If you have been diagnosed with coeliac disease or are on a gluten free diet, it is important you take the time to assess you are getting the right nutrients. Fibre, especially, is one thing that is known to often be lacking in gluten free diets. Perhaps you have already come to the conclusion that things aren't as regular as usual and that is why you are visiting us today!? For those who were too regular before embarking on a gluten free diet, that might have been a pleasant change but it doesn't take long before it is just plain uncomfortable!

The below article details all you need to know about fibre in the gluten free diet, what it is, why you need it and the best ways to improve your fibre intake. It really isn't that hard but it certainly is the best thing for your body because ensuring you have enough fibre in your gluten free diet will lead to eating more of the good stuff, such as fresh fruit and veggies, nuts and seeds and gluten free whole grains.

What is fibre?

Fibre is the indigestible portion of food that aids a healthy digestive system. Fibre comes in three varieties;

  • Soluble fibre dissolves in water. Rich sources include vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
  • Insoluble fibre is most well known for keeping you regular! It does not dissolve in water, as the name suggests. Rich sources of insoluble dietary fibre include brown rice, nuts, seeds and the skin of fruits and vegetables.
  • Resistant starch is only a relatively new addition to the fibre line up but it is a form of carbohydrate that is considered to have metabolic benefits in relation to glycemic management. Rich sources include lentils, slightly green bananas and peas.

A varied, healthy diet will ensure a good mix of all three types of fibre.

Why is fibre important?

Fibre is closely associated with keeping us regular and reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and bowel cancer. This is because fibre helps to lower cholesterol, stabilise our blood sugar levels and lowers the glycemic index of foods.

How much fibre do we need?

The recommended intake of fibre for adults aged 19 - 70 years is 25 grams for women and 30 grams for men.

Getting enough fibre in your gluten free diet

Why is fibre so hard to get on a gluten free diet?

It is widely thought that Australian's do not consume enough fibre, even when eating a normal (non-gluten free) diet. A recent American study has also shown that on average in the US, a person eating a normal diet only consumes 16g of fibre a day, which is well below the recommended daily intake.

Consider that most high fibre products, e.g. wholegrain bread, also contain gluten and when you remove the gluten containing products from a person's diet, you also often remove some major sources of fibre. Now this doesn't mean it is impossible for a person on a gluten free diet to get enough fibre. It just means we need to work a little harder to make sure we get it from other foods.

Simple changes you can make to add fibre to your gluten free diet

  • Occasionally switch meat or poultry for red kidney beans or chickpeas (12g increase in fibre per 3/4 cup)
  • Try making a lentil soup or split pea soup rather than chicken noodle or pumpkin (10g increase per 1 cup)
  • Eat a whole piece of fruit rather than just drinking its juice (3g more fibre)
  • Accompany meals with brown rice instead of white rice (2.2g more fibre per cup cooked)
  • Eat popped corn instead of chips for a treat (2.2g more fibre per 20g)

Every little change will help add to the total, so get swapping today!

Tips to increase your fibre intake without really thinking

  • Quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, brown and wild rice, millet, and certified gluten-free oats (if you tolerate them) are all good sources of fibre on a gluten free diet.
  • Choose a fibre rich cereal, easier said than done when gluten free but look for the gluten free whole grains that are high in fibre when next buying cereal.
  • Eat more fruit (leave the peel on apples and pears as that is where the majority of the fibre is).
  • Eat more vegetables, it isn't hard to prepare an extra veggie or two with your meals.
  • Incorporate legumes into soups, salads and sides.
  • Snack on dried fruit, nuts and seeds or add them to cereal and salads.
  • Choose gluten free flour substitutes carefully and avoid highly refined tapioca, white rice and corn starch flours which are low in fibre (mix your own using high fibre gluten free flours).
  • Choose whole gluten free grain breads and pastas.
  • Add 1/4 of a cup of flaxseed (linseed) to baking.
  • Spread hummus (made from chickpeas and sesame seeds, both of which are very high in fibre) on sandwiches rather than other spreads or eat it with veggie sticks as a snack.

Getting enough fibre in your gluten free diet

High fibre gluten free foods

Wondering what to eat? Try these gluten free, fibre filled foods. The fibre measures were sourced from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand's Nutrition Tables data. The fibre measurements listed are per 100 grams.

Legumes

  • Cannellini beans, canned and drained: 6.4 grams
  • Chick peas, canned and drained: 4.7 grams
  • Haricot beans, canned and drained: 8.8 grams
  • Kidney beans, canned and drained: 6.5 grams

All legumes that are reconstituted from dried to be used in cooking will have slightly higher fibre values than their tinned counterparts and they make great soups!

Nuts and seeds

  • Almonds, whole, with skin: 8.8 grams
  • Brazil nut, whole: 8.4 grams
  • Coconut, unsweetened, desiccated: 15.4 grams
  • Hazelnut, raw: 10.6 grams
  • Peanuts, roasted with skin: 8.3 grams
  • Sunflower seeds, 10.8 grams

Nuts and seeds make great and filling snacks. Also, try linseed/flaxseed or chia seeds to baking for texture and added nutrients!

Gluten free grains

  • Buckwheat groats, raw: 10.3 grams
  • Chick pea flour (besan): 10.7 grams
  • Low fat soy flour: 10.2 grams
  • Rice bran, extruded or low processed: 25.5 grams

Look for high fibre gluten free flours to using in baking.

Vegetables

  • Artichoke, globe, boiled: 9.5 grams
  • Broccoli, fresh, cooked: 3.8 grams
  • Carrots, peeled, raw: 3.9 grams
  • Eggplant, grilled: 4.1 grams
  • English spinach, cooked, 4.8 grams
  • Green peas, frozen, cooked: 6.6 grams

All vegetable are good sources of fibre. Try to increase your intake of these nutritious delights.

Fruit

  • Apple, unpeeled: 3 grams
  • Blackberries: 6.1 grams
  • Oranges, peeled: 2.4 grams
  • Passionfruit pulp: 13.9 grams
  • Pear, unpeeled: 3.4 grams
  • Raspberries, 6.1 grams

Dried fruit (apple, apricot, date, prune) is also an excellent source of fibre (but it is high in sugar so don't go crazy, just a few pieces a day).

One final recommendation

Add fibre to your diet slowly, very slowly if you are very low on it now, and drink plenty of water to flush out your system. Fibre and water must go hand in hand to avoid constipation... and on that note, happy fibre-ing gluten free foodies!

Getting enough fibre in your gluten free diet