Out of all the macronutrients, the health and fitness world seems to have this never-ending obsession with protein—but ask any nutritionist, and they’ll tell you there’s another little superstar contender that isn’t getting nearly enough airtime as it deserves.
Not only does fibre keep things, er, moving along, it can also assist with weight loss amongst a host of many other benefits.
Here, naturopathic nutritionist, Reece Carter shares with us some easy ways to include more fibre in our diets, plus his very own DIY supplement that you can make up yourself at home:
“There are two main types of dietary fibre: soluble, and insoluble,” explains Reece. “The key similarity is that they are both carbohydrates that can’t be absorbed into the bloodstream, which means they stay put in the digestive system and exert their effects from there.”
“As the names suggest, soluble fibre is soluble in water, and insoluble isn’t. Insoluble fibre bulks up our poo (sorry, there’s but no point dodging that topic when we’re talking gut health) so that we have a regular, healthy bowel movement—ideally each day. This of course helps to eliminate toxins and undesirable by-products that our liver has lovingly cleaned from our bloodstream. Soluble fibres, on the other hand, are a little more complicated. They take on water and can then be fermented by the bacteria who call our guts home.”
“In recent research, we’ve become particularly interested in the soluble fibres that act as prebiotics—that is, they feed the good bacteria in our gut, causing them to grow in number and improve our digestive balance. They in turn create all kinds of ‘happy molecules’ called short-chain fatty acids that feed a healthy gut lining.”
“The old wisdom that fibre makes you feel full and doesn’t contain any calories is true,” says Reece. “So fuelling up on fibrous plant-based foods is a sensible way to reduce your energy intake and manage weight.”
“What’s coming to light now though is even more interesting: that a healthy bacterial balance, as impacted by prebiotics at dietary levels, might positively affect insulin sensitivity and reduce waistlines in other ways too.”
Reece also explains that there is a link to adequate fibre intake and strengthened immunity as well as improved mood. “A landmark study conducted in Australia last year found that introducing a plant-rich Mediterranean diet over three months was more effective at reducing depressive symptoms than social support on its own,” explains Reece. “That’s mind-blowing support for the concept of the gut-brain axis, and with the prevalence of low mood and energy complaints, should be enough to send everyone straight to their greengrocer.”
“Eating healthy is so hard,” is something I hear not infrequently in clinic. But here’s a bombshell for you: I don’t eat biodynamic, slow cooked, home grown meals all the time. Because, you know…I have a job. But that doesn’t mean you have to throw your hands in the air and go “oh well, I guess I’ll just get takeaway again”. This cannellini bean and tuna salad is one of the most frequent on-the-go dishes I make. It’s packed with protein, impossible to mess up, full of flavour, and will be on the blog later this week. #herbnerd #nutrition #wellness #fitness #lazytuesday
“Psyllium is the most common dietary fibre used in commercial supplements, but there’s no benefit in buying a flavoured, branded product when the raw ingredient is just as effective. If you’ve ever noticed how psyllium makes your water turn to gel if left for too long, that’s the soluble fibre at work—just like a sponge!”
“Chia performs like psyllium husk in that it gels up too, but chia also contains other healthy components like polyunsaturated fats—loads of omega-3 and omega-6.”
“You can use flaxseeds in place of chia seeds, as they have similar nutritional properties. But why limit yourself? I’m always singing the praises of variety in our diets, so I actually use all three of the above fibre sources to make a DIY fibre supplement.”
Reece Carter is a naturopathic nutritionist and Jodi Lee Foundation ‘Trust Your Gut’ ambassador. www.jodileefoundation.org.au