Tag Archives: fibre

Eating for a healthy gut

PRE/PROBIOTICS – EATING FOR A HEALTHY GUT

Huge thanks to Melissa Kuman for this guest blog. Melissa is a Registered Associate Nutritionist. She can be found on instagram or check out her blog.

TOP FACT! Can you believe that the bacteria inside us can weigh up to 2kg and around 10% of what we eat feeds them?

In a nutshell, you can improve your gut by eating certain prebiotic foods and/or take probiotics. This is important as a lot of our immunity is dependent upon our gut (70% of the immune cells are located in the gut) and the microbes that live in it. Plus, 90% of serotonin, the happy hormone is produced in the gut. So basically good nutrition = healthy gut= serotonin and immune system= happy mind and body! Now lets get into this in a bit more detail… 

What is the difference between pro and prebiotics?

Great question! Well probiotics are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host FAO/WHO (2002). Where as prebiotics are certain fibrous foods (like banana, onions and oats) that help feed the bacteria.

What do probiotics do?

Probiotics rarely colonize in the gut, but rather intermingle with microbes there. As they go through the gut, they interact with gut cells, immune cells and food, giving their benefits. There’s so much research talking about the benefits of probiotics! Studies show that probiotics can improve digestive health and our immunity, including: decreasing antibiotic‐linked diarrhoea; improving resilience to infections; and improving digestion of lactose. There is even some early evidence of benefits in weight management and glycaemic control, depression and anxiety (Jacka 2017).

There’s no harm in taking probiotics but they’re quite expensive, so you could go for prebiotic foods that help feed the good bacteria like oats, bananas, onions, greek yoghurt and Kombucha.

It is important that the probiotics you are taking have research on the certain bacteria they include and that a health benefit has been proven. 

Prebiotics

Prebiotic foods are fibrous foods but not all fibrous foods are prebiotic, see table below. Overall, we need 30g of fibre a day and on average, in the UK, we are consuming just 18g. Both observational and interventional studies show that fibre influences gut health. As Burkitt, 1972 said ‘Dietary fibre has a role in the prevention of certain large bowel and other diseases present in Western countries’. Prospective studies also show it can decrease the risk of bowel cancer and insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes.

So how can we increase our fibre? Why not try eating more nuts and seeds and whole fruit and vegetables. For example you could add banana onto your morning cereal and make a big pot of vegetable curry with whole grain rice.

Interestingly Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London followed his son’s ‘Fast Food Diet’ to investigate the changes in the microbiota over the 10 day period. Tim ate 2 x Large McDonalds Meal [Big Mac/chicken nuggets, fries & Cola], 1 packet crisps & 2 beers for 10 days. After the 10 days, he lost nearly 40% of bacterial species with the good bacteria diminishing. Tim felt constipated, tired and grumpy. Not surprising really.

Other factors influencing the gut

‘Exposure to stress, both physical and psychological can modify the composition of the microbiota, due to increased permeability of the gut, allowing opportunistic bacteria to grow and potentially cause damage.’ Rhee et al. (2009).

It is important to put a bit of self-care into your day to reduce stress like running a bath and to be mindful when eating. Both these can help you have a happy gut.

Prebiotics Probiotic 
banana Yakult- Lactobacillus casei shirota
chicory Codex- Saccharomyces Boulardii
onion Actimel- Lacobacillus Casei
asparagus Mutaflor- Escherichia Coil Nissle
garlic Dicoflor- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
leeks Tempeh
Cocoa Kimchi
Flaxseeds Miso
Artichoke  Kombucha
Barley Live yoghurt
Oats Kefir
Apples Sauerkraut
References

Heiman ML, Greenway FL. A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity. Mol. Metab. 2016;5(5):317-320. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.02.005. 

Rhee et al. (2009) Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol; 6: 306-314. 14.

Hooper B, Spiro A, Stanner S. 30g of fibre a day: An achievable recommendation? Nutr. Bull. 2015;40(2):118-129. doi:10.1111/nbu.12141. 

https://theconversation.com/your-gut-bacteria-dont-like-junk-food-even-if-you-do-41564

Jacka BMC Med 2017 ‘A randomized controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression’ 

FAO/WHO (2002) updated Hill et al (2014) Nature Rev Gastro Hepatol 

https://theconversation.com/your-gut-bacteria-dont-like-junk-food-even-if-you-do-41564


The next new super-nutrient we should all be eating.

Fibre is one of the lesser talked about nutrients and yet so vitally important for our bodies. A recent summary of the scientific literature on fibre has shown just how key It is to eat a high-fibre diet. Learn more about what fibre is here.
 
The research:
 
185 studies and 58 clinical trials were reviewed, this was a total of 4635 people! So we are talking big numbers and not a one off study. This means we can put more trust in this research and it is significant.
 
So what is this compelling evidence of fibre on health?
 
The research shows us that eating at 25g to 29 g of fibre day can lead to a 15-30%  decrease in all cause death. Eaitng more fibre led to13 fewer deaths per 1000 people and 6 fewer cases of heart disease per 1000 people.
 
Overall there was a 16 to 24% reduction of heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, and colorectal cancer. So we’re talking about up to a quarter reduction in your risk of these diseases just by eating more fibre.
 
Eating 8 g more of fibre per day had significant reductions in the incidence of these diseases and in the number of total deaths.
 
 
What are we eating now?
When we look at what the current UK population is eating only 9% of us are meeting the fibre recommendations of 30 g a day. Average fibre intake for UK adults is 19g/day according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2018).
 
So why are we not meeting the recommedations?  Is is even achievable to eat 30 g of fibre a day.
 
The advent of clean eating, low carb diets and dieting means carbohydrates have been given a bad name. However the wholegrain versions of these foods provide us with plenty of fibre.  There are other foods that provide fibre too – nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and of course fruits and veggies.
 
I think it is achievable to meet the 30g a day, here is an example day for you:
 
Porridge with berries and almonds for breakfast.
A baked potato including the skin with salad and an apple.
Baked salmon with whole-grain rice and two portions of vegetables.
A banana with yoghurt and some seeds.
 
 
Of course some people may struggle with eating a high fibre diet and with all of these things it is not a one-size fits all approach and a balance is key. For medical conditions, the general nutrition advice may need to be tailored to your needs and that is absolutely ok. So if you cannot eat a high fibre diet do not panic, just focus on eating the foods you know nourish your body. If you need help with this do seek out a registered dietitian/nutritionist who knows their stuff!
 

The least sexy but vitally important nutrient

Facebook likes too ask “what’s on my mind” well actually right now it is fibre. An overlooked and neglected nutrient, maybe because bowel health just isn’t sexy. However to my mind, neither is constipation or piles. 
 
When the recommendations for fibre increased to 30g per day there were lots of posts out there about how hard it would be to achieve it and how to meet your fibre needs. At the time I remember thinking how hard this would be for many people to achieve. It’s all about making small changes one at a time and then building on these. In my clinic I see the extremes. Sometimes underweight people who are eating too much of the fibre rich foods (and I have to ask them to decrease these) but then also plenty of people who are just not having enough fibre which is causing some of their symptoms. 
 
(Disclaimer: this advice is not for those who are weight restoring from an eating disorder, too much fibre can be very filling and stop you from eating enough energy).
 
So why is fibre important? 
 
  • 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.

 

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Peanut Butter Cookies and Smart Snacking.

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.

 

Peanut Butter Cookies
Yields 8
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Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
175 calories
13 g
23 g
11 g
7 g
2 g
38 g
75 g
5 g
0 g
9 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
38g
Yields
8
Amount Per Serving
Calories 175
Calories from Fat 98
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 11g
17%
Saturated Fat 2g
10%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 23mg
8%
Sodium 75mg
3%
Total Carbohydrates 13g
4%
Dietary Fiber 3g
11%
Sugars 5g
Protein 7g
Vitamin A
1%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
4%
Iron
6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 100g peanut butter
  2. 150g granola
  3. 1 egg
  4. 1/2 tsp baking powder
Instructions
  1. Mix all the ingredients together.
  2. Bake at Gas Mark 5 for 10 minutes.
  3. Store in an airtight tin, they are best eaten on the day.
Notes
  1. 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.
beta
calories
175
fat
11g
protein
7g
carbs
13g
more
Dietitian UK https://www.dietitianuk.co.uk/

Lentil Shepherds Pie Jackets

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.

Dietitian UK: Lentil Jackets-1

Trust me, my family looked at dinner and went “Oooooo that looks good mummy”. 

J boy eats lentil jackets

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.

Dietitian UK: Lentil Jackets 3

Lentil Shepherds Pie Jackets
Serves 4
Vegetarian, wheat free and an all round healthy family meal.
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Print
619 calories
101 g
26 g
14 g
29 g
6 g
786 g
371 g
17 g
0 g
7 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
786g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 619
Calories from Fat 123
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 14g
22%
Saturated Fat 6g
31%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 26mg
9%
Sodium 371mg
15%
Total Carbohydrates 101g
34%
Dietary Fiber 17g
70%
Sugars 17g
Protein 29g
Vitamin A
265%
Vitamin C
445%
Calcium
35%
Iron
51%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 4 medium potatoes
  2. 1 tbsp butter
  3. dash of milk
  4. 50g grated cheese
  5. 1tbsp olive oil
  6. 2 onions, diced
  7. 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  8. 3 large carrots, peeled and grated
  9. 2 large peppers deseeded and finely chopped
  10. 1/2 large or 1 small head and stalk of broccoli finely chopped
  11. 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  12. 200g red lentils
  13. 2 tbsp tomato puree
  14. 200ml water
  15. 1 tbsp mixed herbs
  16. 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  17. 2 tsp soy sauce
  18. black pepper
Instructions
  1. Wash, scrub and prick 4 medium potatoes. Put in the microwave for 10 minutes on high. Turn the oven to Gas Mark 5.
  2. Meanwhile: Grate/finely chop the veggies or even easier - put it in a food processor and blitz it to fine pieces.
  3. Heat the oil, pop the veggies in the pan and cook for a few minutes.
  4. Add the lentils and cook for a few minutes.
  5. Now add the chopped tomatoes, water and bring to a simmer.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients and cook for 40 minutes.
  7. Whilst it cooks, put the potatoes in the oven to continue baking.
  8. 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.
  9. Scoop out the inside of the potatoes with a spoon, place the flesh in a bowl and mash with a little butter and milk.
  10. Fill the potatoes with the lentil mixture and place on a baking tray.
  11. Top with the mash and use a fork to spread it over. Sprinkle over the cheese.
  12. 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.
Notes
  1. Keep any left over lentil mix for the freezer or serve it on the side for hungry tummies.
beta
calories
619
fat
14g
protein
29g
carbs
101g
more
Dietitian UK https://www.dietitianuk.co.uk/

30g Fibre a day – can we fix it?

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

Eat-Whole-Grains-and-Rich-in-Magnesium-Food-to-Prevent-Diabetes-Risk-2

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. 

The Fibre Balance

(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.

 

 Soluble Fibre:

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. 

 

Insoluble Fibre:

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.

How to Eat to Keep Warm!

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.

Fibre for filling you, sweeping you and protecting you.

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

Dietitian UK: Choose wholemeal, brown breads with seeds for extra fibre
Dietitian UK: Choose wholemeal, brown breads with seeds for extra fibre

Top Tips:

• 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:

Lentil Bolognaise

Bean Burgers

Oaty Bars

I’d love to hear your high fibre recipes too.
This post was originally written for Slimsticks.