Not that fiber is full of gluten. Many options aren’t and this post will focus on gluten-free choices only. If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and are on a gluten-free diet, you need to think about boosting your fiber intake. Most of us need to add more fiber to our diets – for a variety of heath-enhancing reasons. It’s good stuff.
First things first – what exactly is fiber, anyway? No, you don’t have to eat old broomsticks to get your daily intake, but sweeping up the mess you’ve made in your GI tract is essentially what fiber does. That, along with other good housekeeping chores. Fiber is the Cinderella* of the plant world.
According to Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition, fibers are the nonstarch polysaccharides that are not digested by human digestive enzymes, although some are digested by GI tract bacteria. Fibers include cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectins, gums, and mucilages and the nonpolysaccharides lignins, cutins, and tannins.
I’m betting you got stuck on the words GI tract bacteria* and have already forgotten the rest. The words aren’t important anyway, what’s important is that we get lots of fiber from the foods we eat – about 25 to 35 grams per day. Or more (I’m a big fan).
Let’s look at the different types of fiber and what their actions are in the body. You’ve probably heard the terms soluble and insoluble fiber, but all that really means is how soluble, or dissolvable, they are in water. The effects of these two fiber types don’t divide neatly along the lines of solubility, but for general health purposes, that’s how they’ve been classified.
Soluble fibers and action in the body
• Delays GI transit, which benefits digestive disorders
• Delays glucose absorption, which benefits people with diabetes (and helps prevent it)
• Lowers blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol
Where to find soluble fiber
Oranges, grapefruit, apples, flax seeds, nuts, oats (gluten-free, if you can tolerate them) and legumes
Insoluble fibers and action in the body
• Moves bulk (poo is the scientific word) through the system and prevents constipation
• Helps control the pH balance in the intestines
• Helps remove toxic waste (that’s nice)
• Helps protect against colon cancer
Where to find insoluble fiber
Dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, cabbage, carrots, seeds, nuts, and Brussels sprouts
Whole grains provide fiber as well, but we’re only interested in gluten-free whole grains. Here’s a list of good grain choices with the fiber shown in grams per cup.
grams of fiber in 1 cup of grain
Corn meal 10
Flax seed 43
Oats (GF) 16.5
Rice (brown) 6.5
Rice (white) 2.4
Rice (wild) 9.9
To sum it up, fresh fruits and veggies, and some gluten-free grains contain fiber. Add fiber slowly as increasing intake too quickly can cause intestinal discomfort – add a little extra each day until you’ve reached your goal. Drink plenty of water. I’m talking LOTS of water, at least 8 to 10 glasses per day. And get some exercise! Strengthening abdominal core muscles and toning your GI tract helps everything flow along the way it’s suppose to. Now, go forth and eat your fiber! It’s good for you.
* Cinderella – according to my online dictionary, the word Cinderella describes a person or thing (fiber, maybe) of unrecognized or disregarded merit or beauty.
* GI tract bacteria – those of you who get creeped out easily, cover your eyes. The rest of you, read on. The intestinal microflora is a complex ecosystem made up of hundreds of different bacteria species. If kept in balance, this intestinal flora provides us with some good things, like producing a significant amount of vitamin K. If thrown out of balance, things can get nasty, but that’s for another post.
Peace, love and lots of fiber!
Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.