Let’s face it: nobody likes talking about poop. It hardly makes for enjoyable dinnertime chat, but problems with people’s bowel habits are more common than you probably think. It’s estimated that one in five of us suffer from constipation, so you’re not alone if you struggle to get things moving. But there are some simple tweaks that can help to ease the pain. Here’s what you need to know.
Fibre, fibre, fibre… with so much talk about gut health lately, you probably already know the importance of fibre. But in case you don’t, here’s a quick science lesson.
Fibre is crucial for a happy digestive system. It plays many roles, one them being to keep you regular (more on that in a minute), but it also has other benefits. For example, fibre can support heart health by working to lower cholesterol and also assist in the management of diabetes due to its beneficial effect on blood sugars. Plus, eating enough fibre could help to ward off some chronic diseases, too.
There are three types of fibre. They are:
- Soluble fibre, which absorbs water and slows digestion. This type of fibre helps to manage cholesterol and blood sugars.
- Insoluble fibre (AKA ‘roughage’), which moves through the digestive system like a broom, supporting regularity in bowel motions.
- Resistant starch, which escapes digestion and provides food for the good gut bugs.
So, if you’re struggling with constipation, insoluble fibre is your new best friend. But where do you look for this type of fibre? Well, my friend, you’ll be pleased to know you don’t have to search very far, because there’s a super convenient pantry staple waiting at your fingertips.
I’m talking lentils – the 80 cent superfood that’ll do your bowels a world of good.
Along with wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, lentils are a good source of insoluble fibre. Plus, they also contain soluble fibre, so they’re a bit of a double whammy (in a good way, of course!). Coming in with more than five and a half grams of fibre per serve, you’ll get more than a fifth of your daily fibre target for just one cup of these nutrition superstars (for women, that is).
The buck doesn’t stop with their impressive fibre content – lentils come with a host of other health benefits, too. For one, lentils are an economical source of plant-based protein, which is key for building strong muscles. Two, lentils have a low glycaemic index, meaning they provide long-lasting energy to keep you feeling full and satisfied. And three, along with other legumes, a high consumption has been linked to reduced risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes. They’re a real nutrition superstar.
If you’re saying to yourself ‘I already eat enough fibre’ but are still having toilet troubles, don’t give up. Food is just one factor (albeit, a rather major one), and there are plenty of other things to consider. Being physically active is key, because getting moving can get things moving, if you know what I mean! Drinking enough water is also super important, so that’s next on your to-do list if you’re not having enough. That’s because fibre absorbs water – so without it, you’ve got yourself a pretty hard stool.
Melissa Meier is an online and Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.