Have you ever heard of ‘psyllium husk’? Before I started on a low-carb lifestyle 4 months ago, I had never heard of the substance. When I learned that this substance was the key to unlocking the potential to switching 50% of my diet from starch to vegetables, I knew I had to find out more. So I decided to find out, from authoritative sources (not just Google search results that could be authored by anyone) what this psyllium husk does, and what it does for the body based on actual research. First things first.
What Is Psyllium Husk?
Psyllium husk comes from the seeds of the Plantago Ovago plant which grows in South-East Asia. The seeds are pure natural fiber, made up of about 70% soluble and 30% insoluble fiber.
This is what it looks like in its raw form
So what happens when you add some psyllium husks to your diet daily? Here is what I found:
You will have easier bowel habits
The first thing you might notice once you start eating psyllium husk daily might be a regularity in your bowel movements. This study conducted by the Department of Medicine, South Manchester University found that introducing psyllium husks into the diets of 80 patients with irritable bowel syndrome improved their bowel habits and transit time. If you suffer usually from constipation, you might notice that your stools get softer, with less pain when passing and also less flatulence.
The magic of this plant is that when placed in water, it swells up to around 14 times its original size as a slippery gel-like layer is formed around the seed. This makes it a viscous soluble fiber. When it behaves like this inside your digestive tract, it lubricates and cleanses as it passes through and pushes faeces through the intestine.
Your cholesterol levels reduce
After around 6 weeks of taking psyllium husk daily, you might notice that your cholesterol levels are lower. Your liver naturally produces cholesterol, but additional cholesterol also enters your body when you eat certain foods such as meat, milk, and eggs. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in your arteries. As the cholesterol builds up in your arteries (this process is called arteriosclerosis), the arteries become narrower and could eventually get blocked. This means that blood can no longer pass through the vessels. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, this could result in a heart attack.
Studies show that fiber such as psyllium husk, taken as part of a healthy diet can help lower a your risk of heart disease. This 12-month study conducted by Curtin University, Australia proved that eating 5g of psyllium husk before meals resulted in the reduction of the participants cholesterol levels after 3 months. Adding psyllium husks can improve your heart health by lowering your blood pressure, improving lipid levels, and strengthening heart muscle.
You may lose weight
Because of its water retentive qualities, psyllium husk gives you a feeling of being full, and this could help control the amount of food you eat. This is good news if you are struggling to maintain a healthy weight, or if you are managing a condition where being overweight is a risk factor, such as diabetes.
Your blood sugar levels might reduce
This is a big one if you have diabetes, or you know someone who has had diabetes. People with diabetes are constantly tasked with maintaining a healthy diet in order to keep their blood sugar levels low. Carb-heavy meals such as rice, yam, cassava, potatoes, etc can significantly increase blood sugar levels, especially if eaten regularly. This study from the Institute of Medicinal Plants, Iran showed that taking 5 grams of psyllium twice a day can help patients with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. One practical way of doing this effectively is by replacing starchy meals with healthy alternatives.
For example, “swallow and soup” commonly eaten in West Africa is made up of a starchy “swallow”, dipped in a vegetable and protein-rich soup. If you replace the starchy swallow for a vegetable, as explained in this simple recipe, you can significantly reduce your carb intake while eating the same food you enjoy.
Where to get psyllium husk
Psyllium husk exists in powdered form. In this form, you can mix it with juice or water, or add it to your food. (You can click on the images to see the products on Amazon)
You can also purchase it in capsules and take as a food supplement.