Tag Archives: how to eat more fibre

Ways to keep youR gut happy

Huge thanks to student dietitian, Kristi Brown for this guest post.

“Gut health” is a term that you will have heard if you are remotely interested in nutrition, health and/or science. But what does it mean and why is everyone talking about it?

The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of bacteria that reside in the GI tract, particularly, the large intestine. These good bacteria influence the health of the gut and play a role in helping to regulate the body’s systems, such as the digestive and immune system. There is also very interesting emerging research being done surrounding the role of the microbiome in mental health conditions and the “gut-brain axis” – a bidirectional communication between the microbiome and the brain.

So, (hopefully!), it is a bit clearer why good gut health is being promoted but what might not be as clear is – how do we achieve it?

One such way is fibre. Fibre cannot be completely broken down by digestive enzymes in the stomach and so, passes through to the large intestine where it acts as food for the bacteria there.

The current fibre recommendation is 30g, however, it has been noted that people in the UK do not usually consume that much. Below are some ideas on how to easily increase your fibre intake. Please remember to consume to tolerance and to build up over time, as too much fibre too quickly can have effects such as bloating. Try adding in one extra fibre rich food a week and see how you go. (Yes I know, pun intended, fibre makes you go to the toilet too ;))

Practical tips to keep your gut happy

  • Variety is key – different bacteria enjoy different foods, so varying what you eat is a good way to keep them all healthy. Think of the colours you eat and the types of vegetables and fruit. Rotate what you eat, so if you usually enjoy broccoli, try asparagus. This way, you increase the chances of feeding all the bacteria in the gut and most importantly, you don’t get bored.
  • Buy frozen – I still hear people say that frozen isn’t as good for you as fresh. This is a myth – in fact, the nutrients are locked in the food when frozen and it’s cheaper than fresh (double yay!) 
  • Reduce waste, eat the stalks and skin – we generally throw the stalks from broccoli/cauliflowers and leave the skin when eatin a baked potatoes, when this is where the most fibre is. Leave the skin on (but wash and scrub veggies first). You can add to things like – soups, stir fries, curries, chilli’s – you name it!
  • Beans, beans good for your heart – again, go for variety. Baked beans are good but try kidney, butter and borlotti beans for a change. High in fibre, inexpensive and they bulk out your meal. Add to fajitas, chilli’s, make into burgers, add to a pasta dish, soups – the list goes on…
  • Add seeds and nuts to your snacks, cereal, yoghurt and main meals. Cashew nuts on a stir fry, sesame seeds on bolognaise, linseeds in your porridge, pumpkin seeds on yoghurt. It all helps, plus seeds provide a whole host of nutrients.
  • Go wholegrain when you can – switching to brown and wholegrain versions of foods can make a big change to your fibre intake. You could use 50/50 bread, wholemeal seeded wraps or brown rice.

I hope that has given you some ideas on how to up your fibre intake; keeping your gut healthy and providing a range of benefits from the other nutrients in the food (win-win!)

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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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.