Did you know that eating a low fiber diet puts you at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease — including heart attack and stroke, obesity and even colon cancer? Obviously getting enough fiber in our diets is extremely important for our long term health.
Gluten-free diets don’t have to be low fiber diets but if you’re eating a lot of packaged gluten-free foods, especially snack foods made with refined gluten-free ingredients like white rice flour and corn starch, you may not be getting close to the daily recommendations for fiber.
So what kind of fiber is best and how much fiber do we really need to eat every day to support good health?
Types of Dietary Fiber and Health Benefits
Three kinds of dietary fiber have been identified — soluble fiber, insoluble fiber and one you may not have heard about before called resistant starch. Each type of fiber has unique chemical properties and physiological benefits.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and turns into a gel-like substance in the stomach and intestines. Pectin in fruit and gums in dried legumes (peas, beans and lentils) and oats are major dietary sources of soluble fiber. This type of fiber is important in slowing the rate that carbohydrates are digested and absorbed which helps to prevent blood sugar spikes and insulin surges, two reactions associated with risks for type 2 diabetes. Soluble fiber also helps people maintain healthy blood lipids like low density lipids (LDL).
Insoluble fiber is more indigestible than soluble fiber. Bran from whole grains and cellulose and hemicellulose in vegetables and some fruits are good dietary sources of insoluble fiber. This type of fiber increases stool size, decreases transit time of stool and binds cholesterol and toxins along the way.
Resistant starch is an interesting starch that passes through the small intestine largely undigested. Once in the colon, bacteria use resistant starch as an energy source and turn it into small chain fatty acids (SCFA) used to nourish and maintain the health of the cells that line the colons. Healthy colon cells decrease the risk for colon cancer.
Legumes, green bananas and plantains, potato starch, whole grains and potatoes and rice that have been cooked and cooled are all good sources of dietary resistant starch.
Use the information below to determine how much fiber you should be getting every day for your gender and age. Then use the USDA list of high fiber foods to add enough gluten-free fiber sources to your daily diet to keep your digestive system working for optimal health.
How much fiber should you be getting every day for healthy benefits?
The Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has established the following Adequate Intake for Total Fiber daily:
Life Stage: Males / grams per day Females / grams per day
- Children 1-3 19 19
- Children 4-8 25 25
- Children 9-13 31 26
- Adolescent 14-18 38 26
- Adults 19-50 38 25
- Adults over 51+ 30 21
- Pregnancy 28
- Breastfeeding 29
Source: Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine
Here are some of our favorite gluten-free recipes made with high fiber ingredients like beans, oatmeal, vegetables and fruits and whole gluten-free grains.
- 10 Gluten-Free Bean Salad Recipes
- All About Garbanzo Beans with Recipes
- How to Make Homemade Chickpea Flour
- Easy Homemade Gluten-Free Hummus
- Strawberry Flax Smoothie Recipe
- Gluten-Free Apple Recipes
- Gluten-Free Roosevelt Beans – Recipe Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park
Use the USDA Food Source of Selected Nutrients to find your favorite high fiber gluten-free foods and plan your daily fiber goals. Note — You need to scroll down the list of nutrients until you find the list for “fiber.”
Learn more about fiber at USDA Eating for Health – Fiber