What Is Ghee, Really?

Ghee has been around for thousands of years, but it’s recently regained popularity in the health world. (We’re talking coconut oil-level popularity, people.) Let’s start with the basics.

What Is It?

If you’re into Whole30 or the paleo lifestyle, or if you eat a lot of Indian food (in which ghee is often used), you may already be familiar with ghee.

Ghee is clarified butter, essentially. “Ghee is made by slowly melting butter and bringing it to a boil,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Nutrition Starring You. “The water evaporates and milk solids separate and can be strained out, leaving behind a golden liquid that solidifies when cooled.”

Ghee has a much higher smoke point than regular butter, so you can use it as a replacement for refined vegetables oils (like corn, peanut, soybean and canola oil) that are often used for pan-searing or frying, says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. (Butter will start to smoke around 250 degrees, while these oils don’t smoke until around 350, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. If you prefer butter to oil, using ghee for high-heat cooking is a good way to avoid setting off the smoke detectors…oops.)

Is Ghee Better Than Butter?

While ghee gets love from many health gurus, there’s no research to suggest any noteworthy benefits of ghee, says White.

Nutritionally, ghee is a more concentrated source of fat because the milk solids and water found in unclarified butter have been removed, White explains.

A teaspoon of ghee contains 45 calories, five grams of total fat, and three grams of saturated fat, while a teaspoon of butter contains 34 calories, four grams of total fat, and two grams of saturated fat.

“Since ghee is a source of saturated fat, it should be used in limited quantities,” says White. He warns that too much saturated fat can contribute to weight gain and issues related to heart health, and that it should be limited to less than 10 percent of our daily calories.

Harris-Pincus suggests working with a registered dietitian to manage the saturated fat elsewhere in your diet if you’re interested in incorporating ghee regularly.

A Note On Dairy

Some people believe that ghee is better than butter for those with lactose intolerance or milk allergies because it’s had the milk solids removed. However, ghee is still dairy-derived, so those with milk allergies still need to avoid it, says White. But since butter and ghee are both quite low in lactose, either is generally safe for someone with lactose intolerance, adds Harris-Pincus.

Related: An Ode To Egg Yolks—Yes, You Should Be Eating Them

But ‘Ghee’ Sounds Cool And You Still Want To Use It!

Like any fat, ghee is OK to consume in moderation. Plus, it’s rich, nutty flavor can give your dishes a little more oomph than many other cooking oils. White recommends swapping ghee for refined vegetable oils when frying, stir-frying or sautéing, or adding it fresh herbs and spice rubs for meat or fish.

“Basically anywhere you would use butter, ghee will work,” says Harris-Pincus. “You probably won’t need as much ghee as you would butter since the flavor is a bit more concentrated.”

Just remember that the extra flavor comes with extra calories and fat, so less is more.

Related: Shop a variety of healthy oils.

The Food Pyramid Is Old News—Have You Made These 8 Important Dietary Changes?

To say trends and advice about healthy eating have changed over the past century would be an understatement—since the 40s, the government has put out 10 different official healthy eating guides, including the food pyramid we’re perhaps most familiar with.

Recent updates to the visual guides have no doubt guided Americans down a healthier nutritional path, but it’s been a bumpy ride along the way. For example, the dietary guide in the late ’70s, called the ‘Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide,’ even included alcohol and sweets (in moderation) as part of a healthy diet. Huh.

The USDA released its very first visual food guide in the 1940s, which introduced ‘the basic seven’ food groups—one of which was ‘butter and margarine.’ It lacked portion recommendations and encouraged people to “eat any other foods you want.” Now you see what we mean.

USDA_-_Basic_7_Food_Groups
photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture

It took 40 years and three more versions of the visual dietary guides for the 1984 ‘food wheel’ to provide actual portion and calorie recommendations for its five major food groups. The pie chart still included a sixth sliver for sweets and alcohol.

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Then came a guide you’ve surely seen before: the food pyramid. “The food pyramid was the first to have a total diet approach,” says Wesley Delbridge R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It broke down the number of recommended daily servings for each of six categories (dairy, vegetables, fruit, proteins like meat and beans, carbs like bread and rice, and fats and sugars). This 1992 update was meant to paint a proportionally-accurate picture of what to eat in a day.

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photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture

The food pyramid later transformed into MyPyramid in 2005, which then turned into the current guide, called MyPlate, in 2011. MyPlate breaks foods into four main groups (vegetables, fruit, protein, and grains), plus dairy as a smaller fifth and final group.

This visual goes beyond total daily eats and instead breaks down which foods, and how much of each, to put on your plate at every meal, says Melissa Prest, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.R., L.D.N. Thinking about food choices meal-by-meal makes healthy eating feel more doable, doesn’t it?

myplate_green1
photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture

To make sure your healthy eating efforts are up to date, we rounded up the eight biggest changes between the good ‘ol food pyramid and today’s MyPlate.

  1. Tailor Your Nutrition To Your Needs

The basic MyPlate image doesn’t include serving sizes because the USDA now recommends individualized dietary guidelines, based on age, sex, activity level, and height and weight.

You can easily calculate your personal calorie and serving recommendations at ChooseMyPlate.gov. They also provide an online tool to track your daily food intake and activity.

  1. Say Adios To Excess Fats And Sugars

When the food guide pyramid debuted, one of its most striking changes was the depiction of fats and sugars at the top, representing the smallest part of our daily diet, says Delbridge. This was the first time the government addressed these unhealthy habits and recommended that Americans consume sweets sparingly.

The current MyPlate visual completely eliminates fat and sugar, and its more detailed online resources urge you to limit added fat, sodium, and sugar in every food choice you make.

Related: Is Sugar Really All That Bad For You?

  1. Focus On Fat Quantity And Quality

While fat’s not included on MyPlate, you shouldn’t be avoiding it completely. The guide’s personalized online portion tool allows for between five and seven daily teaspoons of oil for adults, depending on age and sex. It also considers nuts, seeds, and fatty fish part of the ‘protein’ portion of your plate, and avocados and olives as part of the ‘vegetables’ portion.

“The emphasis with fat is more about quality than quantity now,” says Kristen F. Gradney, M.H.A., R.D.N., L.D.N., spokesperson for Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “A recommendation of butter isn’t the same as a recommendation of olive oil, avocado, or nuts.” So, don’t expect butter to ever be its own food group again.
The unsaturated fats in most vegetable and nut oils provide essential nutrients and have a place in a balanced diet, Gradney explains.

Related: 7 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health

  1. Eat Carbohydrates In Moderation

The food pyramid identified breads, cereals, rice, and pasta as the foundation for a healthy diet. It recommended six to eleven servings per day. The MyPlate slashed recommended intake to five to eight daily servings, depending on gender and age.

The MyPlate design includes grains as just a quarter of your plate, reducing the amount of carbs Americans need (and think they need) to consume, says Gradney.

  1. Go For Whole Grains

The food pyramid also treated refined carbs and whole grains equally, says Delbridge. We know better these days: Whole grains contain more fiber than refined grains, helping to keep your blood sugar in check while feeling fuller for longer. This is why whole grains are a healthier choice than refined carbs like pasta.

MyPlate specifically uses the word ‘grains’ instead of the old ‘bread, cereal, rice, and pasta’ to emphasize the importance of the type of carbs we consume. It recommends that at least half of our daily intake comes from whole grains.

Related: How To Eat Carbs And Still Lose Weight

  1. More Fruits And Veggies

Old recommendations suggested Americans eat three to five servings of veggies and two to four servings of fruits per day. Even combined (between five and nine servings), they made up a smaller portion of the proposed daily diet than grains and refined carbs.

MyPlate, though, emphasizes that half your plate should be fruits and vegetables.

“The average American consumes one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetable per day,” says Angel Planells, M.S., R.D.N, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I’ve personally used this data to encourage clients to increase their fruit and vegetable intake.” And rightfully so, considering fruits and veggies are packed with crucial vitamins and nutrients.

  1. Be Picky With Your Proteins

The MyPlate guidelines recommend a wide variety of plant and animal protein sources, from poultry and beans to eggs and nuts. They also suggest consuming at least eight ounces of seafood per week (particularly omega-3-containing fatty fish like salmon), and that any meat or poultry be lean or low-fat.

Additionally, the USDA now also recommends we limit processed meat products, like deli meats, which are often high in sodium, and cooking methods (hello fry-ups!) that add considerable saturated fat to protein

  1. Get Moving

Though there’s no jogging stick figure on the MyPlate graphic (like there was on its predecessor, MyPyramid), its personalized online component tailors your individual nutrition needs based on your activity level, and its tracking tool includes space for you to check off whether you’ve gotten at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity each week. This continues to illustrate the importance of physical activity, along with solid nutrition, for a total approach to healthy living.

Check out just how much the USDA visual guides have changed over the years: 

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7 Foods That Can Make You Gassy

We’ve all heard the nursery rhyme about beans being the ‘musical fruit’ (the more you eat—well, you know…) But while beans may be the most notorious gas-producing food, they’re not alone.

Everyone’s gut microbiome (the composition of bacteria that live inside of your body) is unique, explains Niket Sonpal, M.D., of Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, so the foods that trigger major gas buildup can vary from person to person—but we’ve all experienced the feeling.

Often times, the bloating and gas are caused by how well your body is able to digest the foods you consume. If you’re not able to break down the foods completely, then the bacteria in your gut will feed on what is left, causing gas and bloating, says integrative dietitian Robin Foroutan, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Your best bet for beating gas is to use an elimination diet to identify the foods that really inflate you, says Rachel Begin, M.S., R.D.N. You can work with a registered dietitian to cut certain foods from your diet for a set period of time, and reintroduce them one at a time to identify any potential intolerances. From there, your physician can perform a diagnostic test to confirm.

If you’re trying to keep your inner air pressure at a minimum, look out for these seven common gas-causing foods.

  1. Sugar

Some types of sugar are considered FODMAPs (fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharaides and polyols), a group of foods that often cause gas and discomfort, says Sonpal.

Two culprits here are monosaccharaides, like fructose in fruits, and disaccharides, like the sugar in dairy (lactose). “These sugars are converted into carbon dioxide in your gut and can contribute to an overload of gas in your belly,” says Sonpal.

Additionally, sugar alcohols, like sorbitol or maltitol, fall into the ‘polyol’ category of FODMAPs. You’ll find them in diet or calorie-free food products like sugar-free gum or soda—and while they may spare calories, our bodies can’t digest these alternative sweeteners, often leading to gas or stomach upset, like diarrhea, says Sonpal.

Related: 10 Possible Reasons Why You’re Suddenly so Bloated

  1. Certain Vegetables

You know they’re good for you, but some veggies may leave you tooting. Certain veggies, like cauliflower, mushrooms, artichokes, and asparagus, also contain FODMAPs and may be tricky for your gut to process properly. The veggies that create a little extra wind often vary from person to person, says Sonpal.

Fiber may also make you gassy—especially if you eat a lot out of the blue. Insoluble fiber found in cabbage-like vegetables and root vegetables doesn’t break down in the small intestine and ferments in the colon, making it a common culprit, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).

  1. Legumes & Beans

Like with cabbage and root veggies, beans often blow you up because of their fiber content. “Sometimes the fiber in foods like beans can be difficult to break down completely,” says Foroutan. The IFFGD recommends gradually increasing the fiber in your diet over time to minimize gut-busting gassiness.

Related: 3 Ways To Show Your Tummy Some TLC

  1. Carbonated Beverages

Sparkling water may be a favorite, but it can mess with your gut. “The process of carbonation forms pockets of air in your favorite fizzy drinks that can ultimately contribute to gas or general intestinal discomfort,”says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.

Newgent also warns that many carbonated beverages contain the FODMAP fructose, which may cause major flatulence in some people as it ferments in the colon. Soda and fizzy drinks that involve fruit juice are often loaded with this type of monosaccharide. Instead, try putting lemon slices, orange slices, or strawberries (which have a much lower amount of fructose) in your water if you like to sip on something sweet.

  1. Dairy

 

Plenty of us have experienced threatening stomach grumbles or excess gas after noshing on cheese or ice cream, and that’s because many people don’t produce enough lactase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose. And sadly, we produce less of it as we age, Begin explains. Meanwhile, people with celiac or Crohn’s disease, or who were recently ill or underwent surgery, may also experience worsened lactose intolerance because of possible damage to the small intestine.

Some level of dairy sensitivity is common for many adults, but if you’re truly lactose intolerant, you’ll probably deal with some explosive toilet time in addition to discomfort and gas, says Sonpal. (Many people take the enzyme lactase in supplement form to combat such moments.)

  1. Wheat

Wheat gets a pretty bad rap when it comes to stomach issues, and the trouble boils down to a word you’ve certainly heard before: gluten. (That’s the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley often associated with stomach troubles.)

But let’s clear one thing up: Feeling extra gassy after eating wheat may indicate a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, but doesn’t mean you have celiac disease, explains Sonpal.

In celiac disease (which can be identified with a blood test), the body cannot break down gluten and the immune system reacts by attacking the small intestine and damaging its lining, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. This results not only in loads of GI distress, but diminishes the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, potentially leading to other long-term health issues.

  1. Chewing Gum  

Not only do most sugar-free gums contain sorbitol (a FODMAP), but constant chomping can make you swallow excess air, says Newgent. So in addition to gut bacteria feeding on those undigested sweeteners and releasing gas, your not-so-cute chewing also contributes to the bulge you feel in your belly later on.

7 Fatty Foods That Are Good For Your Health

While digging into a bag of kettle chips or buttery popcorn on the reg won’t do much to level up your nutrition game, that doesn’t mean you should avoid anything and everything F-A-T. Just ask anyone who’s following the ketogenic diet.

Our bodies need energy for fat in order to absorb nutrients [like vitamins A, D, E, and K], and to maintain hormonal balance, explains Karla Moreno-Bryce, M.D.A., R.D., founder of Nutritious Vida.

Of the types of fat out there (saturated fatty acids, unsaturated fatty acids, trans fats, monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and dietary cholesterol), it’s saturated fats and trans fats that give the macronutrient a bad rep. These fats may contribute to higher ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) and lower ‘good’ HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, increasing risk for stroke and diabetes, says Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios.

Saturated and trans fats are mainly found in animal sources like beef, cheese, and dairy, and occasionally in poultry and fish, says White. He warns that trans fats are ultra common in fried and processed foods, because they’re intended to increase shelf life. Some plant sources of saturated fats include coconut oil, palm oil, and kernel oil.

Meanwhile, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are integral to a well-balanced diet, says Moreno-Bryce. According to The American Heart Association, polyunsaturated fats can promote healthy cholesterol levels, and provide essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats and vitamin E. Plus, monounsaturated fats may also be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, says Melissa Prest, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.R., L.D.N. Some food sources of these fats include avocados, nuts, and olive oil.

The USDA 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that up to 35 percent of the average adult’s daily calories come from fat. Saturated fats should be limited to less than 10 percent of daily calories, and trans fats should be avoided as much as possible, says Prest.

So what foods should you add to your grocery list to incorporate more healthy fat into your diet? We’ve compiled a list of dietitian-approved fatty foods to keep your health on point.

Related: 7 Foods And Ingredients Nutritionists Won’t Eat

nuts
Nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans are great sources of monounsaturated fats, while walnuts pack polyunsaturated fats, says Prest. She recommends adding a tablespoon or two to salads for a little crunch.

24 almonds contain about 14 grams of fat and make a great snack, according to White. He also likes to mix equal parts almonds, peanuts, seeds, and dried fruit for DIY trail mix. (We’ll talk more about peanuts and seeds later.)

seafood
Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies can’t make on their own, says Prest. Varieties like salmon, herring, and mackerel contain more than 1,500 milligrams per 3-ounce cooked portion. These omega-3s promote heart, brain, and eye health.

White recommends swapping fish like salmon, anchovies, herring, sardines, Pacific trout, or mackerel in for your usual meat twice a week. “Eating polyunsaturated fat [that’s fish] in place of saturated fat [think red meat or pork] may lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, which can decrease your risk for heart disease,” he says.

healthy-oils
Some oils can provide both flavor and nutrition to your meals. Prest recommends limiting your use of saturated fat-containing oils like coconut, palm, and palm kernel oil, and going for monounsaturated fat-containing options like peanut or canola oils or polyunsaturated fat-containing oils like sunflower, corn, soybean, or flaxseed oil.

Just don’t get too heavy-handed when cooking or whipping up homemade salad dressing. Healthy oils can still contribute to excess calories, warns White. Remember that a serving of olive oil (we know, it’s delicious) contains about 120 calories. So limit that drizzle!

avocado
Avocado is so much more than an Instagrammable toast topping. First, it’s totally delectable, but more importantly, the average avocado contains 21 grams of monounsaturated fat plus an added bonus of nine grams of fiber.

White recommends spreading a quarter of an avocado on a piece of whole-grain toast for a delicious and healthy breakfast or snack.

If you’re over the #avotoast trend, Moreno-Bryce recommends using avocado in lieu of saturated fats like butter in muffin or brownie mixes. You can either swap butter for avocado in whole or use half avocado-half butter for a healthy boost.

soybeans
Soybeans, which are called edamame in their natural form or tofu or tempeh in block form, pack protein and healthy fat. Moreno-Bryce recommends adding whole soybeans or grilled tofu to your salad to get the benefits. One block of tofu contains 13 grams of polyunsaturated fat and 29 grams of protein.

She also likes to swap mashed soft tofu in for ricotta cheese in pasta dishes to swap saturated fat for polyunsaturated fat.

Related: 7 Protein Sources For Vegetarians

seeds
With so many varieties of crunchy seeds out there, your options for incorporating them into meals are literally endless! Prest recommends topping your salad or veggie dish with some pumpkin or sesame seeds for monounsaturated fats or flax seeds for polyunsaturated fats.

Moreno-Bryce likes adding chia seeds to smoothies and yogurt to add omega-3s, fiber, and protein.

peanuts
Whether you’d rather munch on them whole or as a creamy butter, peanuts are another great source of healthy fats. Prest recommends adding a tablespoon of peanut butter to your morning oatmeal to kickstart your day with 8 grams of polyunsaturated fat.

White likes to use peanut butter in easy-to-make energy bites for a quick boost on the go. Just mix peanut butter, honey, flax seeds, chia seeds, and shredded coconut together, roll into tablespoon-sized balls, and store in the fridge.

Related: What You Need To Know About The Ketogenic Diet Trend

Pin this handy infographic to make sure you’re loading up on the good stuff! 

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5 Foods That Are Packed With Probiotics

Nothing ruins a road trip or night on the town quite like stomach troubles. But good gut health isn’t essential just because gas and diarrhea are inconvenient: Research has identified ties between our GI health and both our immune and metabolic functions. They don’t call the stomach the “second brain” for nothing!

At the core of good gut health lies the importance of a particular type of microorganism: healthy bacteria that live in our intestines called probiotics. These bacteria help us properly digest food, destroy disease-causing microorganisms, and produce vitamins, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. So without them, you could be more prone to stomach struggles.

Much like our overall health, the hundreds of species of bacteria in our gut can be affected by our diet. Certain types of bacteria feed off of dietary fiber, and studies have shown that eating fiber boosts the populations of some probiotics, according to a review published in Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease.

Plus, the prevalence of antibiotics in our lives today—whether prescribed by a doc or in our food—has led many health professionals to encourage consuming more probiotic-rich foods, says Niket Sonpal, M.D., of Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. Over-consuming antibiotics can disrupt the balance within your microbiome, leading to stomach upset, so by consuming probiotics in food or supplement form, we may be able to replenish and re-balance the beneficial bacteria in our gut.

We gathered five of the most probiotic-packed foods so you can load up your shopping cart with that good-for-you bacteria. When searching for them in the grocery store aisles, look for a seal indicating “active live cultures” or check the ingredient list for bacterial strains like bifidobacteria or lactobacillus, says Angel Planells, M.S., R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Related: You can also get a probiotic boost from a supplement.

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This popular, pickled cabbage contains vitamin B6 and iron, and becomes dense with probiotics through fermentation, says Planells. Fermentation is the process by which we preserve foods in salted brine, which allows that good bacteria to flourish. According to Planells, the specific types of bacteria that are able to survive through fermentation depend on temperature, pH, the food’s nutrients, and oxygen supply.

Sauerkraut also contains vitamin C, vitamin K, and some fiber, says Tori Schmitt, M.S., R.D.N., founder of YES! Nutrition, LLC. Schmitt likes to top eggs or avocado with sauerkraut for breakfast, or add it to her favorite sandwiches, salads, and wraps.

miso-soup

Next time you go out for that spicy tuna roll, order a bowl of miso soup to sip on the side. Miso is a paste or seasoning popular in Japanese cuisine that’s made from fermented soybeans.

Or, throw some grilled or marinated tempeh (a block of packed fermented soy somewhat similar to tofu that’s popular in Indonesian cuisine) into soups, pastas, and chili for a smoky, nutty flavor, suggest Planells.

Both tempeh and miso contain probiotics and make great additions to vegetarian meals because they’re considered complete proteins (meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids), plus B vitamins and antioxidants, says Planells. A half of a cup of tempeh packs on 17 grams of proteins and two tablespoons of miso contains 4 grams of protein.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re So Gassy

kimchi

Kimchi is a spicy, fermented vegetable popular in Korean cuisine that contains probiotics, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B, and C. The most common probiotic in kimchi is lactobacillus, which survives by feeding off the sugar content of the cabbage and releasing carbon dioxide, says Planells.

Noticing a trend of fermented foods here? Turns out you can ferment just about any fruit or vegetable. Veggies like cauliflower, carrots, jicama, and daikon can all provide probiotics, fiber, vitamins, and minerals when fermented. They make a crunchy addition to a meal and go great with hummus for a healthy snack, says Schmitt.

Try it at home: Bastyr University, known for alternative medicine studies, recommends dissolving 1 TBSP of sea salt into 2 cups of water. Once dissolved, place vegetables with spices of choice into a glass quart jar, leaving 1 inch at the top and ensuring all vegetables are submerged. Cover the jar and keep away from direct sunlight for five days. If the vegetables aren’t to your liking, you can let them ferment another 2 to 3 days for a more sour taste. Once ready, place in fridge for up to two months.

kombucha

Not only can you eat your probiotics, but you can drink them, too. Kombucha, an effervescent fermented tea, is quickly becoming a trendy go-to for probiotics.

Schmitt recommends swapping soda or juices for the healthy, fizzy beverage. Just take a look at the label before you buy a bottle—some varieties may be packed with sugar.

yogurt

When you think of probiotics and food, you probably jump straight to yogurt. That’s because it’s prepared with those live and active cultures (a.k.a. probiotics), says Schmitt.

She recommends going for a strained Greek or Icelandic yogurt, which can pack up to 23 grams of protein per cup. Enjoy it for breakfast with fresh berries and sprinkle on nuts or seeds. Just steer clear of flavored yogurts, which are often loaded with sugar.

Save this handy infographic to that healthy eating Pinterest board:

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8 Foods And Drinks For When You Just Can’t Poop

We remind ourselves every time we feel awkward in the office bathroom: Everyone poops.

But then again, there are times when, well, not everyone can.

We’ve all been backed up at some point. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, constipation is defined by spending time struggling on the toilet, unusually hard number-twos, and/or going fewer than three times in a week.

“Even though most people don’t like to talk about it, regularity is really important for digestive health as well as detoxification,” says Robin Foroutan M.S., R.D.N., H.H.C., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics. So let’s talk about it.

Constipation can be caused by anything from the foods we consume, to hormonal troubles, to supplements and medications, says Niket Sonpal M.D. Sonpal recommends first adjusting your diet to promote smoother moves. Check with your doctor if you’re constipated regularly, but if you’re in a bind and need something asap, here are eight foods and beverages that might help move things along.

Related: Find a supplement to support digestion and more pleasant toilet time.

water

 

 

Drinking water may sound like a no-brainer, but according to Sonpal, one of the most common causes of constipation is dehydration. When you’re well-hydrated, available water can be drawn into your colon and help get your gut going, he explains.

Sonpal recommends drinking around eight glasses of water per day. Whenever your lips or mouth feel dry, it’s time to grab a glass. And if water is too bland for your taste buds, try adding sliced lemon or fruits like strawberries to your glass or water bottle for a hint of flavor.

fruits-and-veggies

 

 

So many of our nutritional struggles can be answered by fruits and veggies, and they may also be the answer to your gotta-poop prayers. Thank you, fiber. “Fiber is an insoluble, indigestible compound in our food that later helps to bulk up our stool,” says Sonpal.

Foroutan recommends trying nomming on high-fiber foods like non-starchy vegetables, leafy greens, prunes, and pears. A half-cup of prunes contains about six grams of fiber, while one large pear contains seven grams, according to USDA. (The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend adults get 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.)

nuts-and-seeds

 

 

Another fiber-filled food group that might solve toilet troubles: nuts and seeds. Pumpkin seeds, for example, contain four and a half grams of fiber in a quarter cup.

One of the biggest constipation-busters in this category also happens to be the most itty-bitty of seeds: Chia seeds. With more than five grams of fiber per tablespoon, chia seeds soak up tons of water, and can help bulk up your number-two, says Foroutan.

tea-or-coffee

 

 

Your morning cuppa Joe and some varieties of tea can get your bowels going. These popular bevvies stimulate contractions and reflexes in your GI system, which is why they tend to make you go soon after you finish your cup, says Sonpal.

Sonpal recommends teas like Traditional Medicinal’s Smooth Move tea, which uses natural ingredients like chai spices, dried fruits, and ginger that may help support digestion. Smooth Move, and teas like it, incorporate a plant called senna, which is often used as a natural laxative.

Just don’t guzzle coffee by the pot. “While coffee can help keep you regular, too much can dehydrate you and actually make you constipated,” says Sonpal. Everyone tolerates caffeine differently, so keep an eye on how java makes you feel.

aloe-vera

 

 

This wonderful plant can do more than soothe scorched shoulders in the summer. Aloe vera juice can be beneficial for the digestive track and promote regularity, says Foroutan.

avocado

 

 

When your poo needs an extra push, Foroutan recommends upping your intake of healthy fats, which help promote regularity. The fats in avocados and olive oil help to soften up your stool for a less strained meeting with the porcelain throne.

yogurt

 

 

One of the most commonly-recommended and recognized food sources of probiotics, yogurt is a good go-to breakfast or snack when you just can’t go.

The live organisms we call probiotics help us digest food—literally keeping our GI tracts on track, ha!—and prevent food-borne illness, says the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

If you’re lactose intolerant or just freaked out by yogurt (it’s a consistency thing, we hear you), Foroutan recommends trying fermented foods like sauerkraut or pickles, which also contain probiotics.

spicy-foods

 

 

If you’re feeling like takeout, opting for a spicy dish may help snap your system back into action.

Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, for example, can get your bowels going, says Sonpal. So if you’re a lover of all things heat, go ahead and order that ghost pepper salsa. If spicy foods aren’t usually your thing, though, don’t go too crazy, warns Sonpal. You may find your constipation has shifted straight to diarrhea. Wonderful.

 

Pin this handy infographic for the next time you just can’t go…

8 Foods New