World Gut Health Day – What Can You Do To Support Your Gut?
Blog & recipe by Kristy Coleman Nutrition
If you were to change just one thing to support your gut, making sure you are getting enough fibre would be a great choice.
You need 30g of fibre a day*! Unfortunately, most people in the UK aren’t getting enough, with the average intake being just 19g per day. With the increased consumption of processed foods in favour of fruits and vegetables and the popularity of a low carbohydrate diet, it’s no surprise fibre levels aren’t what they should be.
You need to think of fibre as a key part of your diet, just like you would protein or carbohydrates. But what is it? Fibre is the fibrous part of plants; which cannot be digested by your body and which does contain calories or nutrients. You may be wondering why it is important…. there are many reasons:
- fibre bulks out and softens your stool by retaining water, which supports how quickly your bowels move and prevents constipation;
- certain types of fibre can be fermented by beneficial gut bacteria, which produce short chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids are what your gut cells use as energy and they have other benefits;
- fibre slows down the breakdown of sugars found in carbohydrates, helping to support energy levels; and
- a diet high in fibre can reduce the risk of developing high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and bowel cancer.
If we don’t get enough in our diets it can result in constipation, decreased diversity of beneficial gut bacteria and increased risk of developing certain health conditions. We know that the more diverse our gut bacteria is, the healthy and happier our guts are.
There are lots of different types of fibre so you need a range of foods to get a good mixture. Nature is very clever and often packages multiple different types of fibre together.
An easy way to include more fibre in your diet is to simply eat more vegetables, fruit and whole grains. To reduce the risk of digestive issues when increasing your fibre intake, you need to do this slowly, aim for 5g extra per day for week before increasing further.
Tips to get more fibre:
- swap white pasta, rice and bread for whole grain versions (or when it comes to pasta, try lentil or chickpea pasta);
- instead of snacking on chocolate, cakes, biscuits and crisps, have a portion of fruit and some nuts;
- eat the skins on vegetables and fruit where possible (e.g. carrots, cucumber, apples);
- add seeds and nuts to salads, soups and in smoothies to boost fibre content; and
- choose fruit and vegetables in their whole form instead of as a juice to maximise your fibre intake.
*Some medical conditions are not suitable for a high fibre diet. Always seek advice from your doctor.
Here’s a great recipe to help you kick your day off with a fibrous and nutritious start:
Carrot cake porridge, Serves 2
- 80g oats
- 300ml milk (dairy or plant-based)
- 100g/1 medium carrot finely grated (give it a good wash and keep the skin on)
- 30g dates chopped up small
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- ¼ grated zest of an orange
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Total fibre: 14g fibre (7g per portion)
- If you have time, soak your oats overnight with the milk, dates and spices in the sauce pan you are going to use. Leave your mix in the fridge overnight – this makes the oats easier to digest, quicker to cook and really creamy.
- In the morning grate the carrot and add to your oat mix. Place your pan over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s too thick loosen with a little water; if too thin then simmer with the lid off for a minute or two.
- Serve in two bowls and top with a spoon of nut butter for each bowl.