Food Matters: Getting Gluten-Free Fiberby Sue Radd
From the April 2010 Signs
Many people on gluten-free diets struggle to get enough dietary fiber. Some even suffer long-term health consequences. Fiber is only found in whole plant foods. There is no fiber in meat, poultry, or fish. Many gluten-free commercial products also lack fiber due to their use of refined ingredients.
Why fiber is important
Foods contain a mix of fibers, which have different effects in the body. Soluble fiber helps to lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. Insoluble fiber, which dramatically declines in a diet that cuts out wheat and other gluten-containing grain foods, helps to prevent bowel disorders such as constipation, and it protects against colon cancer.
Many health experts recommend that adults consume a minimum of 30 g of fiber per day. Societies that have the lowest occurrence of colon cancer may eat as much as 40–50 g of fiber daily because of their choice of primarily unrefined plant foods.
Gluten-free fiber tricks
If health considerations require you to give up gluten, then it’s vital that you eat a variety of high-fiber, gluten-free grains and maximize your intake of other gluten-free foods such as legumes, nuts, and vegetables. Here are some suggestions:
- Try high-fiber, gluten-free breakfast cereals such as muesli topped with ground flaxseed, rice bran, soy grits, or psyllium husks.
- Prepare brown rice, kasha porridge, millet, or polenta for your main meals. Most of these can be cooked in a rice cooker to save time.
- Include legumes (beans) at least three times per week as the focus of your main meal. Try bean chili with brown rice, or chickpea and quinoa salad.
- Round out your meals with colorful vegetables and salads—broccoli, carrots, purple cabbage, etc.
- Make toast and sandwiches from whole grain, gluten-free breads and wraps.
- Eat two to three pieces of fresh fruit through the day, including kiwi, oranges, and pears, and eat the skin whenever possible.
- Nibble on plain nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, but limit yourself to small servings if you’re watching your waistline.
Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat To Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve wellbeing. See www.sueradd.com for more nutrition information.