Gluten-Free Diet and Fiber
If you have celiac, you have to follow gluten-free diet and fiber can be hard to get when eating gluten-free. In this post, I’ll talk about the importance of fiber, where to find gluten-free fiber-rich foods, and what a gluten-free balanced diet looks like.
(Hint: a gluten-free balanced diet includes adequate amounts of fiber).
Why People Need to be Gluten-Free
Before we talk about the importance of fiber on a gluten-free diet, let’s talk about why people are gluten-free. To put it simply, if you have a gluten-related disorder, you need to eat gluten-free.
Depending on what gluten-related disorder you have, will depend on how strict your gluten-free diet will be.
The two most common gluten-related disorders are celiac disease and gluten intolerance. There are some key differences between celiac and gluten intolerance but despite those, fiber is a concern for both.
This is because a gluten-free diet can be low in fiber. And often if you’re on a gluten-free diet, fiber is even more essential. It helps keep your digestive system moving, maintains gut health, prevents constipation, and more.
Why Fiber is Important
Fiber comes from plant foods. Eating more fiber not only promotes health by lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer; it also helps boost your digestive system. It also helps you feel and stay full.
For those with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet and fiber are both important. Living gluten-free helps heal the gut and eating enough fiber can support gut health. Both of which can reduce uncomfortable digestive symptoms like constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and more.
Why Fiber is Important on a Gluten-Free Diet:
If you have celiac or non-celiac gluten-sensitivity, you have to live gluten-free. Following a strict gluten-free diet eliminates gluten-containing grains which are important sources of fiber.
Additionally, the gluten-free diet can be low in fiber. Many alternatives do not have comparable amounts of fiber when compared to their gluten-containing versions.
Thus, those eating gluten-free must find alternate sources of fiber to help regulate bowel movements. Additionally with celiac, fiber can help your gut heal.
Lastly, not getting enough fiber puts you at a high risk for cardiovascular disease. Something that people with celiac are already at risk for when healing.
Types of Fiber
There are two types: soluble and insoluble fiber. A mix of both can be found in most fiber-containing foods, including fiber rich gluten-free foods.
What is Soluble Fiber?
Soluble fiber helps to slow the digestion of food. This slowed digestion causes sugar to be released and absorbed more slowly into the body. Thus, it can support blood sugar health.
It’s known as a heart healthy nutrient because it helps to lower cholesterol. This is because once in the small intestines, soluble fiber binds to bad cholesterol and prevents it from entering the bloodstream.
Soluble fiber also helps to manage diarrhea/loose stools and reduces symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This happens because of soluble fiber’s ability to attract water and remove excess fluid in the intestines. This ability helps to decrease symptoms of diarrhea.
Gluten-free sources of soluble fiber include:
- Grains like: oatmeal, oat cereal, flaxseed
- Fruits like: oranges, mango, apricot (fresh), plum, pear & peach (with skin), figs (dried), prunes
- Legumes like: black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lima beans
- Vegetables like: brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, green beans, green peas, eggplant, asparagus, sweet potato (without skin), potato (with skin)
What is Insoluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber helps to add bulk to your bowel movements and also slows down digestion. This keeps things moving through your intestines and as a result, promotes regular bowel movements. This movement also can prevent bloating and constipation by reducing how much time food has to ferment in the gut.
Of note, some types of insoluble fiber can be an irritant to the digestive system. For example, the insoluble fibers in cucumber peels is a huge irritant to my gut so I am careful to only eat peeled cucumbers.
Gluten-free food sources of insoluble fiber include:
- Flaxseed, nuts
- Banana, apple & pear (with skin), raspberries
- Cauliflower, okra, green peas
- Black beans, kidney beans
- Sweet potato (without skin)
How Much Fiber do you Need?
Following a gluten-free diet, how much fiber do you need? In general, you want to aim for 14g of fiber per 1,000 calories you consume.
An easy way to eyeball this is to aim for a serving of fruits, vegetables, and gluten-free whole grains at each meal. This what compromises a balanced gluten-free diet rich in fiber.
For more specific fiber needs, daily recommendations for most health adults are as follows:
- Men 50 years and younger: 38 grams fiber per day
- Men 51 years and older: 30 grams fiber per day
- Women 50 years and younger: 25 grams fiber per day
- Women 51 years and older: 21 grams fiber per day
While we have these general recommendations, that’s all they are. They are not rules. So do what feels good for your body and if you need help figuring that out, let’s talk. I can help.
Additionally, there are some cases where fiber recommendations change. Things like diverticulitis and a chron’s flare could change fiber recommendations. Again, if you’re worried about your fiber needs, I’m happy to provide a consult.
Signs You’re Eating Too Much fiber
We have general recommendations for fiber and a gluten-free diet, but how do you know if you’re eating too much fiber? Is there even a thing as too much fiber? The answer is yes!
Too much fiber can cause some pretty uncomfortable symptoms. Symptoms like constipation, that often overlap with gluten-related conditions. Sign you’re eating too much fiber on a gluten-free diet include:
- Often getting bloated
- Feeling too full after meals
- Can have constipation or diarrhea
- Weight gain or weight loss
To know if you’re eating too much fiber the best thing to do would be to meet with a celiac specialized dietitian. A celiac-specialized dietitian can help with celiac by determining if you’re eating an appropriately balanced diet (including fiber).
Signs You’re Not Eating Enough Fiber
Too little fiber can be really hard on your entire body. Not eating enough fiber can cause similar symptoms to celiac and gluten-intolerance. Symptoms like bloating and constipation. Signs you’re eating too little fiber on a gluten-free diet include:
- Frequent bloating
- Frequent constipation
- Lack of fullness from meals
- Poor gut health
- Weight gain
- High cholesterol or blood pressure
It’s important to note, if you go to increase your fiber, be sure to do it slowly. Not only that but make sure you increase your water intake with fiber, otherwise it can worsen symptoms.
Tips for Adding Fiber to Your Gluten-Free Diet
There are many tips for adding fiber into your gluten-free diet.
First, it is important to add fiber slowly. If you add fiber in too quickly you can overwhelm your gut, causing things to get… stuck. Basically, adding too much fiber in too fast can cause constipation. You have to get your body used to pushing it through your digestive system.
Second, it’s important that as you increase fiber, you increase water too. Water is essential to fiber doing it’s job. Not drinking enough water while increasing fiber can also cause uncomfortable symptoms like constipation.
Lastly, add yummy high fiber to foods you already eat; add vegetables you like to sandwiches, sprinkle nuts and seeds on salads, and add beans to soups.
Gluten-Free High Fiber Food Sources
A gluten-free diet can be low in fiber. Despite this, there are many gluten-free high-fiber foods to add to a gluten-free and celiac diet.
Gluten-free high fiber food sources include gluten-free whole grains, gluten-free fiber supplements, high-fiber gluten-free breads, gluten-free high fiber cereals, fruits, vegetables, and more.
Gluten-free Whole Grains and Flours
Some gluten-free high fiber whole grains and flours include:
- Certified gluten-free oats
- Certified gluten-free oat bran
- Brown rice
- Wild rice
8 Gluten-free High Fiber Breads
Want to get some fiber in with gluten-free high fiber breads? Below are some great high-fiber gluten-free bread options:
- Udi Millet Chia Bread – Just a serving of this bread provide 4g of dietary fiber. A great gluten-free high fiber bread alternative.
- Ener-G High Fiber Loaf – At 5g of fiber per slice of bread, this is a top gluten-free high fiber bread options!
- Schär Gluten Free Multigrain Ciabatta Rolls – Need a roll to serve with dinner? Want to add some fiber to your tomato soup? Serve it with this gluten-free bread roll. It has 5g of fiber per roll!
- Schär Gluten Free Deli Style Seeded Bread – At 4g of fiber a slice, this gluten-free bread by Schär is a great option.
- Soozy’s Original Sandwich Bread – is a grain-free bread option with a whopping 3g of fiber per slice. Those who have strong texture preferences might want to try a different bread.
- Base Culture Keto Bread – I suggest this not because it’s keto but because it has 4g of fiber. I’ve not tried it so I can’t say much but it is an option.
- Purely Elizabeth Grain Free Protein Bread Mix – Can’t find a gluten-free high fiber bread in your supermarket? Try making your own! This gluten-free protein packs 4 grams of protein per slice, and it’s high in protein too!
- Simple Mills Artisan Bread Baking Mix – delicious, easy to make, and has 2g of fiber per serving!
Gluten-Free High Fiber Breakfast Cereals
Looking for a gluten-free high fiber breakfast cereal? Below are some options! (p.s. some of the options below have oats, if you’re confused on if oats are celiac-safe, click here).
- Bob’s Red Mill Muesli – This gluten-free museli has oats in it so beware if you’re sensitive to oats. . However, at 3g of fiber per serving, this is a good option for adding a little more fiber to your breakfast!
- Bob’s Red Mill Oat Bran Hot Cereal – For my celiac friends, skip out on this one, it’s not certified gluten-free or batch tested like Bob’s Red Mill Museli. However, if you can tolerate oats with gluten intolerance, this Oat Bran Cereal sports 7g of fiber per serving!
- Nature’s Path Sunrise Maple Cereal – Looking for a delicious fiber-rich gluten-free breakfast cereal to add to your mornings? A serving of this gluten-free cold breakfast cereal has 4g of fiber!
- Cascadian Farm Organic Honey Vanilla Crunch Cereal – At 3g of fiber a serving, this breakfast cereal is a close second to Sunrise Maple Cereal.
- Make Your Own Grain-Free Granola – Swearing off all grains? Want to make your own fiber-rich gluten-free breakfast cereal? This recipe sports 3.5g per 1/2 cup of granola!
Gluten-free Fiber RIch Recipes:
Want to make your own fiber rich meals? Be confident in the fiber content of your meals by making sure you have a serving of gluten-free grains, fruits, and vegetables at each meal. Below are some gluten-free fiber rich recipes to try as well!
- Vegan Caramel Chia Pod – If you’re a big cold cereal fan, you might like chia seed pudding. Or as I like to call them, chia pods like this one! Chia seeds are full of fiber, complete plant-based protein, and more. If chia pods are your jam you might also like this Birthday Cake Chia Pod.
- Gluten-free Buckwheat Coffee Cake – Buckwheat is an excellent source of fiber and naturally gluten-free. Start your day off with a morning cup of coffee and some delicious coffee cake.
- Sweet Potato Bean Chili – The power combo of sweet potato and beans makes this chili dish an excellent source of fiber. Extra points if you leave the skin on your sweet potatoes!
- Blueberry Flax Superfood Smoothie – Between the blueberries, spinach, and flax seeds, this recipe is packed full of nutrients. Boasting a good amount of fiber, antioxidants, and more!
- Vegan Buddha Bowl with Peanut Sauce – This Vegan Buddha Bowl by Hummusapien has 11g of fiber. Talk about a fiber-rich meal!
Gluten-free Fiber Supplements Include:
While there are many high-fiber foods that are gluten-free, if you are having trouble meeting fiber needs with diet, there are several fiber supplements to choose from.
Fiber supplements made with psyllium husk are naturally gluten-free and used by many brands such as Konsyl.
Another safe option for gluten-free fiber comes from methylcellulose found in Citrucel Caplets.
Metamucil is typically gluten-free but has a risk of cross-contact with gluten.
Other supplements like Benefiber have wheat dextrin in them, which can be gluten-free. However, the supplement industry is largely unregulated unlike the food label industry. Thus it’s difficult to know if wheat-derived supplements are celiac-safe and are recommended to be avoided.