Best Sources of Fiber for Constipation

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Thu Nov 02 2023.

Prunes.

Constipation is a problem that everyone occasionally experiences. But if it results in discomfort and pain or affects your normal routine, taking action is essential. 

One of the easiest ways to address constipation is by eating high-fiber foods. But if you don’t usually grocery shop or prepare at-home meals, knowing where to start can be challenging. 

To help family caregivers and their loved ones with the meal planning process, we reached out to two experts in the field –– Mary-Ellen Sabat, MS, RDN, LD, a registered dietitian and ACE-certified trainer, and Dr. Su-Nui Escobar, a registered dietitian and doctor of clinical nutrition. 

In this article, we share some of their insights and highlight the best sources of fiber for constipation.

How Does Diet Contribute to Constipation?

The best way to stay “regular” is to eat a balanced, nutritious diet with the daily recommended amount of fiber. For women, that’s at least 21-25 grams of fiber, and for men, it’s 30-38 grams.

“Lack of dietary fiber, which adds bulk to stool and aids in its movement through the intestines, can contribute to constipation,” explains Sabat. “Insufficient water intake, ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement, and excessive consumption of low-fiber, processed foods can also lead to constipation.” 

Dr. Escobar agrees, adding that “foods rich in soluble fiber help by absorbing water and keeping the stool soft.”

The Best Sources of Fiber for Constipation

There are various foods that you can add to your or your loved one’s diet to reduce the risk of constipation, including:

1) Prunes

Prunes (dried plums) are one of the most common foods recommended for constipation relief. “Prunes are rich in insoluble fiber, which helps bulk up stool and promote movement through the intestinal tract,” explains Dr. Escobar. “Additionally, prunes contain sorbitol, a natural sugar alcohol that works as a laxative by pulling water into the intestines.

2) Beans and legumes

All beans and legumes are loaded with fiber, but some offer more benefits than others. 

“Chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans, in particular, are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber,” Sabat says. Consider that just one tablespoon of pinto beans has 1.9 grams of dietary fiber. Beans and legumes also contain vitamin B-12, iron, folate, and calcium. 

You can eat beans on their own with a dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice or you can add them to salads and soups. The latter is a great option if your loved one wears dentures or has difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). Because beans can be made into a paste, you can spread them on toast, tortillas, or tostadas. 

Bob's Red Mill 13 Bean Soup Mix
Bob's Red Mill 13 Bean Soup Mix

Price: $33.49

3) Whole Grains

Refined grains, like white rice and corn grits, have little or no fiber, but whole grains are just the opposite.

If you regularly eat white rice, try substituting it with brown rice, quinoa, or bulgur. Likewise, when you make sandwiches or toast, replace white bread with whole wheat or multi-grain bread. One slice of multi-grain bread has three grams of dietary fiber, so if you make a sandwich, you can get up to six grams.

Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Grain Quinoa
Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Grain Quinoa

Price: $45.75 - $62.49

4) Oatmeal

Oatmeal is another whole grain, but it’s so fiber-dense, that it deserves its own entry on this list.

“Oats are an excellent source of dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble,” Dr. Escobar says. “Soluble fiber helps absorb water and makes the stool softer, while insoluble fiber bulks up the school and helps move it through the digestive tract. Oats also contain magnesium, which has been linked to better digestive health.” 

One cup of dried oats has about 7.5 grams of fiber, or 25% of the recommended daily fiber intake for women and 18% of the recommended daily fiber intake for men. 

Hear it from a caregiver

“Good for you and tasty whether you’re sick or not. Excellent product! [The] flavor is great as is the natural texture of the oatmeal.”

- Katherine M. 

Nature's Path Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
Nature's Path Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Price: $44.49

5) Fruit

Fruit is an important part of any well-balanced diet, but it’s particularly beneficial for digestive health. 

Fruits with the highest amount of dietary fiber include:

  • Raspberries

  • Blackberries

  • Blueberries

  • Strawberries

  • Bananas

  • Apples 

  • Oranges 

  • Pears

Fresh fruit tends to go bad within a few days, so if you find it challenging to eat quickly, stock your pantry with dried fruit. Dried fruit retains all of the nutritional value of fresh fruit, but it’s shelf stable. And, it contains about 3.5 times more fiber by weight than fresh fruit.

Barnana Chewy Bites
Barnana Chewy Bites

Price: $71.99

6) Vegetables

All vegetables have some dietary fiber, but some are more fiber-dense than others. Generally speaking, the darker the vegetable, the higher the fiber content.

Dr. Escobar and Sabat recommend adding several vegetables to your grocery list, including:

  • Broccoli

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Carrots

  • Leafy greens, like spinach, kale, and collard greens

  • Beetroot

  • Cauliflower

  • Eggplant

  • Artichoke

Raw vegetables can be hard to chew if you wear dentures or have missing teeth. To make mealtime easier for yourself or your loved one, try adding steaming them or adding them to soups. Likewise, you can puree, mash, or grill them.

7) Nuts and Seeds

Try replacing snack foods, like chips and crackers, with nuts and seeds, if you or your loved one suffer from constipation. Tree nuts, like chestnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds have the most fiber, but peanuts are a good fiber source as well. In terms of seeds, Dr. Escobar and Sabat recommend chia, flax, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. 

To get the most fiber possible, buy raw nuts with skins. Hazelnut, almond, and pistachio skins are loaded with nutrients, including antioxidants (molecules that protect the cells from aging and disease). 

Ziba Foods Heirloom Gurbandi Almonds
Ziba Foods Heirloom Gurbandi Almonds

Price: $58.93

Ziba Foods Baby Pistachio Kernels
Ziba Foods Baby Pistachio Kernels

Price: $72.26

Go Raw Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds
Go Raw Organic Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds

Price: $57.99

8) Popcorn

Buttered movie theater popcorn is calorically dense and filled with additives. But homemade popcorn can be quite healthy, especially if you cut back on the butter and salt. In fact, two ounces of popcorn (about ¼ cup) has 7.2 grams of dietary fiber! That equals about ⅓ of the recommended daily fiber intake for women and about ⅕ of the recommended daily fiber intake for men. 

To prevent extra calories, try air popping your popcorn or making it on the stovetop with a healthy fat, like avocado oil. 

Bob's Red Mill White Popcorn
Bob's Red Mill White Popcorn

Price: $18.99

Bob's Red Mill Yellow Popcorn
Bob's Red Mill Yellow Popcorn

Price: $30.99

A Closer Look at Specific Fiber-Rich Diets

Depending on the cause of constipation, your doctor or registered dietitian might recommend a specific, fiber-rich diet. There are two, in particular, that offer various benefits, including:

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet pulls inspiration from the cuisines of Greece, Italy, and Spain. 

“This diet emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, all of which can help prevent constipation, due to their high-fiber content,” Sabat explains. “It’s also known for its overall health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease and healthier aging.”

The MIND Diet

The MIND Diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

“This diet focuses on foods rich in fiber and includes whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It also encourages limiting processed foods,” Dr. Escobar explains. “Eating these types of diets can be beneficial for overall health as well as help with constipation. Additionally, it helps with brain health.”

Have Questions About Fiber or Fiber-Rich Foods?

At Carewell, we have experience with all aspects of caregiving, including diet, nutrition, and toileting. If you have questions about constipation and dietary changes or simply need help selecting incontinence products, we’re here to assist! 

Our friendly Care Specialists are available 24/7 and will be happy to make product recommendations and answer your questions. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to support@carewell.com.

Best Sources of Fiber for Constipation - Commonly Asked Questions

1) Can I eat a high-fiber diet right away, or should I ease into it?

Eating fiber-rich foods can help with improved digestion, but it’s important you don’t rush the process.

“Gradually increase fiber intake to allow your digestive system to adjust,” says Sabat. “It’s also important to create a consistent routine for bowel movements, as ignoring the urge can lead to constipation.” 

2) Aside from preparing fibrous foods, how can I help a loved one manage constipation?

Aside from incorporating fiber-rich foods into snacks and meals, there are various things that you can do to reduce your loved one’s risk of constipation.

“Drinking plenty of water helps move fiber through the digestive system,” says Dr. Escobar. “Additionally, exercising and staying active can be beneficial. Moving around helps stimulate digestion and can help move things along. If you or your loved one has mobility issues, gentle exercises like walking, stretching, or yoga are great options.” 

3) How can I make high-fiber meals more appealing?

If you’re used to eating highly processed foods, adjusting to a high-fiber diet can be challenging. Sabat recommends incorporating fibrous foods into meals your loved one already enjoys.

“For example, add vegetables and legumes to soups, stews, or pasta dishes. Experiment with different cooking methods and seasonings to enhance flavor.”

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.