Fats in the Diet and Constipation

Fat is an important nutrient in your diet, but not all fats are healthy when consumed in excess. Fat stores energy calories, it insulates cells and influences the way your body metabolizes carbohydrates. However, high intake of saturated fats increases your risk of heart conditions, and it slows your digestive system, which can result in constipation.


About Constipation

Constipation is characterized by having three or fewer bowel movements a week. It is a symptom but can become chronic, depending on your dietary habits. When you are constipated, your large intestine, or colon, absorbs too much water, or muscle contractions of the colon become slowed, forcing stool to harden and dry. Dietary factors involved in causing constipation include too little fiber, the substance that softens and helps move stool, and too much fat, which hardens and slows stool movement. Medications, dehydration, medical conditions and a sedentary lifestyle also can contribute to acute bouts of constipation.

High-fat Foods

A healthy diet limits daily fat to 35 percent or less of your total calories, with less than 10 percent of total calories coming from saturated fat. In the average 2,000 calorie diet this equates to 50 to 70 grams of total fat, with about 16 to 20 grams of that being saturated. High-fat foods include cured pork, such as bacon; beef round, ribs and sirloin; and fried chicken, which yields 5 to 14 grams of saturated fat or total fat of 20 to 41 grams per 3 oz. serving. Whole-fat dairy includes products such as 1 oz. of sliced American or cheddar cheese that yields 4 grams of saturated fat and 7 grams of total fat, or 1 cup of yogurt or milk that yields 5 grams of saturated fat and 8 grams of total fat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database.

Diet Changes for Constipation

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse notes that increasing your daily fiber to 20 to 35 grams can reduce constipation. Fibrous foods include fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Bean varieties, such as navy, black or kidney beans, are high-fiber foods, or choose almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds to increase your fiber consumption. If you do not normally consume high-fiber foods, gradually introduce them into your diet to prevent sudden digestive upsets, such as gas and bloating. Consult your physician for dietary recommendations if you experience constipation.

Additional Considerations

Drink plenty of water, especially if you increase your fiber consumption. Balance your meals with lower-fat foods, such as fish or baked chicken, instead of fatty red meats. Also, limit processed meats, those that are canned or presliced for sandwiches. Choose low-fat dairy products and cook with olive oil instead of lard or butter. Read nutrition labels for fat content in foods to prevent over-consumption and thus avoid constipation.


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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.