Protein is undeniably popular, but fibre far less so. There's a fat chance you've likely never thought about fibre in a tasty way, especially if the first thought that comes to mind is grandma dolloping prunes on her muesli to stay "regular''.
But with gut health now on the radar of the wellbeing world, digestion is suddenly in and fibre is warranting its place back on the nutrient hot list. According to Google Trends, Australians search "gut health" more than any other country in the world, yet despite this, we're still lacking enough fibre.
"Fibre often gets overlooked but not for the reasons you think," says Sydney Zest+Zing nutritionist Amanda Ford. "Often it's people who don't eat enough fruit and vegetables, those eating low carbohydrate diets or those hooked on latest superfood [powders] like maca and spirulina that tend to miss out on essential dietary fibre."
Jessica Sepel, nutritionist and author of Living the Healthy Life, agrees and believes we need to be wary of buying into diet trends. "Low-carb or paleo diets have become trendy but it has also meant people are now missing out on carbohydrates altogether. [Wholegrains] are high in fibre so they are missing out on key nutrients without realising."
Couple this with the latest CSIRO Fruit, Vegetables and Diet Score report revealing one in two adults don't eat enough fruit, and two out of three don't consume enough vegetables (which are both packed with natural fibre) and it seems we're in need of a fibre revival.
How do we do it? By discovering a new respect for the underrated nutrient. "The power of fibre is definitely underestimated. By simply increasing fibre you can treat many digestive issues by feeding the beneficial bacteria in our gut and promoting normal bowel movements," says Ford.
What else makes fibre great beyond the digestive boost? "Fibre helps keep us fuller for longer, helps absorb nutrients better, regulates the immune system, improves cholesterol and blood sugar levels, protects against harmful pathogens and helps prevent diseases such as bowel cancer," says Ford.
It also works in favour of women. "It can help balance hormones because it binds to excess oestrogen. I have a lot of clients with hormonal issues and usually it's due to being on a very low carbohydrate/low fibre diet," says Sepel.
Along with a Gut journal report finding a high-fibre Mediterranean diet promotes short chain fatty acids associated with reducing the risk of diabetes and inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases, it seems it's time we make friends with fibre.
We asked chefs and nutritionists to reveal their best ways to fuel up on fibre (no prunes required). Note: aim for at least 25 to 30 grams of fibre a day.
Snack attack: Lola Berry's 'pep-me-up' trail mix (recipe here). Photo: Edwina Pickles
Seven tasty fibre fixes
Ford and Sepel share how to sneak more fibre into your diet.
1. Nosh on nuts
"Grab a handful of raw trail mix for the perfect on-the-go fibre and protein-rich snack," says Ford.
2. Ramp up the raw foods
"Pair raw vegetable sticks like carrot or celery with hummus for a double hit of soluble fibre (thanks to the extra found in chickpeas)," says Ford.
3. Choose chia seeds
Try a chia pudding for breakfast or dessert.
4. Go green
"Add spinach or broccoli to your morning smoothie," advises Ford. "Or saute your favourite greens with coconut oil and add lentils or beans," says Sepel.
5. Honour wholegrains
"Switch white pasta or bread to wholegrain versions made from spelt, quinoa or amaranth," says Ford.
6. Savour the skins
"Leave the skin on your kiwifruit and eat whole – it triples the fibre content," says Ford.
7. Sprinkle in superfoods
"Add one tablespoon psyllium husk, slippery elm or flaxseed meal to your morning oats or smoothie for a quick fibre fix," says Sepel.
Top smoothies with nuts and seeds for added crunch (and fibre). Photo: Jess Sepel
Six fibre-rich recipes
Jess Sepel's power protein smoothie
1 serving of protein powder (such as 100 per cent natural pea, sprouted brown rice or whey protein) or 2 tbsp LSA mix (linseed, sunflower, almond meal) or 2-3 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1-2 tsp stevia granules/powder or stevia liquid
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract/powder (optional)
1 tbsp chia seeds or psyllium husk
½ cup frozen berries or ¼ to ½ frozen banana
½ cup spinach leaves
½ cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
½ cup ice blocks (note: the more ice the creamier it will be)
½ cup filtered water
extra banana and granola, coconut, nuts and seeds, to serve
1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender.
2. Pour into a glass or bowl and top with desiccated coconut, sliced banana, homemade granola, nuts and seeds.
Photo: Amanda Ford
Amanda Ford's spiced kale chips
1 bunch of kale
½ carrot, grated
1 tbsp organic coconut oil
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 220C. Place a baking tray in the oven with coconut oil so this melts. Wash and rinse the kale well. Cut the kale leaves into strips (it's optional to cut off the woody hard stems, I still include them)
2. Once the coconut oil has melted, remove the baking tray from the oven. Add the kale, carrot, spices, salt and pepper and stir to coat and combine.
3. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Once the kale begins to crisp up, take out. Best enjoyed immediately as a snack or side dish.
Photo: Jess Sepel
Rainbow roast vegie salad with avocado and hummus
Jess Sepel's salad is filled with nutrients and antioxidants from broccoli and brussels sprouts (brassica vegies are loaded with fibre and liver detoxifying power). Pair with grilled chicken coated in zaatar spice or organic crumbled goat's cheese.
12 brussels sprouts, halved
1 head broccoli, chopped into florets
1 tbsp cold-pressed olive oil
½ red onion, chopped
2 big handfuls of greens (rocket, spinach, kale)
1 avocado, sliced
4 tbsp hummus
1 tsp chilli flakes
Preheat oven to 180C. Place chopped brussels sprouts and broccoli on a lined baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle chilli flakes and season generously with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes until golden and crispy.
Divide greens between two plates and top with roasted vegetables, sliced avocado, chopped red onion and hummus.
Sprinkle extra chilli flakes and serve.
Photo: Darcy Yu
Sorghum and pearl barley salad with heirloom tomatoes and balsamic dressing
Recipe courtesy of Chris Yan of Sydney's Lotus Dining.
3 tbsp sorghum
4 tbsp pearl barley
2 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes
bunch of mint leaves
For the dressing
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt
1. Place the sorghum and pearl barley in separate containers and cover with 750ml fresh water for two hours.
2. Add the sorghum and pearl barley to separate pots of water so the grains are just covered.
3. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and let them cook until the grains are tender (approximately 40 minutes total).
4. Drain any remaining liquid and allow to cool down.
5. Combine the grains and put in a salad bowl.
6. Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and add to the grains.
7. Mix the balsamic, oil, and a pinch of salt.
8. Pour the dressing over the grains and tomatoes and top with a few mint leaves.
Serve the koftas (left) as part of a mezze platter with fibre-rich hummus dip. Photo: Murdoch Books
Somer Sivrioglu's red lentil koftas
410g (2 cups) split red lentils
175g (1 cup) fine bulgur
2 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying
1 tbsp capsicum paste* (available from selected delis)
1 tbsp tomato paste* (available from selected delis)
1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
6 spring onions
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 cos lettuce
1. Rinse the lentils in cold water, place in a saucepan with one litre of water and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Put the bulgur in a mixing bowl and pour over the hot lentils and the cooking water. Rest for 15 minutes, covered, to soften the bulgur.
3. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat and then add finely chopped onions. Cook until the onion is translucent.
4. Meanwhile mix the capsicum and tomato pastes in a small bowl with one tablespoon of water.
5. Stir the mixture into the pan and cook for three more minutes until the whole mixture is mushy. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
6. Pick the leaves from the parsley stalks and finely chop. Wash the spring onions, discard the roots and green outer layer, and finely chop.
7. Once the bulgur has softened, stir in the parsley, spring onion, cumin, chilli flakes, olive oil, salt and onion mixture. Knead for three minutes and then divide the mixture into about 24 balls, using your hands. Slightly flatten each ball.
8. Wash the cos lettuce and break it up into leaves.
9. Place three koftas in each lettuce leaf, cut the lemon into slices and place on a platter for guests to help themselves.
Makes 24 koftas; serves 8
*To make your own capsicum paste: Grill 500g capsicum on an open flame, turning regularly. Place in a mixing bowl covered with cling film until cool enough to handle, peel the skin off, cut and discard stem and seeds. Blitz the mixture with a touch of salt and cook in a tablespoon of olive oil to evaporate the excess water. Makes 200g.
*To make your own tomato paste: Slice 1kg of over-ripe tomatoes into quarters and let them rest for a day under a cloth. Push the tomato wedges through a coarse sieve to remove the skins and most of the seeds. Wrap the pulp in a muslin cloth (cheesecloth) and put a weight on the parcel to squeeze the water out overnight. Stir one tablespoon of olive oil and one teaspoon of rock salt through the pulp and simmer for one hour, stirring regularly. Store in jars with a layer of extra olive oil on top.
And for dessert... Photo: Amanda Ford
Amanda Ford's blueberry chia pudding
Chia seeds have 34 per cent fibre, one serve alone provides 8 grams of fibre.
1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
½ cup frozen or fresh blueberries
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp LSA (linseed, sunflower, almond meal)
½ tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla
1. Place all ingredients, except chia seeds, into the blender.
2. Blend until well combined and smooth.
3. Pour into a bowl and whisk through the chia seeds using a fork, combining well.
4. Serve in individual glasses, or cover and leave in the fridge to set overnight.
5. Enjoy for breakfast or as a dessert served as is or with some fresh fruit on top.