Want to crush food cravings, lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar control and stay regular? A fiber supplement called psyllium may help. Psyllium is derived from a shrub plant and, although it isn’t a magic bullet, a growing body of research points to its potential health benefits. You can find psyllium in powder or pill form, and also in some breakfast cereals.
Generally, I’m not a big proponent of most supplements, but this one could be a smart addition to a healthy diet for the average person (talk to your doctor first to see if it’s right for you). While a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes will help you meet your fiber requirements (30 – 38 g/day for men, 25 g for women), the average American only eats about 15 g fiber daily, according to data from the Institutes of Medicine.
Studies show that psyllium fiber can play a role in relieving constipation, improving cholesterol and blood sugar, and it may increase satiety. Early research also suggests that psyllium may benefit people who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
One of my favorite things about psyllium is that it can help keep you fuller for longer. I add it to my morning smoothies and oatmeal and find it staves off hunger for hours. A recent study published in the journal Appetite found that people who took a psyllium supplement before meals experienced greater fullness and less hunger between meals than those who didn’t take psyllium. Less hunger can mean fewer snacks and calories, so it may be a helpful tool for weight loss.
How to Add Psyllium to Your Diet
Taken in powder or husk form, it has no flavor or odor but adds thickness to foods and beverages. For instance, if you mix it in with your morning orange juice, it will turn into nectar-thick liquid within minutes. I prefer to use it in yogurt, oatmeal, and smoothies. Psyllium also comes in pill form.
How Much Is Enough?
Start slowly! I recommend taking 1 tablespoon of psyllium per day with a beverage or food. A tablespoon adds 15 calories and 5 grams of fiber (almost all of which is soluble fiber). Once your digestive system has adapted to the additional fiber, you can add another tablespoon to get 10 grams of fiber. However, like all types of natural fiber, it may interfere with the absorption of some medications. If you take prescriptions meds, be sure to check with your physician that there are no contraindications.