Sometimes, getting children to eat fruit and vegetables can be no fun. Less fun for kids is constipation. Statistics suggest constipation is on the rise among school-age children, but new research demonstrates that increased produce intake could help prevent discomfort and support normal bowel health.

study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing compared the dietary habits of Hong Kong school children (ages 8 to 10) with prevalence of constipation. Of the 383 children surveyed, 7% were considered constipated (defined as having three or fewer bowel movements/week). Results showed that children indicating a dislike of fruit and vegetables were 13 times more likely to suffer constipation. Also, those who drank less than 24 ounces of liquids daily were eight times more likely to be constipated. Another, larger study of 2,375 children found that those with a lower intake of fruit and vegetables were 21% and 33%, respectively, more likely to suffer constipation.

Aside from making their bathroom visits less onerous, there are plenty of other benefits to feeding your kids more fruit and vegetables. These include fewer tummy aches, higher test scores, fewer respiratory problems, stronger bones, and more balanced blood pressure according to preliminary research. Additionally, more produce on the plate may help your kids avoid childhood obesity, and its many attendant ailments.

Bonus: Kiwis vs. constipation? One study found that adults who ate two kiwis a day for a month enjoyed more frequent bowel movements and less overall discomfort.

Published May 1, 2011