Following a gluten-free diet can be challenging, especially when it comes to getting enough fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient that promotes digestive health and may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. The good news is that there are plenty of naturally gluten-free foods that are also excellent sources of fiber. This article will provide a list of gluten-free foods that are high in fiber, discuss the health benefits of fiber, and give tips for adding more high-fiber gluten-free foods to your diet.
What is Fiber and Why is it Important?
Dietary fiber, sometimes referred to as roughage, is a type of carbohydrate found in plant foods. Unlike other carbs that are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream, fiber passes through the digestive system relatively intact. There are two main types of fiber:
- Soluble fiber – dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. It is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
- Insoluble fiber – does not dissolve in water. It is found in foods like wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.
Both soluble and insoluble fibers play important roles in the body. Here are some of the top benefits of getting enough fiber:
- Promotes digestive health – Fiber adds bulk to stools and speeds up the passage of food and waste through the digestive tract. This can help relieve constipation.
- Supports heart health – Soluble fiber helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood sugar levels, reducing risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.
- Aids weight loss – High fiber foods tend to be more filling and low in calories. Eating more fiber can help with weight management.
- Reduces disease risk – Fiber may help reduce inflammation and the risk of developing conditions like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
The daily recommended intake of fiber is around 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Unfortunately, most Americans fall short and only get about half of the recommended amount.
Gluten-Free Foods High in Fiber
When you remove gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley and rye from your diet, it can reduce your fiber intake significantly if you don’t replace them with good gluten-free options. Here are some of the top foods that are naturally free of gluten and high in fiber:
Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes, including all types of dried beans, split peas, lentils and soybeans, are excellent sources of fiber. Just a half cup of cooked beans or lentils contains 7-10 grams. They are also packed with protein. Try incorporating more beans into soups, stews, chilis and salads. Here is the fiber content in some popular types of beans and legumes:
|Fiber per 1/2 Cup Cooked
Quinoa is a nutritious gluten-free grain that provides 5 grams of fiber per cooked cup. It also contains protein and is a good source of magnesium, iron, and manganese. Use quinoa in place of rice in dishes like stir-fries, salads, and pilafs.
Oats are naturally gluten-free, but are often contaminated with gluten during growing and processing. Certified gluten-free oats are a great high-fiber choice, with 4 grams per 1/2 cup of cooked oats. Enjoy oatmeal, granola and baked goods made with certified gluten-free oats.
Chia Seeds and Flaxseeds
These small seeds pack a big nutritional punch. Just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds provide 10 grams of fiber, while 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds have 6 grams. They make great additions to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt and salads. You can also use chia seeds to make puddings or as a binding agent in gluten-free baking.
Air-popped popcorn is a naturally gluten-free whole grain that provides 4 grams of fiber per 3 cups. Look for low-fat versions to keep calories in check and avoid pre-packaged versions, which often contain glutenous ingredients. Season popcorn with olive oil and spices instead of butter for the healthiest option.
Fruits and Vegetables
All fruits and vegetables are gluten-free and most are high in fiber, especially if you eat the skin. Try to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal. Some fruits and veggies particularly high in fiber include:
- Raspberries – 8 grams per cup
- Artichokes – 7 grams each
- Pear – 5.5 grams per medium fruit
- Broccoli – 5 grams per cup
- Strawberries – 3 grams per cup
- Banana – 3 grams per medium fruit
- Sweet potato – 3 grams per medium potato
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds make easy, portable gluten-free snacks. They are nutrient-dense and full of fiber, with around 3 grams per ounce. Try various types like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. You can add them to yogurt, baked goods, salads or just eat them by the handful.
This naturally gluten-free grain is lesser known but an excellent source of fiber, with 5 grams in just 1 cooked cup. Amaranth has a nutty flavor and can be used similarly to other grains like in breakfast porridge or added to soups and stews.
Tips for Boosting Fiber on a Gluten-Free Diet
It is definitely possible to get plenty of fiber while following a gluten-free diet. Here are some helpful tips:
- Start your day with a high-fiber gluten-free breakfast like oatmeal, chia pudding made with coconut milk or gluten-free whole grain toast topped with avocado.
- Have beans, lentils or quinoa regularly – aim for at least a few times a week.
- Load up salads and grain bowls with lots of veggies, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Snack on fresh fruits and veggies along with nuts and popcorn.
- Use psyllium husk to boost the fiber in smoothies or baked goods.
- Read labels carefully and choose gluten-free products with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
- Drink plenty of water to help fiber work effectively.
Gradually increasing high-fiber gluten-free foods can help improve digestive issues that often come with eliminating gluten. It also ensures you get all the important health benefits associated with fiber, like improved heart health, weight management and reduced disease risk.
Sample High-Fiber Gluten-Free Menu
Here is an example of what a day in a high-fiber gluten-free diet could look like:
Gluten-free oats made with chia seeds, walnuts and blueberries.
Apple with almond butter
Mixed greens salad with chickpeas, avocado, bell peppers and balsamic vinaigrette.
Carrots with hummus
Quinoa stuffed peppers with black beans and spinach. Side salad.
Raspberries with Greek yogurt and chopped pistachios
This provides around 30-40 grams of fiber, meeting daily needs for most adults. The mix of soluble and insoluble fibers from the variety of gluten-free whole foods helps promote good digestion and overall health.
The Best Gluten-Free High-Fiber Foods
To recap, here are some of the top foods to include in your gluten-free diet to up your fiber intake:
- Beans – Black, navy, kidney, chickpeas, lentils
- Oats – Gluten-free oatmeal and oat-based foods
- Chia seeds and flaxseeds
- Popcorn – Plain, air-popped
- Fruits – Berries, pears, apples, bananas
- Vegetables – Artichokes, broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach
- Nuts and seeds – Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin, sunflower
Pairing these gluten-free high-fiber foods with naturally low-fiber foods like meat, fish, dairy and eggs can help increase the overall fiber content of your diet. With some planning, you can follow a gluten-free diet while still getting all the important nutrients like fiber.
Following a gluten-free diet comes with many challenges, but getting adequate fiber is possible with the right food choices. Focus on incorporating more beans, lentils, quinoa, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and gluten-free whole grains. Read labels carefully to identify quality gluten-free products that also provide a good amount of fiber per serving. With some effort to increase high-fiber foods in your meals and snacks throughout the day, you can experience the digestive and overall health benefits of fiber while adhering to a gluten-free lifestyle.