No, I am not pregnant, I just had lunch.
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.
Good old spag bog has been gracing family dinner tables for decades. The great thing about it, is you can feed a big crowd on a budget, the kids will eat it, you can freeze the bolognese mixture for a quick meal and even pop in a few veggies for extra flavour and added fibre.
1/2 pack spaghetti
1/2 kilo mince meat (try mince turkey for something different)
1 finely diced brown onion
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 jar tomato based pasta sauce
1 tin tomatoes or use freshly diced
1 tin baked beans in tomato sauce
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 finely diced red capsicum (optional)
1 teaspoon oil
1 tablespoon mixed spaghetti bolognese herbs or a combination of Basil, Oregano, Marjoram, Rosemary, Sage or Thyme
1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese (Parmesan or something simple is preferable)
- Bring a pot of water to the boil and add oil and spaghetti. Cook on high until al dente and strain. While this is cooking you can make the bolognese sauce.
- Heat a large non stick pan and brown onion, garlic and mince meat. Add water to keep from sticking. After the mince is browned, add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on. Stir regularly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- Remove from heat and serve on top of spaghetti with a sprinkle of grated cheese.
If you want to increase the fibre, replace the baked beans with a drained can of 3 bean mix. It will also add texture and is even appreciated by those who aren’t keen on beans.
By Kim Chartres
Most of us know the powerful disease-fighting properties of fibre, but how many of us are consuming enough of this important nutrient? Sydney-based nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin said Australians need to concentrate on eating three different types of fibre, with men and women aiming to consume at least 30 and 25 grams of fibre per day respectively to feel the benefits.
Follow these 10 easy tips to boost your daily fibre intake.
1. Instead of white bread, rice and pasta, go for grain based or wholemeal varieties of bread, and brown or wholemeal varieties of rice and pasta.
2. When buying cereals, look for wholegrains. Choose products with wholegrain ingredients at the beginning of the list (wheat, brown rice, barley, oats, rye, millet, sorghum or triticale etc) and look out for words such as whole, wholegrain, mixed grain, cracked, flaked or kibbled next to the name of the grain.
3. Add legumes such as baked beans, kidney beans, lima beans, soybeans, chickpeas, dried peas and lentils to soups, casseroles, salads and sauces.
4. Sprinkle chopped fresh or dried fruits, wheatgerm or seeds on breakfast cereal.
5. Try a handful of dried fruit and nuts as a snack or add some nuts to a stir-fry.
6. Instead of a milkshake, try a fruit smoothie made with a banana or other fresh fruit. You may also wish to add in rolled oats as an additional fibre boost.
7. Eat unpeeled fruits such as apples and pears, and vegetables like potatoes wherever possible as the skins are a valuable source of fibre.
8. Skip fruit juices as they contain virtually no fibre and go for a fresh piece of fruit instead.
9. Instead of sour cream or cream cheese-based dips, try a spicy bean dip or some hommus, which is made with chickpeas
10. Look on the nutrition panel of food products and choose those which provide at least 2 grams of dietary fibre per serve.
What are your favourite fibre-friendly foods?
- Start slowly, add a little each day and build up to the recommended level. Simultaneously, add more water to your diet.
- Eat vegetables and fruit raw whenever possible. Boiling them too long, for example can cause up to one-half of the fibre to be lost in the water. Steam or stir-fry them if you have to cook.
- Pureeing doesn’t destroy fibre, but juice does not have the fibre of the whole fruit if the pulp has been strained away.
- Always start your day with a bowl of high-fibre cereal one that has five or more grams per serving.
- Put fresh fruit on top of your high-fibre cereal to add another 1g or 2 g of fibre to your daily intake.
- Choose whole-wheat pasta or brown rice over the white variety.
- Add beans to salads, soups and stews.
- Add bran cereal to muffins, breads and curries. Substitute oat bran for one-third of the all-purpose flour in baking.
- When you eat out, ask for fresh fruit instead of dessert.
- Have fruit or fresh vegetables for between-meal snacks instead of chips and lollies.
Here’s a sample daily menu that will definitely provide you with tons of fibre: Breakfast: Whole-grain cereal with fresh fruit, juice and milk.
Snack: Pear or apple with skin.
Lunch: Turkey on whole wheat and an apple with its skin.
Snack: Tuck into 3 cups of air-popped popcorn.
Dinner: Salmon, baked potato with its jacket, cup steamed broccoli and frozen yoghurt with blueberries.