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If you’ve spent any time looking into the benefits of a high fibre diet, you’ve probably heard of psyllium husks. Psyllium husks are sold as a plant-based, natural fibre supplement. But are psyllium husks the best form of fibre? Is this plantain seed really the magic bullet to your fibre woes?
What are psyllium husks?
Psyllium husks are the husks (seed coats) of seeds from a shrub-like herb called Plantago psyllium. This plant is mainly found in India, and is a heavily cultivated crop that is grown to provide psyllium husks that are exported all over the world.
You can find them sold as whole husks, processed into powder or in capsules. They are popular in whole food stores.
How much fibre do psyllium husks provide?
The exact amount of fibre varies a little by brand and how it is processed but generally 5 grams of psyllium husks provides 4 grams of fibre. Of those 4 grams, 3 grams are soluble and 1 gram is insoluble.
(Wondering what the difference is between soluble and insoluble fibre? I got you!)
Importantly, the soluble fibre in psyllium husks is high in mucilage. This means it absorbs water–swelling to 10 times its initial size to form a thick gel-like substance. This is similar to chia seeds and flaxseeds, both of which are also good sources of fibre.
This mucilage means psyllium husks are great to use as thickening agent. Adding it to gluten-free bread dough, for example, can improve the final texture of the baked loaf. At home, I love to add psyllium husks to smoothies to help thicken them up.
Can psyllium husks help with constipation?
Short answer: yes! The combination of soluble and insoluble fibre means they can add bulk to your stools and make them larger and softer. This means it’s a lot easier to poop.
However, as always, you shouldn’t make drastic changes to your fibre intake, but should instead slowly increase the amount of fibre you eat over time. Adding a teaspoon of psyllium husks to your breakfast smoothie or taking it as supplement can help you introduce more fibre into your diet in a controlled way.
In addition, fibre without water is a recipe for disaster. You want to make sure you’re drinking enough water to actually help fibre do its things and move everything along.
Psyllium husks are a gentle approach, and it may take a few days before you see results.
Can I use psyllium husks in recipes?
Thanks to its high mucilage, psyllium husks are often used in low carb or vegan baking and cooking as a binder. Here are some great recipes!
- Low carb and gluten free bread made with psyllium husks to help cut the carbs
- Aubergine Fritters with Mushrooms with psyllium husks in place of the egg
- Vegan Ginger Treacle Cookies with psyllium husks in place of the egg
- Healthy Blueberry Muffins with psyllium husks (a low FODMAP muffin recipe)
- High Fibre Breakfast Smoothie with psyllium husks
You can also just mix psyllium husks with water and drink the resulting mixture. Except that it comes out slimy and a little gross. Not going to lie: I highly recommend the extra effort to add them to a recipe.
So… are psyllium husks the best source of fibre?
Psyllium husks are a wonderful source of fibre, but not the best or only.
Sadly, there are no magic bullets when it comes to diet. Eating a wide variety of foods is essential to ensure you meet all of your nutritional needs. Psyllium husks may be derived from a plant, but they are processed and thus not considered a whole food.
You should try and get your fibre from a wide range of sources. Fruit, vegetables, pulses, oats and whole grains all provide fibre along with a host of other key nutrients.
Here’s a list of high fibre fruits to add into your diet!
Psyllium husks are a great thing to have on hand in case you have some issues with constipation or diarrhoea or just need a fibre boost on a day when you don’t have access to more nutritious foods. Their stool softening effect can help keep you regular. But to truly enjoy the benefits of a high fibre diet you need to avoid relying on supplements, but rather treat them as one tool in a diverse tool box.
Where can I buy psyllium husks?
If you prefer to shop offline, almost any health food store such as Holland & Barrett will carry some form of psyllium husks.
Alternatively you can:
- Purchase psyllium husks from Amazon (affiliate link)
- Purchase psyllium husks from a small business via Etsy (affiliate link)
Have a happy high-fibre day!