble and insoluble) that can help relieve constipation. One cup of sliced avocado contains 10 grams of fiber. As a bonus, avocados are loaded with nutrients, including heart-healthy oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that can lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation.
If you’re struggling with constipation, beans (and other legumes like lentils) can bring on BMs thanks to their high fiber content. Just ½ cup of black beans puts 7 grams of fiber on your plate.
Heads up: beans can bring on bloat and gas in some susceptible individuals. Why? Not only are they packed with fiber, but they also contain a certain type of carbohydrate, called raffinose, that can be hard to break down in the body. As a result, some people experience GI discomfort after eating them. Start by incorporating small amounts of beans in your diet, then scale up depending on your tolerance.
Whole grains in general are a great source of fiber, and brown rice is no exception. Whereas white rice has its outer bran layer removed, brown rice remains intact and therefore serves up more fiber. For a complete breakdown of how the two stack up nutritionally, check out our guide to white versus brown rice.
Have you ever noticed that chia seeds plump up when submerged in liquid (think: chia pudding)? The soluble fiber-rich seeds essentially do the same thing in your gut, meaning they expand and help you stay full for longer. Added bonus: they’re one of the only plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Farro is far from an empty carb. In fact, this grain offers some impressive health benefits. For starters, it’s loaded with fiber and protein helping keep you fuller longer while getting your digestion moving along. It’s also an excellent source of iron and magnesium. Just remember that you can’t completely remove gluten from farro, so it’s not a good bet for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Kiwi is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. And now a randomized study has shown that two peeled kiwi per day improved chronic constipation and was better tolerated that other natural remedies. For a nutritious and delicious kiwi fix, try this SunGold Kiwifruit-packed, bright green smoothie.
Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens are loaded with insoluble fiber that can add bulk in the GI tract, promoting proper elimination and leading you to the ladies (or men’s) room.
There’s a reason we’re nuts for nuts. They’re full of heart-healthy fats, plant protein, and—you guessed it—fiber. Add chopped nuts to your yogurt bowl or throw a spoonful of your favorite nut butter into your morning smoothie. We’re all about this chocolate banana almond butter smoothie.
Oats are an awesome choice for gut health. They’re prebiotic (meaning they serve as fuel for the good bacteria in your gut), offer up soluble and insoluble fiber, and serve as a source of good-for-you carbs, the body’s preferred source of fuel. To kick start digestion, start your day with one of our favorite oatmeal recipes.
Pears are packed with antioxidants and vitamins. But most importantly for today’s topic, they contain compounds that help move things through your digestive tract, including lots of insoluble fiber, plus fructose and sorbitol. Pears are also high in water content, which we know can prevent constipation, and pectin, a soluble dietary fiber. Carmelized pears can kick French toast up to a delicious new level.
Popcorn is a whole-grain, fiber-rich food that works its magic by allowing you to digest it slowly and steadily. One cup of air-popped popcorn contains 8 grams of fiber, with the majority of it insoluble. Just beware: This can aggravate some forms of IBS, leading to bloating and gas. The trick with popcorn, of course, is to make sure you don’t add all the stuff to it that actually makes it unhealthy.
RELATED: Is Popcorn Healthy?
Prunes and other stone fruits are high in polyols, which are sugar alcohols that draw water into the large intestine and act as natural laxatives when consumed in larger quantities. Polyols are one of the difficult-to-digest carbs that can also be responsible for GI issues in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), so finding the right balance of them in your diet is key to not having to run to the bathroom. (You can learn more about polyols and the other tough-to-digest carbs called FODMAPS here.)
Fun fact: raspberries are the highest fiber fruit (apart from avocado, which, yes, is a fruit). Just one cup of raspberries delivers 8 grams of fiber. For reference: it’s recommended women get about 25 grams of fiber per day, so that’s already a third of your daily intake. BTW, blackberries are a great choice, too.
Before you go rueing rhubarb, know that this popular pie ingredient is also handy for treating constipation. (Who knew?) The thing is, different parts of rhubarb do different things. So, while compounds called anthraquinones in rhubarb were found to treat constipation in mice, the tannins in the vegetable had the opposite effect, acting as an antidiarrheal. Bottom line: rhubarb can help with BMs in the short-term, but should not be used for too long because that can actually lead to constipation again.
Potatoes often get villainized for their carb content, but sweet potatoes have so many good things going for them that they’re actually more of a superhero (or superfood) than a villain. Sweet potatoes are a good source of multiple micronutrients, including calcium, potassium and vitamin C, and they’re high in insoluble fiber. One medium sweet potato (100 grams) contains about 5 grams of it. Bonus: Not only are they healthy, but these tubers are tasty too.
OK, so it’s not exactly a food, but drinking enough water is non-negotiable if you want to poop. Adequate H2O helps the body break down and absorb nutrients, softens stool, and keeps things moving through our system. Aim to drink at least 10 cups of water per day.
Watermelon is one of the foods on this list that doesn’t have a whole lot of fiber. One serving only has about 1 gram of fiber. But, like its name implies, it’s packed full of water with a whopping 91% water content. This can definitely help encourage a bowel movement. For a 1-2 punch, try eating watermelon with a high-fiber food. Just make sure there’s a bathroom close by.
By now you probably know that probiotics are essential to gut health. One of our favorite sources? Yogurt. Not only does yogurt offer up good bacteria that support digestion and regularity, but it’s also high in nutrients like protein and calcium. Opt for plain yogurt to avoid excess added sugars, then jazz it up with your own toppings, like fresh fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and better-for-you granola.