Let’s Focus on Fibre – With Delicious Recipes To Get You Started

Image result for yoghurt with nuts seeds fruit

The trend towards health and wellness has been growing for the past few years – and it’s been quite interesting to see the nutrition side of things evolve. From fads to ‘quick fixes’ it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of various diets promoted within social and broader media – ‘Paleo’, ‘Low-Carb’, ‘Keto’ – and then possibly a bit of an unexpected twist – vegetarianism and veganism. Last year, my good friend Catherine Downey (fellow foodie, friend, qualified dietitian and @the.sporty.dietitian on Instagram) and I put together a blog post on this topic, because we felt that this ‘plant-based’ trend had huge potential for encouraging the general population to eat more fruit and vegetables and fibre, as well as increase the proportion of their protein coming from plants. To us, a ‘plant-based diet’ is any diet that focuses around foods derived from plant sources. This can include fruit, vegetables, grains, pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds and may or may not contain small amounts of animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy. I love the very similar idea of a ‘plant-focused diet’ – i.e. the focus of your meals is plant sources of macro and micro-nutrients, but your overall diet can include animal products like meat, fish, dairy and eggs. That’s how I see my own way of eating. There are multiple benefits of this plant focus to our meals, both at the individual and environmental level, and Catherine and I discussed that more in our previous blog post.

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I’m going to focus on ONE big benefit here guys – FIBRE. Do you know what fibre is? If not, you’re not alone – it’s something we don’t talk about enough! I’m well aware that’s because when we talk fibre, we often talk about our ‘number twos’ i.e. our bowel habit. Gross, maybe, but a topic we shouldn’t hide from. For this post, I dove back into an excellent fibre factsheet given to me by Alpro for my ‘Wellness for Doctors’ events recently. This factsheet, written by two registered dietitians (Dr. Meghan Rossi @theguthealthdoctor and Dr. Erini Dimidi), defines fibre as ‘all carbohydrates that are neither digested nor absorbed in the small intestine and have a degree of polymerisation of three or more monomeric units, plus lignin.’ (1) (2). That’s probably clear as mud to many of you – but basically, fibre is what we call the parts of plants and seeds that we cannot digest. Is fibre important? Very much so. Why? I’ll tell you.

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The most up to date guidelines from here in Ireland and the U.K. recommend that adults consume 30g of fibre per day (1), and it’s no secret that as a population, we aren’t hitting that target. Fibre has two major actions in our bodies, which confer it’s wide range of health benefits – the physical properties it has when consumed, and the effect it has on out gut microbiome (i.e. the population of bacteria that live in our large bowel, about which there is a LOT of exciting research being done) . Most of our fibre comes from cereals and cereal products, vegetables and the humble spud. Foods with 6g or more of fibre per 100g are considered ‘high fibre’, with a minimum threshold of 3g fibre per 100g required for a food to be considered a fibre source. Fibre increases the bacterial and faecal mass in our gut, keeping our bowel habit regular and reducing constipation. It contributes towards the satiety of a meal (i.e. keeping us fuller for longer), and is linked to a wide range of health benefits, including our cardiovascular and gut health, as well as our risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Here are some samples of common plant-based meals and snacks with the fibre content for you (3), so you can see how it adds up throughout your day:

  • 3 Servings of Fruit per day: 7.5-8g 
  • 2 Slices of Wholemeal Toast topped with 30g Peanut Butter – 7.6g 
  • 2 Weetabix – 3g
  • 1 bowl of porridge – 3g
  • 1/2 tin of chickpeas – 10g
  • 1/2 tin of baked beans – 7.5g 
  • 1 serving of brown rice – 2g

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Simple Tips to Up Your Fibre Game

  • Slow and Steady wins the race – don’t go from zero to hitting your 30g a day overnight, as fibre does ‘keep you regular’, and we don’t want to be TOO regular too quickly
  • Swap and Go Half and Half – Try swapping half the meat in your chili or bolognaise for lentils or red kidney beans
  • Big Up Your Breakfast – Maximise your porridge game by adding a sprinkle of raw nuts or seeds (or both!) on top
  • White to Brown – Try swapping your white bread/rice/pasta for wholemeal/wholegrain/brown varieties
  • Snack Smart – Choose fibre friendly plant-based snacks to keep the hanger away, like homemade trail mix (see below for recipe), hummus (chickpea wins – recipe below too!) or just a handful of raw mixed nuts

We have also linked an excellent food factsheet from the British Dietetic Association on fibre right here – you could even print off this two page guide to fibre to read yourself and take tips from (4)!

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Recipes – Where The Magic Happens

Below you’ll find a couple of plant-based recipes for each main meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner – as well as some healthy snack options! Catherine has also kindly given us her ‘Top Tips’ on the health benefits of the various ingredients we’ve used! Some of our recipes are from my blog, and some are Catherine’s! We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Breakfast

Plant Based Yogurt with Nuts, Seeds & Fruit

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Top Tip – Build your bowl! Start with your yoghurt base – choose fortified plant based yogurt which provides calcium, vitamin B12 and D to help strengthen bones. Then get creative with your toppings – nuts and seeds are a great start. Healthy unsaturated fats are provided from nuts and seeds, important for both brain and hormone function. Finally, add some sweet fruity goodness with options like blueberries, strawberries and/or raspberries, as vitamins from fruit support a healthy immune system.

Tofu Scramble 

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Top Tip – Tofu is a great plant alternative source of protein as it contains all eight essential amino acids important for muscle growth and repair and is also a good source of iron, calcium and other minerals.

Link to Recipe right here.

Lunch

Build Your Own Buddha Bowl Salad

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Pick and mix your favourite ingredients to create your own bowl of love! Examples:

  • A source of complex carbohydrates – E.G. Brown rice, Quinoa, Sweet Potato
  • A source of protein – E.G. Roasted chickpeas, edamame beans, tofu
  • A source of healthy fats – E.G. Small handful of nuts and seeds, avocado, or a homemade dressing using extra virgin olive oil/lemon juice/balsamic vinegar
  • Lots of colourful vegetable goodness – E.G. spinach, tomatoes, sliced peppers, cucumber, grated carrot, shredded cabbage

Top Tip – Each colour of vegetables is a different nutrient e.g. spinach provides iron and carrots provide vitamin A. Aim for a variety of colours. I aim for a minimum of 3 colours per meal.

Link to Recipe right here.

Spicy Lentil & Butternut Squash Soup

soup

Top Tip – Lentils are great for thickening soups, stews, curries, bolognaise or lasagnes.  Lentils are packed full of protein (muscle growth), fibre (aids digestion) and slow-releasing carbohydrates (long lasting energy).  They are also low in fat and sugar.  I love lentils because they keep me full and satisfied and less likely to crave high sugar/ fat snacks!

Link to Recipe right here.

Dinner

3 Bean Chilli with Sweet Potato

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Top Tip – Similar to lentils, beans are packed full of protein, slow release carbohydrates for energy and fibre which can help increase good bacteria in your digestive system.

Link to Recipe right here.

Sweet Potato & Chickpea Curry

sweet-potato-curry

Top Tip – Diets rich in chickpeas, pulses & beans can reduce risk of cancers, diabetes, heart diseases and other diseases. The high fibre profile helps quickly move any unwanted toxins, fats or substances through the digestive tract so they aren’t absorbed into the blood.  The slow releasing energy also prevents sugar spikes in blood, this again can help keep sugar cravings under control.

Link to Recipe right here.

Snacks

Hummus with Veggie Sticks

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Top Tip – Traditionally made hummus is packed with protein, fibre, iron and B Vitamins. Be careful of shop-bought varieties as some tend to have excess fat and sugar.  Checking the ingredients list is key, and even better, it is so simple to make yourself at home! Aim for a ‘pick and mix of veg’ e.g. red peppers, carrots & sugar snaps for a variety of colour and nutrients for your hummus dip.

Link to Recipe right here.

Homemade Trail Mix

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Top Tip – Trail mixes are loaded with healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fibre, antioxidants, vitamin E and other essential vitamins and minerals. Variety is key.  They are a perfect snack on the go and to keep you full in between meals to curb cravings for high salt, sugar or fat foods. I keep a jar in my car for emergency. Be mindful of portion sizes as nuts are still a high calorie foods and aim for a small handful at a time.

Link to Recipe right here.

References

  1. https://www.alpro.com/healthprofessional/files/download/144dbd44bcc15c0
  2. Stephen A, Champ M, SJ C, et al. Dietary fibre in Europe: Current state of knowledge on defi nitions, sources, recommendations, intakes and relationships to health. Nutr Res Rev. Jul 2017 :1-42 [Epub ahead of print].
  3. https://www.indi.ie/diseases,-allergies-and-medical-conditions/digestive-health/681-the-facts-on-fibre.html
  4. https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/fibre_fact_sheet_poster

 

 

 

 

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