- Bowels, bowels, bowels. As a student dietitian on the wards I remember having to swallow my embarrassment and loudly say to people “how are your bowels today”. These days I’m older, a lot harder to embarrass, mum to small kids and used to talking about bowels a lot… whether it be a clients, a child’s or a worms. Yes this week my girl wanted to chat about worms poo. Having enough insoluble fibre is important for bulking your stool.
- Soluble fibre forms a gel that slows digestion. This also means it helps stabilise blood sugars, lowers cholesterol and aids satiety, keeping you fuller for longer. Soluble fibre is found in oats, barley, psyllium, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits/vegetables.
- The microbiome is a fascinating area. Research has shown that the largest influence on the gut microbiome comes from diet. Fibre feeds the gut bacteria so by eating your fibre you are helping ensure your gut stays happy and healthy.
So how much fibre is in your foods? Although I wouldn’t promote you analyse labels all the time it can be interesting to compare the fibre content of some of the foods you eat.
Some fibre rich foods that can help boost your intake are:
Lentils, Spilt peas, beans, garden peas, nuts, seeds, wholegrain versions of pasta, rice, bread products, wholegrain cereals, grains such as oats, quinoa, cous cous, popcorn, fruit and veggies, potato skins.
Top tips to increase the fibre content of your meals:
- Add lentils, beans and pulses to your meals. A couple of handfuls of lentils goes well in casseroles, soups, salads, even stir fries.
- When possible opt for wholegrain versions of foods.
- Add nuts and seeds into meals. I love them sprinkled on breakfast or my yoghurt, you could add to a salad or on top of a stirfry. Sprinkle some in your sandwich or add to baking.
- Increase your portions of fruit and vegetables if you are not meeting the 5 a day target.
- Eating more plant based meals in your week. We aim to eat plant based meals 4-5 times a week in our house.
Here are some meals where I’ve pimped the fibre:
Oats with fruit, seeds and nuts – 15g fibre. Plus the oats here are soluble fibre.
2 x Rye bread with 1/2 avocado – 10-15g fibre, this particular bread is very high fibre, 10g for 2 slices.
If you used a different rye bread it would be lower, using my normal rye bread plus the avocado it would be 10g fibre.
Risotto made with pearl barley and broccoli – 12-15g fibre per portion. Pearl barley has a high fibre content and is a great grain to cook with. It takes slightly longer to cook than rice but can be used instead of rice, or added to soups and stews.
Vegetable fajitas with chickpeas, peppers and sesame seeds, smashed avocado and seeded wraps – 10g fibre.
I totally encourage you to try increasing your fibre intake and help your gut bacteria, blood sugars and bowel health. Remember to also drink plenty of fluids to help that fibre move through your system.
Snacking sensibly for me is a must. I need bucket loads of reliable energy to get me through my day. An average day for me involves 3 kids, much pilates and 1-2-1 dietetic clients. I don’t sit still for long, so crashing mid afternoon is not an option, especially as that’s the school run and my hungry time of day. So one thing I teach my clients and work on myself is balancing my snacks.
Yes fruit is fabulous, however it doesn’t keep me full for long or sustain my energy. So I pair it with protein or a wholegrain, higher fibre carb. Or if I’m feeling outrageous, I mix all three. For me it is not about the calories or the macro’s but the balance.
Satiety is the feeling of fullness that persists after eating. It affects the length of time between eating events and possibly the amount of energy consumed at the next. Protein is filling and can help stabilise blood sugars. Fibre rich foods require more chewing so psychologically take longer to eat, they can displace other energy rich food and slow gastric emptying.
Some of my favs:
Apple, cheese and oatcakes
Dried apricots, almonds and 25g dark chocolate
Oatcakes with nut butter and banana
Then there are these peanut butter cookies. Perfect with fruit and they take just 10 mins to bake. These make me feel like the perfect mum on those days I manage to whip the mix up before the school run and have them ready 10 mins after the kids walk in the door! Better still the kids can make them – I haven’t let them loose on this recipe yet.
- 100g peanut butter
- 150g granola
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- Mix all the ingredients together.
- Bake at Gas Mark 5 for 10 minutes.
- Store in an airtight tin, they are best eaten on the day.
- I used my own homemade granola (recipe on the blog) which is wheat free and gluten free if you tolerate oats or use gluten free oats.
Comfort food that is good for you? Yup it’s one of those type of recipes. I’m often recommended people eat more pulses and there seems to be a lack of knowledge about good ways to eat more of them. So if that is you…. here you go, a yummy recipe that makes lentils attractive to the family.
These are vegetarian, wheat free and packed with the protein power of lentils plus plenty of fibre from the veggies. lentils and skins of the potatoes. The lentils also provide zinc, iron, B vitamins and folate. They will also lower the glycemic index of this meal, so you should feel fuller for longer and have better glycaemic control. Pretty much a winning dish.
Trust me, my family looked at dinner and went “Oooooo that looks good mummy”.
I love a jacket spud but sometimes you just want to go one better, but keep it healthy. Not so much a wow factor but a warm glow factor.
This recipe uses an adaptation of my lentil bolognaise recipe, one of those recipes that you want to make double or quadruple of and freeze as it is so versatile.
- 4 medium potatoes
- 1 tbsp butter
- dash of milk
- 50g grated cheese
- 1tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 3 large carrots, peeled and grated
- 2 large peppers deseeded and finely chopped
- 1/2 large or 1 small head and stalk of broccoli finely chopped
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes
- 200g red lentils
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 200ml water
- 1 tbsp mixed herbs
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- black pepper
- Wash, scrub and prick 4 medium potatoes. Put in the microwave for 10 minutes on high. Turn the oven to Gas Mark 5.
- Meanwhile: Grate/finely chop the veggies or even easier - put it in a food processor and blitz it to fine pieces.
- Heat the oil, pop the veggies in the pan and cook for a few minutes.
- Add the lentils and cook for a few minutes.
- Now add the chopped tomatoes, water and bring to a simmer.
- Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 40 minutes.
- Whilst it cooks, put the potatoes in the oven to continue baking.
- Once the potatoes are done (30 minutes or so), test them inserting a knife into them. Then cut in half and allow to cool and allow the lentil mixture to cool too.
- Scoop out the inside of the potatoes with a spoon, place the flesh in a bowl and mash with a little butter and milk.
- Fill the potatoes with the lentil mixture and place on a baking tray.
- Top with the mash and use a fork to spread it over. Sprinkle over the cheese.
- You can now leave the potatoes in the fridge until later or bake straight away at Gas Mark 5 for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
- Keep any left over lentil mix for the freezer or serve it on the side for hungry tummies.
I’m so rock and roll that at the end of January I sat on my laptop and attended a Fbre Symptosium. Yes really. You can see why I don’t have many friends 😉
One thing that struck me was how tricky it can be to achieve the fibre recommendations unless you eat uber healthily and know how to cook.
The current UK fibre recommendations are for us to eat 18g/dauy NSP, these were set in 1991. That’s light years ago in the world of science. Interestingly studies show that in the UK we didn’t ever meet these and averaged 14g/d. Whoops.
These fibre recommendations are now being looked at. The 2014 draft SACN recommendations are we aim for 30g/d AOAC fibre. So that is measured in a different way but either way it is an increase.
Why? Diets rich in fibre such as cereal and whole grains as associated with a reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease., type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer. Benefits are also seen for gastrointestinal health. Sounds like a no-brainer doesn’t it.
So how much is 30g/day?
5 portions of fruit and vegetables
3 servings of wholegrain starchy foods (breakfast cereal, wholemeal bread and wholemeal pasta for example)
2 high fibre snacks
It is achievable if you eat a very healthy, cooked from scratch, unprocessed style of diet. Potentially needing large changes for lots of people in the UK as I meet many who do not know how to cook. Potentially able to save lives and make big improvements to health. It’s a challenge.
(This post was written for Slimsticks and can also be seen over at their website.)
Fibre. It’s not sexy. It’s not glamorous. But it is essential if you want to have a healthy and effective digestive system. Digestive problems such as IBS are now common in the UK population. The most frequent symptoms being abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloating, wind and constipation. Your first step should of course be to discuss these type of symptoms with your GP, however for many people some simple changed to your diet will make a big difference. For some people eating more fibre will be the key and for others it will be eating less fibre.
I like to think about this as altering the “Fibre Balance”. There is a balance between fibre and fluid that really does work. Increasing the fibre content of your diet may increase bloating and flatulence initially but these symptom pass within 2 weeks leaving you with a better working digestive system, more “fecal bulk” as the system is flushed through and a happier gut. Make sure you spread your fibre intake out over the day and increase your fluid intake alongside it.
Found in some fruit, vegetables oats and legumes. Try dried apricots and figs, oranges, nectarines, mango, pears, broccoli, carrots and potatoes as well as oats, rye, flaxseed, lentils, all beans and pear barley.
These foods can help control your blood sugar levels, it stops them rising too high too fast and so keeps your energy levels and hunger steady plus reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Soluble fibre may also play a role in reducing LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.
Found in wholegrains, the skin of fruit and vegetables and wheat bran.
This is the fibre that keeps you regular but may also reduce the risk of colon cancer.
How to Eat More Fibre:
- Aim for 25-28 g per day, this is 6 servings.
- Look for high fibre, wholegrain or bran on food labels.
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables per day, the peel and the whole fruit contain the most fibre rather than the juice.
- Use half white, half wholemeal flour in baking.
- Add beans, pulses, lentils and barley to soups, stews, casseroles and curries.
- Try roasted edamame beans and chickpeas as a snack, you can make these yourself.
- Add seeds to salad, on top of breakfast cereal, in homemade cereal bars/flapjacks and in stir fries.
- Have a handful of nuts as a snack.
- Try lentil, bean or hummous as dips/spreads.
- Make oaty bars for snacks with added dried fruit and seeds.
It’s that time of year when the weather is getting decidedly more chilly and the light is fading earlier. All of a sudden it’s time to switch from the summery salads to winter stews. The kettle is on more and the biscuit tin beckons. But how do you eat healthily yet still enjoy those winter foods?
Porridge is a great start to the day. Try adding different fruit, a sprinkle of seeds or some chopped nuts for variety. Alternatively try scrambled eggs and grilled tomatoes with toast.
Include something warming and satisfying at lunch, try a vegetable based soup, baked beans on toast or an omelette.
Although tea and coffee can warm you up it should be limited to 4 cups a day. Try hot squash, herbal or fruit tea or even hot water with a slice of lemon instead.
Winter stews and casseroles are delicious. Try using a slow cooker, pop it on in the morning and dinner will be ready by tea time. Include plenty of vegetables and add a couple of handfuls of lentils or beans/pulses to reduce the amount of meat you use. Bean and pulses are low in fat, have a low glycaemic index and contain plenty of fibre, so are a great weight loss aid.
Keep Active. Getting up and moving around more will get the blood pumping around the body and so warm you up. Plan some activity into your day and keep moving whenever you can.
It’s not the most talked about of topics, but fibre quietly plays a very important role in our bodies. Also known as roughage or bulk, fibre is made up of the hard to digest parts of plant foods.
There are 2 main types of fibre:
1. Insoluble Fibre is found in wheat bran, wholegrain foods and vegetables. This keeps your bowels regular. your digestive system healthy and may help protect against colon cancer. The fibrous foods act like a brush, sweeping out the intestines.
2. Soluble fibre can help decrease blood cholesterol levels and can aid blood glucose control. A natural aid to helping protect against heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It is found in oats, barley, oranges, beans and pulses.
How To Eat More:
We should aim to eat 6 servings of whole-grains a day. That’s 25g/day for women and 38/day for men aged 19-50 years. An easier way to think about it is to eat whole-grains at every meal and snack on fruit where possible.
• Use wholemeal bread / rolls / pitta / bagels
• Add wholemeal flour when baking instead of white flour
• Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
• Add beans and pulses (kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, butter beans etc) to meals, for example: soups, salads, casseroles and curries.
• Try beans on wholemeal toast for lunch
• Add seeds to salads or sprinkle them on your cereal
• Snack on nuts/seeds/unsalted popcorn and fruit
• Increase the fibre in your diet slowly to prevent gas and bloating, add one new portion of higher fibre food at a time.
• Spread your fibre intake evenly over the day – some with each meal.
• Increase your fluid intake alongside your fibre (6-8 glasses a day).
High Fibre Recipe Ideas: