Yes, you know that prune juice is an effective, natural way to take care of your constipation, but the taste – well, it could be better. Not everyone likes it, which certainly includes you.
Plus, there is that whole thing with acrylamide in prune juice, which, while supposedly safe so long as you stick to the recommended dose, is still not the kind of carcinogenic neurotoxin you want in a natural laxative!
But are prunes the only food which help get us going? Aren’t there other natural alternatives to the taste and toxicity of prune juice?
Yes, you are in luck, since not only are there many palatable options out there, but these alternatives to prune juice that are essentially “functional foods,” meaning they come with a bevy of other nutritional benefits as well.
Here are your best alternatives to prune juice – and how they help!
There are many foods which can help relieve your constipation as well as – or in some cases better than – prune juice. And they can easily be classified into 3 categories.
And, many of these foods have dual function as well, such as fruits and vegetables containing sugar alcohols also being good sources of soluble and insoluble fiber, or fermented cabbage dishes offering fiber alongside beneficial microbes.
With that in mind, here’s an in-depth look at some of the more popular foods which work just as well as prune juice to relieve your constipation!
The first category consists of cultured foods, aka fermented foods, which add beneficial bacteria to your gut. You already know of the many, many benefits of probiotics, right? Well, these are the foods that are a plentiful natural source of that beneficial gut bacteria!
Sour milk, anyone? No, it is not as bad as it sounds, and yogurt has become arguably the most popular cultured food there is. Rich in calcium, complete protein, B-vitamins and minerals, yogurt is also very versatile, and can be enjoyed with fruit for added fiber, as well as in smoothies, in dressings, or even on its own.
Yogurt has been around for centuries, although it saw a sharp increase in popularity in the United States during the 1950’s and 1960’s, along with an increased awareness of health and nutrition. Yogurt can also be made with dairy alternatives, such as soy, coconut or almond milk, so there are options available for those who are lactose intolerant, or are otherwise unable to consume dairy.
Essentially a liquid version of yogurt, kefir enjoys the same health benefits as yogurt, as well as adding some versatility for consumption. Kefir can be used in place of milk, and adds a pleasant, sour tanginess to cereals, smoothies, marinades and dressings.
Like yogurt, kefir can also be made from dairy alternatives, such as coconut, almond, or rice milk for those unable to consume dairy products.
With a history dating back to at least 220 BCE, kombucha has seen a rise in popularity since it was introduced as a bottled drink in in the US during the 1990’s. Kombucha has a refreshing, fizzy, sour flavor with hints of vinegar that some may find to be an acquired taste, though most love once they try it.
Kombucha also does not have quite the lactic acid bacteria content of yogurt or kefir, but is nonetheless known of as an effective digestive aid.
Finally, kombucha does contain very small amounts of alcohol from the fermentation process necessary in making it, so those with alcohol sensitivities may need to either consume kombucha tea sparingly, or avoid it altogether.
Germany’s contribution to your digestive health, although probably introduced to Europe by the Chinese, who likely originated it over 2000-years ago. However, it has been keeping German digestive systems healthy for around 1000-years, and is not only a good source of lactic acid bacteria, but fiber as well.
Please note, however, that much of the sauerkraut sold commercially here in the US has been pasteurized, which kills off bacteria, and only raw, unheated sauerkraut has probiotic benefits. Look for sauerkraut which needs to be refrigerated and has a use-by date, and avoid shelf-stable versions to ensure live bacteria in the product.
Not into fermented foods? Lucky for you, there’s another category of prune juice alternatives: foods that are rich in fiber. These foods help by adding bulk and supporting beneficial bacteria with prebiotics.
Chia not only adds a pleasant, seedy texture to foods, it is also a nutrient-dense and energy-packed “super food,” which was used by ancient Mayans to fuel long-distance runs.
In fact, the word chia translates to “strength” in the Mayan language, although chia’s benefits go beyond athletic strength, and can also aid in digestion, bone strength, and heart health.
For digestion, chia provides a whopping 11-grams per ounce of fiber, much of which is soluble. This is why chia becomes gelatinous when mixed with liquid, and also helps bulk stools and make them easier to pass. The fiber in chia also works as a prebiotic, which supports digestive health by promoting healthy probiotic populations in your gut. This one’s a major multi-tasker.
A popular way to add fiber to our diets, psyllium is most commonly sold either as whole husks, powder, or in capsules. It can be added to a variety of foods, and in addition to its status as a go-to bulking-fiber for constipation relief, it is also used to treat high-cholesterol, and as a prebiotic to support healthy populations of gut bacteria.
Psyllium is largely soluble fiber, and due to this, can be a choking hazard when consumed without adequate hydration. So drink lots of water with it!
Eat your veggies—they’re good for you! Yes, a salad-a-day can help keep the constipation away, and they are also an easy way to add nutrients to your diet. And, remember not to throw away those stalks, and be sure to leave the peel on, since even potato skins have fiber in them.
Even if you don’t like fresh vegetables, you can get the same fiber content from canned or cooked vegetables since the cooking process doesn’t affect fiber values. That said, cooking does lower the nutritional content of vegetables, since water soluble vitamins can’t survive heat.
Last but not least, there are foods which – like prune juice – contain sugar alcohols that draw water to stools through osmosis, and stimulate the colon to produce a bowel movement. Here’s some yummy alternative to prune juice that have a very, very similar function!
Not only can an apple-a-day keep the doctor away, they are one of the best fruits for relieving constipation as well. This is because apples are not only high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, but also contain sorbitol – a sugar alcohol which draws water to the colon to hydrate stools and produce a bowel movement.
Naturally high in sugars and fiber, corn also contains xylitol, which, like sorbitol, is a sugar alcohol that draws fluids to the colon and stimulates bowel movements. Xylitol can also be used as a low-glycemic sweetener, so even if you don’t like corn (come on, EVERONE likes corn!), you can still enjoy the benefits of xylitol (or almost any sugar alcohol) as a refined product.
Yes, even though prunes are a type of plum, there are many varieties and flavors of them which you may like better than prunes, and they all contain bowel-stimulating sorbitol. Plums are also an excellent source of fiber, and by not drying them (which prunes usually are), acrylamides are avoided, so they are a safer alternative to dried prunes and prune juice.
Carrots contain a sugar alcohol called mannitol, which, like sorbitol and xylitol, is a sugar alcohol with draws water to the colon via osmosis.
This is just a small look at foods which work as alternatives to prune juice. And, keep in mind that nearly any food high in fiber, such as kiwi fruit, pears, figs, nuts and grains, may be considered as well.
In fact, consider switching to a diet that’s loaded with plants if you suffer from chronic constipation, since not only can doing so help you “get moving,” it can also have other health benefits, such as lowering of cholesterol, better weight management, and improved heart health.
However, for alleviating constipation, there is no need to only stick with prune juice – even if you did like the taste!