Finding Fibre on a Gluten Free Diet
For most people the diagnosis of Coeliac Disease means an end to upset digestion, bloating and intestinal hurry. But some people can still run into problems with digestion when it comes to things moving too slowly. Although gluten can lead to constipation in some people, if you are on your strict gluten free diet, what else might be affecting your gut?
Studies in people with coeliac disease show that many are missing out on key nutrients including calcium, iron B vitamins and fibre. And when it comes to keeping your gut healthy, fibre is essential.
Fibre and a Gluten-Free Diet
Why do so many people miss out on fibre on a gluten-free diet? Wholegrain breads and cereals are a big source of fibre in the Irish diet. Going gluten free means cutting out a lot of brands of breads and cereals and with them goes quite a lot of fibre. Although there is gluten-free bread available, many people still eat less bread than they did before they were diagnosed. Fibre can also be lower in some gluten free breads compared to other wholegrain breads.
What do we need?
How much fibre do we need? We need to aim for around 25g to 35g of fibre a day to help keep our digestion healthy. Even without coeliac disease, many people miss this target with only 20% of people in Ireland actually eating enough fibre Add coeliac disease into the mix and this can become a real problem. We take a look at some of the best ways to add more fibre and keep your gut moving as it should:
- Whole grains: Choose wholegrain or whole meal gluten-free bread as much as possible. Check out the fibre on labels. A food with 6g of fibre per 100g is “high fibre” and is a great choice to make. A slice of high fibre gluten free bread should have around 2-3g of fibre per slice.
- Add seeds: Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and chia seeds are all very high in fibre. Add a dessertspoon or two of seeds to your breakfast, stir them into yoghurt or sprinkle them over salads. This is an easy way to top up your fibre and ground seeds are just as good as whole. 1 dessertspoon of most seeds will give you around 3g of fibre.
- Get your 5 (or more!) a day: Fruit and vegetables are also good places to get fibre. Aim to have 2-3 pieces of fruit everyday and add vegetables or salad to lunch and dinner. A piece of fruit or a serving of vegetables will give you 2-3g of fibre.
- Beans and lentils: These are very rich in fibre. A tin of baked beans has 14g of fibre. A small tin of chickpeas has around 10g. Adding beans to soups is a great way to add more fibre. You can also add lentils to stews, soups and casseroles or try some vegetarian dishes based on lentils.
- Snack on nuts and dried fruit. Raisins, apricots and dates are all great paces to add fibre and they make a very handy snack. You can eat them alone or mixed with some walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds to add some extra fibre.
Water and Your Gut
Fibre works by getting into your gut and soaking up lots of water. This makes everything in your gut soft and easy to move. Water is just as important as fibre when it comes to having a healthy digestion. Aim to have 6-8 glasses of water everyday. If you’re not a big water-drinker try some herbal teas or you can add mint leaves, cucumber or orange slices to cold water for a little extra flavour.
Exercise gets more than your body moving
Lack of exercise is a big problem when it comes to keeping digestion healthy. Getting out and about gets blood moving around your body – your gut included. A common cause of constipation is lack of movement and exercise. Even a little will help. Try to get out for a short walk most days – even 10 minutes will help. When you have time you can try to have a longer walk or maybe join an exercise class like aqua aerobics or yoga. Moving your body can have a very positive impact on your gut.
What if nothing is working?
If you have added more fibre, drunk more water, increased your exercise and things are still sluggish and slow it may be worth checking with your GP and Dietitian to see if anything else may be going on. You may be picking up gluten from somewhere that you hadn’t thought of or you may have irritable bowel syndrome as well as coeliac disease (it happens!). Either way, your GP and Dietitian can help you work though what you need to do to help get you and your digestion working as it should.
High Fibre Recipes
Fibre isn’t just for breakfast. Look for ways to get high fibre foods at lunch and dinner as well. Below are some great recipes that are rich in fibre and can be used throughout the day.
Chilli-con-Carne with Extra Veg
500g extra lean minced beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 yellow peppers, chopped
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon cocoa powder (if you don’t have any you can leave this out but don’t be tempted to substitute it with hot chocolate powder)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons mango chutney
1 small tin of sweet corn, drained
1 400g tin of kidney beans, drained
1 vegetable stock cube
Add the lean mince to a large pot over a medium heat (you don’t need any oil). Cook the mince until it is fully browned. Then add the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chopped peppers, tomatoes, cocoa powder, coriander, cumin, chutney, vegetable stock cube and sweet corn. Mix well and bring to the boil. Take the lid off and cook over a medium to low heat for 1 hour – you want to boil off some of the liquid so that the chilli is not too watery. Stir occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the pot. After 1 hour, add the kidney beans and gently cook for 15 minutes. Serve with wholegrain rice.
Winter Vegetable Casserole
1 dessertspoon olive oil
200g red lentils
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
1 turnip/swede, peeled and chopped
3 sticks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 heaped dessertspoon gluten free dried mixed herbs
1 gluten free vegetable stock cube
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the olive oil to a medium heat and add the onions, garlic and leeks. Cover and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes, until softened. Add the lentils and stir well. Then add the turnip, carrots, celery, herbs and the vegetable stock cube. Add enough water to cover everything by about 1 inch/2 cm. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and cook slowly for 1 ½ hours with the lid on. Check from time to time to see if it needs more water and an occasional stir to stop the lentils from sticking. Check if it needs more salt or pepper. Serve with mashed potato. This is even better if you make it the day before and leave over night – it really allows the flavours to develop.
Chicken and Broccoli Salad
½ head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 breast of chicken, cooked and chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 spring onions, sliced
1 teaspoon gluten free wholegrain mustard
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper
Put everything together in a bowl and mix well. Enjoy on it’s own or with a crusty brown roll.