The #1 Whole Grain to Help You Poop, Recommended by Dietitians

Backed up? Adding this whole grain to your plate can help you with #2.

<p>Jamie Vespa</p>

Jamie Vespa

Reviewed by Dietitian Maria Laura Haddad-Garcia

If constipation has you spending a lot of time scrolling your phone on the toilet, you aren’t the only one. Since poop talk is usually taboo, you may think you’re in the minority if you struggle to go No. 2. However, constipation is a surprisingly common issue. In fact, 16 out of every 100 U.S. adults report symptoms of constipation.

How do you know if your bowel habits are normal or if you are constipated? Constipation is technically defined as fewer than three bowel movements per week, hard, dry or lumpy stools, or straining to pass stools. Although constipation can occur for many reasons, inadequate fiber intake is usually at the top of the list.

Pictured Recipe: Baked Blueberry & Banana-Nut Oatmeal Cups

We all know fiber is good for us, but less than 7% of U.S. adults get enough fiber in their diets. So, if you are backed up, it may be worth tallying up your daily fiber intake. You are hitting the mark on fiber if you consume at least 28 to 34 grams of fiber per day.

Not quite getting enough fiber in your diet? Try to eat more fiber-rich whole grains. Starting your day off with a high-fiber breakfast is a great way to score a few grams of fiber first thing. One of our favorite whole grains for constipation? Oatmeal, which also happens to be a go-to breakfast option. Read on to find out why oats are our top pick for helping you poop.

Related: 25 High-Fiber Breakfast Recipes That Aren't Oats

Why Oatmeal Helps for Constipation Relief

It Delivers Lots of Fiber

We know that fiber is good for us and can alleviate constipation, but do you know there are two types of fiber? Soluble and insoluble fiber each play distinct roles in the body. “Insoluble fibers are coarse fibers that stimulate the secretion of water and mucous in the bowel that provides a laxative effect, whereas soluble fibers are gel-forming fibers that have a high water-holding capacity that bulks and softens the stool in the large bowel to make it easier to have a bowel movement” explains Erika Barrera, M.P.H., RDN, a registered dietitian and wellness educator at LEAFE Nutrition.

Oats are a great source of both fiber types, making them particularly effective for battling constipation. Plus, if you’re trying to reach the recommended daily fiber goals, just 1 cup of uncooked oats provides 8 grams of fiber.

It Supports a Healthy Gut Microbiome

If you want a healthier gut microbiome, eating more fiber is one of the best ways to ensure this. As we mentioned, oats are a good source of soluble fiber—specifically beta-glucan, which has many health benefits. “Beta-glucan ferments in the gut and creates bacterial diversity, which can help improve the gut microbiome by lowering inflammatory properties, increasing immunity and promoting bowel regularity,” says Barrera.

Speaking of the gut microbiome, researchers have noted lower levels of certain beneficial bacteria (like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) in those who struggle with constipation or gastrointestinal diseases, such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome, compared to healthy individuals. The good news is that eating more oats may help boost beneficial bacteria levels.

It's Budget-Friendly and Versatile

Adding more fiber to your diet doesn’t have to increase your grocery bill. Not only are oats associated with many health benefits, but they are cost-friendly, too. Different forms of oats, from quick-cooking to steel-cut, provide similar benefits—so choose the one that best suits your needs. That said, keep in mind that many flavored instant oats are packed with added sugar.

Although a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast is a standard choice, oats can be used in a variety of dishes. For example, they can be used in baked goods like these Banana Oatmeal Muffins or blended into flour and used as a binder for these Sweet Potato-Black Bean Burgers.

Other Whole Grains for Constipation

While oats claim our top spot for alleviating constipation, they aren’t the only whole grain that can help you poop. “Studies show that whole grains can soften bowel movements and improve constipation by reducing transit time,” says Amy Goldsmith, RDN, founder of Kindred Nutrition in Frederick, Maryland.

  • Barley: Although the beta-glucan in oats gets a lot of press, barley contains just as much of this soluble fiber. If you’re struggling with small and hard-to-pass bowel movements, adding more soluble fiber to your diet may help since it can hydrate and soften stools.

  • Brown Rice: Consider swapping white rice for brown rice. Brown rice is a whole grain since it still has the hull, bran layer and germ intact, giving it an edge over white rice when it comes to fiber.

  • Quinoa: Quinoa is technically a pseudo-cereal, but we’re going to include it here since its nutrition profile is very similar to that of other whole grains. Not only does quinoa have twice as much fiber per serving as brown rice, but it is also higher in protein than most other grains.

  • 100% Whole-Wheat Bread: One of the easiest swaps for adding extra fiber is choosing a 100% whole-wheat bread with at least 2 to 3 grams of fiber per slice. Making a sandwich? Add vegetables or beans to add a few more grams of fiber. Even better, pair your sandwich with a tall glass of water, too.

Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Bread Every Day

The Bottom Line

If your digestive system is feeling backed up, starting your day with a fiber-rich breakfast is a great way to get things moving again. Whole grains are known to be rich in fiber, which is a key nutrient for relieving constipation. Our top whole-grain pick for constipation is oats since they are packed with fiber, mainly soluble fiber, and are budget-friendly. Looking to make the most of your morning bowl of oats? Brooke Baird, RDN, LD of Simply Divine Nutrition, LLC, recommends topping your oatmeal with berries and nuts to score an extra few grams of constipation-busting fiber.

Read the original article on Eating Well.