The bigger the poop, the happier the pooper: This much I know to be true. It’s why MEL investigated whether a 15-pound poop is even possible — because they were jealous and wanted to know if that jealousy was justified. It’s also why we wrote about hangover poops (which are, for reasons only those who’ve experienced their exorcistic glory will understand, poetic) and why I once inserted a whole pot of coffee into my butthole.
As Anish Sheth, co-author of What’s Your Poo Telling You?, put it to us earlier this year, the perfect bowel movement can even be transcendental. “I’m talking about the one that’s effortlessly evacuated, soft, tucks itself nicely in the bottom of the toilet bowl and that only takes one wipe,” Sheth told us. “It’s the type of poop where you get up, and you want to high-five the first person you see. It’s amazing that something we’ve relegated to the outhouse still has the ability to make us feel better and improve our energy.”
And you know what? It’s true. A great poop really does have the ability to take an otherwise crappy day and inject some life into it by unburdening your bowels. Which is why we, as a society in pursuit of more smooth bowel movements and fewer hard, stinky pebbles, are so obsessed with fiber — the Robin to perfect Bat-poops.
So, yeah, I know what fiber is, but on second thoughts, what is fiber exactly?
According to Live Science, the term “dietary fiber” refers to the indigestible parts of plant-based foods. But when speaking of nutrition, the terms “fiber” and “dietary fiber” are often interchangeable. “Dietary fiber is a plant-based nutrient that is sometimes called roughage or bulk. It is a type of carbohydrate, but unlike other carbs, it cannot be broken down into digestible sugar molecules. Therefore, fiber passes through the intestinal tract relatively intact. However, on its journey, fiber does a lot of work,” reports Live Science.
Work? What sort of work?
First, it’s important to know that there two different types of fiber — soluble and insoluble — and both help keep your intestinal system running smoothly. “Soluble fiber allows more water to remain in your stool, making waste softer, larger, and thus, easier to pass through your intestines. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your fecal material, which hastens its passage through your gut and prevents that constipated feeling,” reports Everyday Health.
I hate being constipated, so how much fiber do I need to keep my intestines humming along?
Great question! Since you are, presumably, a guy, Mr. Average Guy asking the questions, you’ll need more fiber than your average female equivalent because you’re likely ingesting more calories. “The national fiber recommendations are 30 to 38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women between 18 and 50 years old, and 21 grams a day if a woman is 51 and older,” reports a different article in Everyday Health. “Another general guideline is to get 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories in your diet.”
And for those of us who don’t speak fluent fiber math, what does that look like?
Think of it this way: If you’re a dude, the right amount of daily fiber intake for premium poops is approximately five or six cups of whole-wheat cooked spaghetti, or two cups of boiled lentils.
That seems doable, I think. So what foods should I eat to get the biggest, most fibrous punch?
Based on a list from the Mayo Clinic, the most fibrous foods are fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables. In fact, the food with the most fiber of them all are split peas, which pack a whopping 16.3 grams of fiber per cup. But if that’s not really your thing, a cup of raspberries has eight grams of fiber and a boiled artichoke has 10.3 grams of fiber.
I love raspberries and artichoke, I can eat those things all day. But is it possible to have too much fiber?
According to Stephen Bickston, professor of internal medicine and director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at Virginia Commonwealth University Health Center in Richmond, the average American doesn’t get enough fiber. “The average American consumes 13 grams of fiber [a day],” Bickston told Everyday Health. “That’s far less than the target.” Still, according to this Healthline article, it is possible to eat too much fiber — any amount over 38 grams per day can lead to bloating, abdominal pain, flatulence, diarrhea, and somewhat ironically, constipation.
So you’re saying I shouldn’t take a handful of fiber supplements with every meal to help lubricate my food through my digestive tract?
Not unless you want some serious digestive cramping. Having said that, according to the Mayo Clinic, while it’s better to get your fiber from from fiber-rich foods — because supplements don’t provide the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that fiber-rich foods do — there’s no harm in taking fiber supplements. “If you plan to take fiber supplements, start with small amounts to minimize problems with gas,” per the Mayo Clinic. “Also be sure to drink plenty of fluids every day.”
That way, sir, you’ll find yourself pooping every day of the week — and if you’re really lucky, twice on Sunday.