There’s one crucial nutrient that many grain-free eaters risk missing in their diets. No, it’s not gluten (although they’re obviously not eating that one); it’s fiber.
Why? Many traditional sources of fiber, like bran, barley, and whole wheat, contain gluten—a non-starter for people who have Celiac disease, a non-Celiac gluten intolerance, or a wheat allergy. Similarly, grain-free eating plans like the Paleo diet and Whole30 cut out grains entirely, which also nixes other gluten-free fiber sources like quinoa and brown rice.
Not eating those foods inherently makes it a bit trickier to get enough fiber, and that’s a definite health issue. “Fiber in the diet is a critical part of our health, as it supports the digestive system including the microbiome and regular bowel movements,” says Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It has been linked to positive health outcomes including heart health through lowering cholesterol and reducing risk of colorectal cancers,” she adds. So, it’s pretty darn important.
“Studies estimate that many adults get less than 15 grams of fiber per day, though recommendations state that adult women should get 25 grams and adult men should get 38,” Hultin adds. Looks like we’ve all got some work to do.
Not sure what foods you can eat that are high-fiber and gluten-free? Here are some excellent options, as recommended by dietitians.
Fiber: 3 grams per tablespoon
This seed is rich in fiber, says Hultin. Plus, it’s also high in healthy fats (including all-important omega-3s) to help lower inflammation and keep you fuller for longer. “Toss some ground flaxseed in a smoothie to greatly boost your fiber intake,” she suggests. It’s an easy way to boost the nutrition for a filling on-the-go breakfast or post-workout shake.
2. Chia seeds
Like flaxseed, chia seeds are rich in fiber, plus healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your heart, says Hultin. “Try chia pudding or adding chia to granola balls or bites,” she suggests. (Both chia and flaxseeds are equally healthy, in case you were at all wondering!)
Fiber: 8 grams per cup
Raspberries are high in fiber and low in sugar, a truly winning combo. “Put them on yogurt bowls, or in smoothies or just eat them up plain and simple,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. Feel free to mix them up with some others berries, like blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries, too.
Fiber: 7 grams per half avocado
What can’t avocado do, honestly? Known for its healthy fats and protein, the fruit is naturally high in fiber and gluten-free, too. “Add it to power bowls, on top of gluten free toast, in smoothies and more for the satiety and digestion benefits of fiber,” says Michcalczyk.
Avocado offers so much more for your health than just fiber—here’s everything else it can do:
Fiber: 4 grams per medium apple
Here’s even more reason to go all out during apple season this year—Hultin says you’ll get a decent dose of fiber along with vitamin C and antioxidants. “Grab one on the go for breakfast, lunch, or a snack, or pop it in the oven for a soft, baked sweet treat,” she says.
Fiber: 10 grams per cup (chickpeas)
Hultin says all legumes, but particularly chickpeas, are a super versatile source of protein and fiber. “You can toss [chickpeas] on a salad, enjoy them in tacos or enchiladas, or roast them for an on-the-go snack,” she says. You can also go for black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, white beans, or lentils (a legume that’s also high in fiber) for similar benefits.
Fiber: 7 grams per cup (canned)
This high-fiber vegetable is right in season for fall—and you can enjoy it in way healthier ways than in a PSL. “Tis the season for all things pumpkin, which can actually be more beneficial that you might think! Real pumpkin puree has seven grams of fiber per cup serving so add it to baked goods, smoothies, chia pudding parfaits and more for a dose of fiber and vitamin A,” says Michalczyk.