Constipation is a common gastrointestinal condition that affects people of all ages. It is characterized by infrequent, difficult, or incomplete bowel movements. Eating more vegetables is often recommended as a natural way to help relieve constipation. Vegetables are high in fiber, which adds bulk to stool and helps it pass more easily through the intestines. Some vegetables are better than others when it comes to relieving constipation. This article explores the best vegetables to eat if you are constipated.
High Fiber Vegetables
Fiber is vital for healthy digestion and preventing constipation. It comes in two forms – soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool and helps food pass more quickly through the intestines. Soluble fiber absorbs water and turns into a gel-like consistency to keep stool soft. Both types of fiber are important, but insoluble fiber is especially beneficial for constipation relief.
The vegetables that contain the most insoluble fiber are:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale
Aim for 1.5-2 cups per day of high fiber veggies to help relieve constipation. Going above 2 cups may cause gas or bloating in some individuals.
Vegetables High in Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral that helps relax the muscles in the intestines to allow for easier passage of stool. Deficiency in magnesium is associated with increased constipation risk. Great plant sources of magnesium include:
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- Green beans
- Potatoes with skin
Aim for at least 400mg of magnesium per day, which equates to about 1-2 cups of magnesium-rich vegetables. Supplementing with magnesium is another option if dietary sources are not sufficient.
Probiotic Rich Vegetables
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and support healthy digestion. They help move stool through the intestines. The best probiotic foods are fermented vegetables like:
Aim for 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup portions of probiotic-rich foods 2-3 times per week. Gradually increase intake if tolerated. Too much too soon may cause gas and bloating.
High Water Content Vegetables
Staying hydrated is crucial for preventing constipation. Water helps soften stool so it can pass easily. Some vegetables have very high water content. Great hydrating vegetable options include:
- Bell peppers
Aim for at least 2 cups per day of high water content vegetables in addition to drinking enough fluids.
Vegetables High in Potassium
Potassium helps balance fluid levels in the body and supports muscle contraction in the intestines. Low potassium levels can lead to constipation. Potassium-rich vegetables include:
- Sweet potatoes
- White potatoes with skin
Aim for 4700mg of potassium daily from food sources like vegetables. Taking potassium supplements is not recommended unless directed by your healthcare provider.
The Best Vegetables for Constipation Relief
Based on their beneficial nutrients and compounds, these are the absolute best vegetables to eat for constipation:
|Broccoli||Insoluble fiber, magnesium, potassium|
|Spinach||Insoluble fiber, magnesium, potassium, water|
|Kale||Insoluble fiber, magnesium, potassium|
Try to include at least two servings daily of these fantastic fiber-filled veggies. Some other vegetables that just missed the top list but are also great for constipation relief are green beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, and zucchini.
Other Tips for Vegetable Consumption
Here are some other tips to make the most of vegetables for relieving constipation:
- Eat vegetables raw or lightly cooked – this retains more nutrients
- Don’t peel potatoes – potato skins are high in fiber
- Try new veggies you’ve never eaten before
- Season with herbs and spices instead of butter or sauces
- Add veggies to soups, casseroles, and pasta dishes
- Keep washed and chopped veggies in your fridge for easy snacking
Sample Menu with Constipation-Fighting Vegetables
Here is a sample one day menu incorporating many of the best vegetables for constipation:
- 1 cup spinach, tomato, cucumber, avocado salad
- 1 cup cooked oatmeal with cinnamon and 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
- 1 cup green tea
- 1 cup vegetable soup with carrots, celery, potatoes
- Turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, avocado
- 1 ounce baked sweet potato fries
- 1 cup water with lemon
- 3 ounces baked salmon
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
- Side salad with mixed greens, cucumbers, radish
- 1 medium apple with 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 10 raw almonds and 1/4 cup edamame
- 1/4 cup sauerkraut
Potential Drawbacks of Vegetables
While vegetables are fantastic for constipation, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider:
- Excess fiber too quickly can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea
- Some people have sensitivities to high FODMAP veggies like onion, garlic, and broccoli
- Improperly prepared raw vegetables may contain harmful bacteria
- Some people struggle with chewing and digesting raw veggies
The key is moderation. Increase high fiber vegetables gradually and be conscious of how your body responds. Cook vegetables if you have trouble with digestion or concerns about food-borne illness.
Vegetables are nutritional powerhouses and one of the best first lines of defense against constipation. Focus especially on vegetables high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, and water content. Broccoli, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes are at the top of the list for constipation relief. Aim for at least 2-3 servings of the best veggies for constipation each day. Keep in mind that other lifestyle factors like hydration, exercise, and stress management also play a role. Vegetables combined with other healthy habits can get your digestive system moving in the right direction!