The F word I'm referring to here is fibre....admittedly not the sexiest word out there but it definitely deserves some attention.
In this glorious time of midlife where most things seem to require more attention than ever before, spare a thought for the role of fibre and why it might just be the missing link in your diet particularly if you are trying to lose weight or wanting to get blood sugar levels and appetite under control, here are some fibre facts:
Fibre helps with satiety levels, particularly when combined with protein rich foods you are less likely to reach for the biscuit tin if your meal contains a good quantity of both so it plays an important role in weight loss/management;
Fibre can help to stabilise blood sugar levels as it slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream therefore helping to prevent type 2 diabetes;
Fibre also feeds the good bacteria in our gut; as we hear more and more these days, good health starts in our gut and fibre plays a vital role in keeping the microbiome happy;
Fibre can be either soluble or insoluble ....soluble fibre forms a gel like substance when combined with water and helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer and insoluble fibre which is the roughage needed to move things through the large intestine and helps with elimination of waste matter, old hormones, toxins and other things that you don't want lying around for too long;
Fibre needs water so make sure you drink plenty as a high fibre diet without water is not ideal!
When most of us think of fibre it can conjure up images of boxed breakfast cereals that some very clever advertising agency has managed to convince us is the best way to start the day. Maybe take a moment before adding a box to your shopping trolley as often these so called 'healthy' breakfast options are filled with sugar and a bunch of other nasty stuff that will not get you off to the best start and you can get your fibre from a better source.
Fibre rich foods are always plant based but not exclusively grain based. Fibre is basically a form of carbohydrate that cannot be digested, it provides the bulk that our digestive system needs and also feeds our gut bacteria providing a healthy environment for those all important microbes. Vegetables and fruit contain fibre (eat the skin if it's the edible type as this is where most of the fibre is found). Beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas and other legumes and beans are a great addition to the diet and a good fibre hit. Nuts are also a great source of fibre as are potatoes - eaten with their skin on.
The guidelines suggest we should eat 30g per day which doesn't sound too much however, it isn't the weight of the food that counts towards the fibre goal as fibre will only be a part of the overall nutrient content of a food. Therefore, it's important to read labels or even try an app that can track your nutrition and you can keep an eye on your fibre intake. You may be surprised at how little you are consuming.
If you think you need to increase your fibre intake (and it can often be quite apparent that you're not getting enough .... hello constipation or a less than regular need for the bathroom), the advice is to increase your intake in increments as the side effects can be somewhat on the anti-social side!
If your diet comprises of a lot of 'white' products, try switching to higher fibre alternatives. If pasta is your thing, try some of the lentil, brown rice or wholewheat versions that are easily available. Switch your white sliced loaf for a wholewheat sourdough (adding extra gut health goodness due to the sourdough process). Try adding beans, lentils and other pulses to your curries, chillis, casseroles, salads and soups.
Chickpeas are a great store cupboard staple, add them to your favourite curry dish, whizz them up into a houmous, roast them until crisp for a high fibre snack, toss them with chopped cucumber, tomatoes and peppers, a couple of handfuls of salad leaves and a good salad dressing and you've upped the fibre in your lunchtime salad.
Try overnight oats for breakfast (I have recipes on my instagram feed @still_35_inside) and add grated apple, linseeds and flaked almonds for breakfast and you will have around 8-9g fibre under your belt before the day has even started.
It wouldn't be a post on fibre if I didn't take a moment to mention resistant starch...as the name suggests, this is a form of carbohydrate that resists digestion. It moves through the small intestine and into the large intestine where it acts as a prebiotic (a food source for our gut bacteria) It contains both soluble and insoluble fibre and it's benefits are said to be the reduction of cholesterol, increased satiety, a decrease in constipation and is said to be good for colon health.
Cooking can often destroy the levels of resistant starch found in foods, however, research is showing that resistant starch can be improved when starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and pasta are cooked and cooled before eating. Soaking oats to make either porridge, bircher muesli or overnight oats will also increase the levels of resistant starch. Another great source of resistant starch is green bananas...an overly ripe brown banana may be great for your banana bread but eating them green has definite health benefits.
By adding extra fibre to your diet you may start to notice an improvement in your digestive health, weight management, skin health and energy levels...go easy at first and if you have conditions such as IBS etc always discuss dietary changes with your Doctor.