Food for Thought

by Destinee Cushnie-Mason

Welcome to “Food for Thought,” a blog series designed to be exactly that! By delving into the intricate connection between gut health and mental well-being, this blog aims to stimulate your mind and your tastebuds and provoke thoughtful reflection on how nutrition influences mood. We aspire to equip you with valuable insights into taking charge of your gut health and empower you with practical dietary adjustments that can profoundly impact your mental wellness. Follow along weekly and savour the exploration!

3. Fibre Fuel: Nourishing Your Gut and Mind

In this blog, we dive into the transformative power of dietary fibre – learn how this essential nutrient fuels your gut and nourishes your mind for optimal health.

The Messenger Molecules: Serotonin and Dopamine

Have you heard of fibre? Most people have heard the word – but are you aware of the magic it does in the body? We often think of it as something that we just need to eat when we’re a bit constipated, but it’s so much more than just roughage – as once believed. Fibre is an element of certain plant foods like cereals, pulses, wholegrains, vegetables and fruit, that work wonders for our overall health.

Why is it so good for us? Remember those good bacteria living in our guts? The reason fibre has such a huge impact on our wellbeing is that it is their absolute favourite food!

The Fibre Factor:

Dietary fibre is the unsung hero of our digestive system. It comes in two main types: soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance, while insoluble fibre adds bulk to our stools, helping to keep things moving smoothly through our digestive system. Both types are super important for gut health by making sure you can go to the toilet regularly and comfortably.

Additionally, some types of fibre are fermentable, meaning they can be broken down by the good bacteria in the colon. These fibre foods are known as prebiotics – which selectively feed the good and not the bad bacteria, helping them grow. The fermentation process produces short-chain fatty acids, which nourish the cells lining our gut and help maintain a healthy gut microbiome. In the UK, people are only eating about 2/3 of their recommended fibre intake which is causing us all sorts of health-related issues. So we’d all benefit from eating a bit more!

Fibre and Mood:

Research suggests that dietary fibre isn’t just good for our digestive system – it’s also beneficial for our mental health. Studies have shown that a high-fibre diet is associated with a lower risk of depression and anxiety. One reason for this could be the role of fibre in regulating serotonin levels in the brain. As we learned previously, serotonin plays a key role in mood regulation, and fibre fuels our gut to keep the production going.

Practical tips:

  • Whole Grains: Opting for more brown carbohydrate foods (bread, pasta, rice) and other whole grains like oats and bulgar wheat is extremely gut-friendly as these foods take longer to digest. This gives the good bacteria more time to have a munch and will also help you feel fuller for longer. Look out for key words like ‘whole-wheat’, ‘brown’, ‘spelt’, ‘rye’ when doing your shop. See how many you can spot!
  • Pulse power: Pulses or legumes include all kinds of beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas. Loaded with fibre, nutrients and protein, pulses fuel creativity, focus and positive mood. They also line your gut and improve your body’s response to glucose from simple carbs like white bread and rice! Tinned pulses are great additions to soups, stews, mince dishes and salads.
  • High fibre breakfast: Starting your day with a fibre-rich meal will energise you for hours. Muesli, porridge, Weetabix or bran cereals are great options.
  • Fruit and vegetables: Are you getting your 5 a day? As well as the fibre punch, fruit and veg have a wealth of vitamins and minerals critical for our overall well-being. You know what they say about apples and doctors…
  • Consistency is key: Fibre is not a quick fix, its important to go slow and steady with increasing your fibre intake to prevent unwanted tummy symptoms like bloating and wind. Gradually increase more fibre into your diet and do so consistently to reap the benefits.

Challenge for the week:

Swap one of your normal snacks or meals for a high fibre alternative – Possibly swap white toast for brown? Crunchy nut for fruit ‘n’ fibre? How about have a banana instead of a chocolate bar? Share your swap in the comments below!

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. James White
    James White

    Some great advice in here! Great for keeping energy levels consistent throughout the day as well.

  2. Mandy

    I am swopping to porridge instead of bagels and I have bought some Brown pasta to try, Lets see if the family notice!!

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