Fiber is an important part of a healthful diet. Consumption of enough fiber can aid in lowering cholesterol and reducing risk of heart disease, and is important for maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal system. High fiber diets have also been linked to lower body weights. Recommended intake is approximately 25 – 35 grams per day, depending on gender and calorie needs. Estimates indicate that fiber intake is too low among most Americans.
Fiber is found only in plant-based foods. Fiber refers to the part of plant-based foods that cannot be digested by the body. There are two categories of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Although different foods contain primarily one type of fiber or the other, most plant-based foods contain a mixture of both. It is important to include a variety of fiber sources in the diet.
Insoluble fiber These fibers absorb water as they go through the gastrointestinal tract, which increases stool bulk and promotes bowel regularity. Insoluble fiber sources include vegetables and gluten-free whole grains.
Soluble fiber These fibers dissolve in water to form a gel-like substance which is involved in lowering cholesterol levels. Legumes and fruits are examples of soluble fiber sources.
TIPS FOR ADDING FIBER
Add fiber gradually: Increasing fiber intake too quickly can cause increased bloating, gas and stomach pains. Add just one extra serving of a fiber-rich food per day for several days, then add another serving in the same way until you reach your goal.
Eat more fruits, vegetables, and legumes: Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to increase fiber intake. Another great approach is to consume more legumes. Legumes include beans (such as pinto, garbanzo and kidney, to name just a few), peas, and lentils.
Gluten-Free Grains and Flours: Try using the grains listed below as side dishes with meals, and try using whole grain gluten-free flours in baking.
Seeds and Nuts: Incorporating nuts and seeds into the diet is an easy way to increase fiber too. Add pumpkin or sunflower seeds to salads, and have a small handful of nuts with a piece of fruit for a snack.
Drink plenty of water: Without adequate fluids, it is possible to become constipated or have hard stools. Drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day.
Exercise: Daily exercise – along with adequate fiber intake – helps the gastrointestinal tract work better. A daily walk is all it takes.
Fiber Content of Gluten-Free Whole Grains
GF Grains (1 c. cooked) / Grams Fiber
Buckwheat groats 5
Brown Rice 4
Oatmeal (GF) 4
Wild Rice 3
Fiber Content of Whole Grain Gluten-Free Flours
GF Flours (1 cup) / Grams Fiber
Flax meal 32
Oats (GF) 12
Brown Rice 7
This article has been assessed and approved by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.