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A common cause of chronic constipation is a lack of adequate dietary fiber. Consuming a healthy amount of daily dietary fiber -- 20 to 35 grams, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center -- can help you to achieve normal bowel habits 3. Fiber, most often obtained from the indigestible portions of plant foods, helps by forming bulk or roughage in the stool, making it easier to pass and ultimately a painless, regular occurrence. Sources of dietary fiber include legumes like beans and nuts, whole grains and produce, according to HuffPost Healthy Living. As tree nuts, walnuts may be a source that can help ease the discomfort of constipation.
Nutrition Profile of Walnuts
Among all of the foods that can help aid in constipation, walnuts maintain a spot as one of the healthiest sources. One-quarter cup of shelled nuts (about 50 halves) contains 164 calories, 16 grams of fat, 3.8 grams of protein and 1.7 gram of dietary fiber, among a number of other nutrients. Nuts generally are higher in fat and calories than many of the other food sources of fiber; however, the majority of the fats in nuts are the heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated types, so eaten in moderation, nuts are an effective method for aiding in constipation.
How Much Fiber Do Walnuts Have?
The Institute of Medicine recommends that men under 50 eat about 38 grams of fiber each day and women consume 25 grams. While walnuts do contain some fiber -- 1.7 grams per 1/4 cup, in addition to a host of other healthy nutrients -- their fiber content per serving isn't enough to relieve constipation. Plus, many nuts are high in fat and calories, so sticking to suggested serving sizes is a must. Fiber all-stars like lentils, with 15.6 grams of fiber per cooked cup, are a better bet for combating constipation; however, walnuts can be incorporated with other fiber-containing foods to create a healthy diet and gastrointestinal tract.
- The Institute of Medicine recommends that men under 50 eat about 38 grams of fiber each day and women consume 25 grams.
- Fiber all-stars like lentils, with 15.6 grams of fiber per cooked cup, are a better bet for combating constipation; however, walnuts can be incorporated with other fiber-containing foods to create a healthy diet and gastrointestinal tract.
Walnuts and Food Allergies
While enjoying walnuts is fine for most people, those with tree nut allergies should avoid them 6. There's no doubt that people with obvious and sometimes severe symptoms -- such as skin rashes, hives, swelling and wheezing -- should avoid these nuts, but allergies can also be more generalized. Ironically, they may include chronic bowel problems, such as diarrhea or constipation. Because walnuts should be a dietary source helping your constipation, avoid them if you experience any gastrointestinal discomfort after eating.
- While enjoying walnuts is fine for most people, those with tree nut allergies should avoid them 6.
- Because walnuts should be a dietary source helping your constipation, avoid them if you experience any gastrointestinal discomfort after eating.
Creating Fiber-Rich Meals
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Due to their healthy nutrient profile, walnuts can improve symptoms of constipation. While you can certainly eat them by themselves, what's even better is to combine walnuts with other fiber-containing foods for a high-fiber meal. Try a serving of steel-cut oatmeal with blackberries and walnuts or even steamed and seasoned broccoli or brussels sprouts with crumbled walnuts on top.
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- MedlinePlus: Constipation -- Self-care
- Mount Sinai Health Systems: Bowel Function and Dietary Fiber
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Fiber
- National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Nuts, Walnuts, English
- Greatist.com: The 16 Most Surprising High-Fiber Foods
- FoodAllergy.org: Tree Nut Allergies
- Nuts, walnuts, English. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.
- Clifton PM, Keogh JB. A systematic review of the effect of dietary saturated and polyunsaturated fat on heart disease. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017;27(12):1060-1080. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2017.10.010
- Li H, Li X, Yuan S, Jin Y, Lu J. Nut consumption and risk of metabolic syndrome and overweight/obesity: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies and randomized trials. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2018;15:46. doi:10.1186/s12986-018-0282-y
- Rock CL, Flatt SW, Barkai HS, Pakiz B, Heath DD. Walnut consumption in a weight reduction intervention: Effects on body weight, biological measures, blood pressure and satiety. Nutr J. 2017;16(1):76. doi:10.1186/s12937-017-0304-z
- O'Neil CE, Fulgoni VL, Nicklas TA. Tree nut consumption is associated with better adiposity measures and cardiovascular and metabolic syndrome health risk factors in U.S. adults: NHANES 2005-2010. Nutr J. 2015;14:64. doi:10.1186/s12937-015-0052-x
- Oregon State University. Essential fatty acids. Updated 2019.
- Raygan F, Taghizadeh M, Mirhosseini N, et al. A comparison between the effects of flaxseed oil and fish oil supplementation on cardiovascular health in type 2 diabetic patients with coronary heart disease: A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Phytother Res. 2019;33(7):1943-1951. doi:10.1002/ptr.6393
- Jackson CL, Hu FB. Long-term associations of nut consumption with body weight and obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100 Suppl 1(1):408S–11S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.071332
- Miketinas DC, Bray GA, Beyl RA, Ryan DH, Sacks FM, Champagne CM. Fiber Intake Predicts weight loss and dietary adherence in adults consuming calorie-restricted diets: the pounds lost (preventing overweight using novel dietary strategies) study. J Nutr. 2019;149(10):1742-1748. doi10.1093/jn/nxz117
- Poulose SM, Miller MG, Shukitt-Hale B. Role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age. J Nutr. 2014;144(4 Suppl):561S-566S. doi:10.3945/jn.113.184838
- Yang J, Liu RH, Halim L. Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of common edible nut seeds. LWT - Food Science and Technology. 2009;42(1):1-8. doi:10.1016/j.lwt.2008.07.007
- de Souza RGM, Schincaglia RM, Pimentel GD, Mota JF. Nuts and human health outcomes: A systematic review. Nutrients. 2017;9(12):1311. doi:10.3390/nu9121311
- Toner CD. Communicating clinical research to reduce cancer risk through diet: Walnuts as a case example. Nutr Res Pract. 2014;8(4):347–351. doi:10.4162/nrp.2014.8.4.347
- Kim H, Yokoyama W, Davis PA. TRAMP prostate tumor growth is slowed by walnut diets through altered IGF-1 levels, energy pathways, and cholesterol metabolism. J Med Food. 2014;17(12):1281–1286. doi:10.1089/jmf.2014.0061
- Tree Nut Allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
- California Walnuts. How to buy, care & store. 2019.
Alexandra Vairo is a writer and editor with experience working for magazines and websites including Weight Watchers, Shape.com, Greatist.com and more. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and communication from Boston College and is pursuing a master's in clinical nutrition at New York University.