Ladies, there’s someone new and exciting I’d like you to meet: Australia’s latest superfood, psyllium.
Psyllium (pictured) is a 100 per cent natural source of fibre and can be added to recipes, smoothies or cereal without altering the taste of the dish. You can also get pure, natural psyllium husk from supplements such as Metamucil.
What’s more, we should all be getting more fibre in our diets, especially if we’re trying to shed a few kilos. Why? A recent US study found a higher daily intake of fibre will help us lose weight nearly as much as following a low-calorie diet.
Trial participants who ensured they got the recommended 30g of fibre daily, as part of their normal diet, saw their overall health improve through weight-loss and lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Here, popular and well-regarded Sydney dietitian, nutritionist, author and busy mum, Dr Joanna McMillan (pictured), shares her top knowledge on fibre and easy ways to incorporate more into our diets.
And Dr Joanna should know; she’s vice president of the Australian Lifestyle Medicine Association (ALMA) and is an ambassador for Diabetes Australia and Australian Pineapples.
What is psyllium? Psyllium comes from the outer husk of the seed of a particular plant. It’s an incredible source of fibre and soluble fibre in particular. It’s also gluten-free so ideal for those unable to get fibre from common wholegrains.
What are its health benefits? Soluble fibre absorbs water and forms a gel in the gut. This helps you to feel full and eat less; it stimulates your gut to contract thereby keeping you regular; it slows the digestion and absorption of the carbohydrates present; it helps to lower cholesterol levels; it fuels the gut microbiome (the good bugs in your gut) and it helps to bind and carry out of the body potential carcinogens and other toxins.
Why is psyllium not well-known? Most people have probably heard of the brand Metamucil, but not realised that psyllium is the active ingredient. You can also buy psyllium husks in health and whole food stores, but because it hasn’t been talked about in mainstream media, most people won’t have known what it was useful for.
What is the best way to consume psyllium? You can simply dissolve it in water and drink, or add it to smoothies, yoghurt, pancake or muffin mixes. You can also even stir it through mashed potato.
Why is fibre important? It’s important primarily for gut health – keeping us regular, feeding the good bacteria in our gut (which in turn boosts immune function) and helping to prevent gut problems. But it also helps with blood glucose and insulin control as well as promoting healthy cholesterol profiles.
What health problems can you encounter without a fibre-rich diet? Principally, poor gut health, but this has a knock-on effect on the rest of the body. If your gut is sluggish and you feel bloated, it affects your energy levels and your motivation to exercise and eat well.
How can fibre, and psyllium, help you lose weight? Fibre-rich meals help to fill us up and feel sated after the meal. This can help to stop you raiding the biscuit tin in-between meals. By lowering blood glucose and insulin, fibre can also potentially boost fat burning and keep your hunger pangs at bay.
Why is psyllium husk the next superfood? Psyllium has so many health benefits and it’s so easy to incorporate into your diet. It has the potential to assist with blood glucose control, reduce constipation, reduce blood levels of “bad” LDL-cholesterol, lower blood pressure and may help in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. It can also help you to lose weight by making you feel fuller for longer.