is-intermittent-fasting-really-all-its-cracked-up-to-be

Is Intermittent Fasting Really All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

Nutrition experts used to debate whether you should eat three big meals or five little ones per day. (Okay, maybe they’re still debating it…) But another foodie fight has recently stolen the spotlight: fasting. As in eating just one meal per day on some days—if that.

Known as intermittent fasting (IF), this eating approach generally involves going anywhere from 14 to 36 hours at a time without eating. Essentially, you’re tricking your body into thinking you’re starving in an effort to slash calories and get your hormones in check.

Sound like fun? This seemingly torturous dieting style has seen serious traction—here’s what you need to know about its potential perks and whether or not it might work for you.

How It Works

Proponents of intermittent fasting believe the eating style shifts your body into ‘starvation mode,’ causing your metabolism to burn body fat for energy because energy from food is unavailable.

Related: 5 Myths About Your Metabolism—Busted

One of the most popular intermittent fasting protocols is the 5:2 Diet, which involves eating only 500 to 600 calories on two non-consecutive days per week. (You eat normally the other five.) The Eat Stop Eat method requires eating zero food (you can have calorie-free beverages) for a full 24 hours once or twice per week, and eating normally the rest of the time. Meanwhile, on the Warrior Diet, people fast every morning and afternoon and eat one large meal at night. Other methods include restricting food intake to four, six, or eight-hour windows each day.

A quick note for all of our gym-goers and exercise-lovers: On fasting or low-calorie days, workouts are off the table, as sweating it out on empty stomach can result in dizziness or fainting, not to mention poor workout quality.

The Possible Pros

The ultimate goal, for most people: weight loss. Much of the diet is centered on the all-important concept of caloric balance. Consume fewer calories than you burn, and, hypothetically, you’ll lose weight. And, for some people, it’s easier (or more appealing) to cut calories by skipping meals than by trimming calories at every meal, explains Luigi Fontana, M.D., Ph.D., a research professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

According to Fontana, intermittent fasting can reduce weekly caloric intake by 20 to 25 percent. Proponents of IF note that, in theory, even if you eat normally (or end up slightly overeating) on your regular eating days, eating minimally the rest of the time results in a caloric deficit.

Related: This Is The Best Time Of Day To Take A Protein Supplement

Weight loss aside, some experts believe IF may hold further hormonal and health benefits. For instance, in one small University of Copenhagen study, men who followed an intermittent fasting protocol improved their bodies’ glucose-uptake rates, a measure of insulin sensitivity. (A decline in insulin sensitivity is often a precursor of diabetes.)

But There’s A Catch

But even if intermittent fasting may deliver on some health fronts, is it really any better than the more conventional strategy of cutting calories on a daily basis? So far, it doesn’t seem like it. For instance, one 2014 Translational Research review concluded that IF improves visceral (belly) fat and insulin resistance similarly to a daily calorie-cutting strategy. Plus, it also found conventional dieting to support total weight loss over time better than an intermittent fasting approach.

What’s more, IF may actually contribute to muscle-wasting and lowered metabolic rates over time—both of which are counterproductive to long-term weight loss and health. For example, one Pennington Biomedical Research Center study found that when men and women fasted every other day for 22 days, their resting metabolic rates dropped five percent.

Related: 6 Ways Building Muscle Benefits Your Health and Well-Being

Is It Worth Trying?

People interested in intermittent fasting should talk to their doctor before taking up the diet, Fontana says. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and people recovering from an illness or surgery should not attempt intermittent fasting, since their bodies demand a pretty constant stream of nutrients.

Most health experts’ main concern with IF is that it can promote an unhealthy relationship with food. “Intermittent fasting does not allow a person to rely on his or her own hunger and satiety cues, but gives that ‘job’ to an artificial time clock,” says Kimberly Gomer, M.S., R.D., L.D.N. This may be especially problematic for those with a history of disordered eating. “Those with a prior history of compulsive or binge eating, as well as anorexia, can be at risk for these behaviors to be exacerbated by fasting,” explains Gomer.

Make Meal-Timing Work For You

Instead of following a strict eating protocol like intermittent fasting, experts recommend taking a more intuitive, mindful approach to eating.

Gomer suggests eating small meals throughout the day, starting when you feel slightly hungry and putting the fork down when you’re slightly satisfied. (Keep in mind it takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the body to fully register fullness.)

Another tip? To improve your ability to tap into your bod’s signals, work on nixing distracted eating. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, multitasking during your meals—whether it’s watching TV to walking down the street—can reduce your brain’s ability to gauge food intake and lead to overeating.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re Hungry All The Time

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What 8 Health Enthusiasts Eat For Breakfast

Your mom told you hundreds of times, and we’ll tell you yet again: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But not just any breakfast will do. Choosing a solid, high-protein morning meal (like eggs, Greek yogurt, or a protein shake) over that stale, office coffee kiosk muffin may help you beat sugar cravings and keep energy crashes at bay all day long.

Since the same ol’ morning meal can get boring day after day, we asked some of the healthiest people we know (our own employees—we call ‘em Health Enthusiasts because they’re just that good) for their all-time favorite breakfasts, photos and all. Following their lead, you’ll never have to settle for those no-good, empty calories again.

samantha-phillips-protein-waffle

“My go-to breakfast is a Flapjacked protein waffle! It gives me all the nutrients I need to get through my workout and the rest of the morning! My favorite flavor is the banana hazelnut. Sometimes I top it off with some marshmallow fluff and fruity cereal for a special treat.”

—Samantha Phillips, Assistant Store Manager, Store 679, Clark, NJ

shannon-winter-shake

“My usual breakfast meal is my Swiss Chocolate Next Step shake with two tablespoons of peanut butter and a banana blended in. I love this shake because it tastes delicious and mixes extremely well. Plus, it contains almost 12 grams of fiber and really keeps me full until lunchtime.”

—Shannon Winter, Store 818, Glen Mills, PA

jenn-pena-breakfast

“Scrambled eggs and spinach is such an easy, delicious breakfast. I even make it for dinner sometimes when I’m feeling lazy or need something super quick. I’m following the Whole30 diet right now, so it’s become my go-to!”

—Jennifer Pena, Video Producer and Editor

elizabeth-horner-smoothie

“My morning protein smoothie contains enough carbs, protein, and fat to keep me going until lunchtime! I use plant protein, unsweetened almond milk, blueberries, half a banana, powdered greens, coconut oil powder, and True Athlete Kre-Alkalyn creatine.”

—Elizabeth Horner, Store 439, Shreveport, LA

rob-trench-breakfast

“I usually start the day with lean ground sirloin, eggs, and Ezekial toast, topped with hot Buffalo sauce. It tastes great, contains zero sugar, and is packed with almost 60 grams of protein. I’m eating a calorie surplus right now in order to build muscle mass, so this hefty morning meal is perfect for me as a bodybuilder.”

—Rob Trench, Manager, Store 144, St. Petersburg, FL

Related: 6 Ways Building Muscle Benefits Your Health And Well-Being

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“My typical breakfast is a power bowl of sautéed kale, egg whites, and red quinoa. I love incorporating quinoa, a superfood with all nine essential amino acids.”

—Fabian Villanueva, Store 395, Menifee, CA

christine-murray-breakfast

“My go-to breakfast is a mug of quick oats. They’re a little plain in flavor, so I put cinnamon sugar on the top to add some fun—and so I don’t get bored of it. It’s simple, easy, and keeps me full and satisfied for a few hours.”

—Christine Murray, Brand Communications Manager

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“My breakfast almost always involves some sort of egg-veggie combo. The more green the better! Here I’ve got two fried eggs over spinach with some avocado on the side. And, of course, tons of red pepper flakes and black pepper for a nice kick.”

—Lauren Del Turco, Associate Editor

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What You Need To Know About The Popular Whole30 Diet

As if Whole30 weren’t popular enough already, the recent release of The Whole30 Cookbook has turned the diet into more of an internet-wide craze. Still, for as buzzy as Whole30 is, it’s pretty misunderstood.

We talked with top registered dietitians, as well as one of the Whole30 creators, to decode what’s on (and off!) the menu—and how to tell if the plan is right for you.

What’s the Whole30 Diet All About?

Whole30 originated in 2009 after co-founder Melissa Hartwig, a certified sports nutritionist, cut out all sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, and food additives from her diet for 30 days—and found herself feeling better than ever—the Whole30 is an elimination diet intended to help people establish a diet rooted in whole foods and identify food sensitivities that may contribute to health related issues.

As in Hartwig’s own experiment, Whole30 dieters are instructed to remove all added sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, as well as carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites from their diets for 30 days straight. No exceptions.

Then, once they successfully make it through the 30 days sans slip-ups (one bite of a prohibited food and you start over at day one!), Whole30-ers can slowly reintroduce each food group back into their diet, one food group at a time, generally over the course of 10 days, Hartwig explains. The thought is that you would reintroduce, say grains, on day 31, and then dairy on day 35. Any sudden stomach issues on days 31 through 35 would point to a sensitivity to grains. That might be your cue that you could alleviate future stomach woes by avoiding grains long-term.

Before You Try To Whole30 All Your Health Issues Away…

While many Whole30 dieters and proponents claim that the approach has helped them to have more energy, feel better, and surmount a myriad of health concerns, proceed with care.

“Self-diagnosing food intolerances and allergies—or anything else, really—can easily be inaccurate, if not dangerous,” explains Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “If you suspect that you have a medical issue in relation to food, it’s best to talk to your doctor or dietitian for evaluation. Every person is different, and diagnosis isn’t generally as simple as, ‘I feel better today.’” A diagnosis of Celiac disease (a disorder in which gluten damages the small intestines), for example, hinges on the examination of a biopsy taken from the patient’s small intestine.

The creators of Whole30 hear these concerns loud and clear. According to Hartwig, the program is not meant to be a substitute for a medically-supervised elimination diet, and those interested in trying it should always speak with their healthcare practitioner before overhauling their diets.

Axing Foods—And Nutrients?

Self-diagnosing aside, most concerns over the Whole30 revolve around the elimination of foods that are healthy, should someone not have an actual food allergy or intolerance, explains Kelly Pritchett, Ph.D., R.D., C.S.S.D., assistant Professor in Nutrition and Exercise Science at Central Washington University.

“The diet eliminates a lot of foods that are packed with benefits, like beans and dairy,” she says. She notes that whenever you remove an entire food group from your diet, you risk nutritional deficiency. (For instance, if you nix dairy for a month, you need to make sure you are getting vitamin D and calcium elsewhere.)

To help pack in as much vitamin D into Whole30 as possible, Hartwig recommends incorporating fatty cold-water fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel into your meal rotation. Some of the best Whole30-approved sources of calcium include Chinese cabbage and leafy greens, like spinach.

That’s not to say that the foods you can eat on Whole30 can’t make up a healthful diet. A balanced menu on the program incorporates meats, seafood, eggs, loads of vegetables, some fruit, and unsaturated fats from oils, nuts, and seeds. These are all great foods that can be part of a healthy, well-rounded eating plan, Pritchett says. Major points.

Will You Lose Weight?

Contrary to popular opinion, the Whole30 is not a weight-loss plan, Hartwig explains. Still, that doesn’t mean that people don’t lose weight on it.

In fact, she notes that many people who follow the protocol report losing up to 15 pounds within the month. Delbridge has observed similar amounts of weight lost among Whole30 followers.

Why all of the weight loss on a non-weight-loss diet? The reason is two-fold. First, so many foods are eliminated that people may end up with a caloric deficit, meaning they consume fewer calories than they burn per day, without even trying. (It’s worth noting that the diet does not recommend calorie counting.) Second, the Whole30 diet tends to be high in protein and fat, both of which help to prevent overeating by making you feel full long after each meal, Delbridge says.

Delbridge notes, though, that many people he has seen lose weight throughout the Whole30, gain some or all of it back afterward. He suspects that straight-up eliminating sugar (or any other food) may contribute to increased cravings and potential binges once Whole30 is over.

Many proponents of Whole30, though, claim that following the program actually helped them improve their relationship with food and ultimately reduced cravings.

The Bottom Line

If you want to cut down on (or completely eliminate) your intake of added sugar, alcohol, or food additives, go for it, says Delbridge. “As long as you are getting the nutrients you need, if you feel better not eating a specific food or food group, that’s totally cool,” he says.

And if you suspect you might have an allergy or intolerance to legumes, dairy, or any specific grains (like wheat), systematically removing each food and then reintroducing it into your eating plan is a good first step in identifying any issues. Just make sure to take on the science experiment with a registered dietitian’s oversight, he says. That way, you can be sure that as you cut a food group from your plate, you don’t miss out on any vital nutrients.

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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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weight-loss-plateau

So You’ve Hit A Weight-Loss Plateau—Now What?

Let’s get one thing out there right away: Plateaus are a totally normal part of any weight-loss journey. They happen to even the most arduous and motivated health warriors. So don’t beat yourself up if the scale is no longer budging, ya hear? You’re not doomed!

In order to turn things around, your weight-loss strategy most likely needs a few tweaks. Read on to find out the most common exercise and diet traps, and what you can do to bust out of them.

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photo credit: iStock

Exercise Culprits

On the fitness side of the equation, there are two main reasons your results may be tapering off. The first: You’re doing the same thing day after day. The second: You’re doing too many different things each week, according to Craig Ballantyne, C.S.C.S., professional trainer, and author of The Great Cardio Myth.

Here’s the issue with too much consistency: “If you do the same exercise program over and over again without increasing your weight, reps, or intensity, you’re no longer stimulating your body to adapt and change,” he says.

On the other hand, if you’re doing too many different types of workouts—for example, lifting weights on Monday, going to spin class on Tuesday, taking a bootcamp class on Wednesday, running intervals on Thursday, and then hitting up CrossFit on Friday, your body can’t make sense of everything that’s happening, says Ballantyne. “You need to give your body time to recover and adapt to what you’re doing,” he says. “It’s not about doing more, more, more; it’s about doing the right things and then letting your body recover.”

To avoid both of these potential pitfalls, Ballantyne recommends picking a lane and making it your primary focus. Since building muscle is the best way to ramp up your fat burn, lifting weights is your most advantageous option, he says.

If you’re going to make strength-training your go-to grind, it should make up the majority of your week’s workouts. But that doesn’t mean you’re bound for boredom. You can switch up what you’re doing by adding days of muscle-building-friendly activities like bootcamp classes between straight lifting days, Ballantyne suggests.

The key: “Don’t let more than three weeks go by without ramping up your intensity,” he says. Whether that means picking up more weight, adding more reps, or performing exercises faster for a bigger heart-rate boost, you have to keep challenging yourself. “As soon as your workout starts to feel easy, make a change,” he says.

Related: The Best Rep Range If You’re Strength Training For Fat Loss

Woman chopping mushrooms with knife on cutting board.
photo credit: iStock

Diet Culprits

If you’re watching what you eat to lose weight, you’ll have to adjust your approach as your body adapts over time, especially when it comes to cutting calories, says Mike Israetel, Ph.D., sports physiologist and co-founder of Renaissance Periodization.

You want to aim to lose around one percent of your bodyweight per week (three pounds for someone who weighs 300 pounds, and a pound and a half for someone who weighs 150 pounds), so the number of calories you may need to cut varies depending on your starting point.  In that first month of dieting, a smaller person (say somewhere around 150 pounds) should start by reducing their caloric intake by 250 calories. A larger person (say somewhere around 300 pounds) should start by cutting 500.

You’ll notice that after a few months, though, this approach will stop working. “As you diet successfully, your body starts to shrink in size,” explains Israetel. “And because fewer calories are required to maintain a lower body weight, your metabolism slows down.” After you make that initial progress, your body needs fewer calories than it did when you started, so your initial nutrition plan becomes less effective.

Related: 6 Possible Reasons Why You’re Still Not Seeing Results From Working Out

Why does this happen? Since our more primitive ancestors’ primary struggle was finding food, not over-consuming it, we’re wired with natural coping mechanisms that kick in when our bodies think food is scarce (a.k.a. when we’re cutting calories).

You may start to feel fatigued as your body starts to subconsciously conserve energy, burn fewer calories at the gym and throughout the day, and even start to feel hungrier, says Israetel. So unfortunately, your success has brought about the exact one-two punch that will push you straight onto a plateau.

“No amount of willpower and motivation will help you overcome this,” says Israetel. It’s just not realistic. Your body is physically reacting to what you’re doing, so you have to treat the problem physically. And in order to do this, you need to shift your diet into a ‘maintenance phase.’

Related: Check out an assortment of supplements to support your weight-management efforts.

During a ‘maintenance phase,’ you gradually increase your caloric intake to reengage your metabolism, explains Israetel. Here’s what you do: Add back either the 250 or 500 calories you cut from your diet slowly over the course of about two months. As long as you’re diligent and patient, this should help your metabolism speed back up without you gaining much weight back, says Israetel. If you gain more than a few pounds in that window, you’re adding too many calories too quickly.

Israetel recommends reevaluating after a few months of this approach. If you’re still feeling fatigued or super-hungry, you’re best off continuing to slowly add calories to your daily intake. Otherwise, you may be ready to switch back into that ‘cutting’ phase.

“Everyone thinks they’re the exception to the rule,” Israetel says. Pacing yourself and finding your rhythm between about two months of maintenance for every three months of calorie-cutting should help ward off that dreaded plateau.

Related: Exactly What To Eat To Build Muscle

 

Pin this graphic and keep those results going strong!

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foods-to-eat-when-you-cant-poop

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