It’s a commonly known fact that fibre provides many health benefits. Fibre keeps our digestive systems healthy through elimination of waste but it also plays important roles in the clearance of hormones (such as oestrogens); provision of fuel for beneficial bacteria in the digestive track; helps regulate bowel transit time; softens the stool and enhances the feeling of being full after a meal. Fibre also lowers cholesterol and stabilises blood glucose. Fibre is important for everyone, not just those with digestive issues or those who are a little older and wiser.
The recommended daily intake of dietary fibre from the National Health and Medical Research Centre for women is 25 grams (28 grams during pregnancy and 30 grams during lactation) and for men it is 30 grams.
It is advisable to consume a range of high fibre foods containing both soluble fibre (fruits, grains and legumes) and insoluble fibre (wholegrains, breads, cereals and vegetables) as they play slightly different roles in the digestive system.
Some people on gluten free diets experience constipation or slow bowel transit time and this is often because when changing to a gluten free diet, they have replaced wheat and gluten containing foods with highly processed gluten free foods such as breads, cakes, cereals etc. rather than considering the nutritional value in their overall diet.
As many gluten-free products are made from refined grains and are heavily processed, there is often very limited beneficial fibre left. A study of 63 gluten free manufactured products demonstrated only 19% can be classified as high in fibre (>6g/100 g)- that’s not so good!
But the great news is there are many ways to increase the fibre content even when on a gluten free diet.
TOP 10 TIPS
- Aim for at least two portions of fruit and five-seven portions of vegetables each day (especially those with skins, pips and seeds). Serve fruits and vegetables unpeeled where possible and eat a mixture of raw and cooked vegetables.
- Add a handful of organic dried fruit such as cranberries, figs or apricots; nuts such as almonds or walnuts or seeds; to gluten-free breakfast cereals, on yoghurt or in smoothies as snacks throughout the day.
- Add pulses, such as peas, beans and lentils, plus extra vegetables to soups, stews, curries and sauces.
- Try gluten-free wholegrains such as amaranth, millet, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and teff. These can be made into pudding style snacks for work or school, or as porridge for breakfast or in salads.
- Choose naturally gluten-free foods such as brown or wild rice and jacket potatoes with their skins.
- Opt for brown, multigrain or high fibre versions of gluten-free breads, crackers and other processed gluten free grain products. Choose fresh homemade products over highly processed foods.
- Add a tablespoon of rice bran or flaxseed meal to smoothies or breakfast cereals
- Try having raw vegetable sticks with hummus or a bean dip as a daily snack.
- Increase the amount of fibre you eat gradually and make sure that you drink plenty of fluids at the same time (at least 8 glasses/day).
- Have a tablespoon of psyllium husks in 200ml of water in the evening before bed if you are prone to constipation.