FIBER: Movement, Beyond the Grain

24 Jun

It’s interesting how following a low carbohydrate, gluten free diet brings up questions from people who are cautious, and who still cannot believe that people can live a healthy life without wheat and grains. The food industry has been so repetitive in the “pushing” of grains that people in general, don’t even think to question the wisdom of whether or not those recommendations are accurate and healthful.

One of the hot topics seems to be fiber; skeptics ask HOW we get enough fiber. Seriously? The food industry has actually convinced people that we need grains and bread in order to have enough fiber in our diets, and the USDA says that we need a large amount of fiber in order for our systems to run smoothly.  They recommend that women have 25 grams of fiber in their diet, and that men have 38 grams based on a 2,000-2,500 calorie diet. In contrast, the British recommendation is 12 to 24 grams a day (which seems more reasonable, especially for those who aren’t eating such a large amount of food!) It seems nearly impossible to get “enough”  fiber (by USDA standards), even from fiber-rich foods, without taking in far too much food for a typical person, especially if you are no longer suffering from food cravings due to wheat!

(Here is what Dr. Davis, author of “Wheat Belly” has to say about getting enough fiber, as well as some questions and answers in the replies for specific issues.)

So how do we low-carbers get our fiber? First off, vegetables and fruits are full of fiber! Fiber is plant tissue, some of it dissolves in water and expands into a gel-like substance (soluble) and some of it does not dissolve and instead scours our insides, pushing food through digestion (insoluble).  Both types are important, and we need some of each to keep our systems running smoothly. Luckily, if we are getting enough fruits and veggies, we should have no problem getting enough fiber. Even without 9-grain or 12-grain bread. It’s true. Really.

There are plenty of sources for natural fiber in a healthy diet. Also, without processed foods, there is very little “paste” as I like to call it, to move through our system. Everything we eat is serving a purpose, not just sludging through and raising blood sugar along the way.

Probiotics (healthy bacteria) also play a crucial role in gut health, which can help balance both constipation and loose stools. The intestinal flora is as important as fiber in the diet. When we make major dietary changes, it can take some time for things to settle into balance again, and probiotics can help with that transition.

Non-Grain Sources of Dietary Fiber

To those who think that whole grain bread is crucial to your fiber intake, one slice has an average of 2g of dietary fiber. While 2g is OK, there are many other nutrient-rich foods that contain that amount or more, without the grain!

Avocados top the chart with 10g of fiber per cup!

Eat More Veggies!

If you are concerned about getting enough fiber, one thing you can do is to be sure to eat plenty of vegetables and some fruit (especially raw.) Salad is a great way to mix them up and create different flavors for different cravings!

My formula for a great salad is:

  • 2 types of greens (spinach, romaine, turnip greens, Swiss chard, bok choy, napa, kale)
  • A little of some type of fruit (granny smith apple, sliced berries, plums, be creative!)
  • More veggies (tomato, cucumber, sweet onion, celery, radishes, avocado, beets, olives, peppers, fresh peas, mushrooms, bean sprouts, asparagus, Brussels sprouts)
  • Nuts (chopped almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, whatever you like)
  • Cheese (blue cheese, cheddar, Swiss, feta, Parmesan)
  • Protein (hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken breast, canned chicken, seared tuna, canned tuna, steak, shrimp)
  • Gluten free salad dressing, oil and vinegar, or simple fresh-squeezed lemon (our fave dressing is homemade blue cheese, but use whatever you enjoy!)
  • For more added fiber, sprinkle with ground flax seed or add chia seeds

Having variety in your salads will make them so much more interesting and you may even look forward to creating them and eating your beautiful bowl of ingredients, instead of dreading another plain garden salad (NOT that there is anything wrong with garden salads, love those too!)

An example using my formula would be a “Michigan Salad”:

  • Romaine and spinach
  • Thinly sliced granny smith apple and a few pitted cherries
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Pine nuts or walnuts
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Grilled chicken
  • Raspberry balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dressing
  • Ground flax seeds


Or maybe an Asian inspired Tuna Salad:

  • Napa and bok choy
  • Orange sections
  • Avocado, green onions, bamboo shoots, fresh peas
  • Sliced almonds
  • Swiss cheese (or omit cheese as there are good fats and protein in the tuna)
  • Seared tuna steak, sliced
  • Ginger sesame dressing
  • Ground flax seeds

Get creative and enjoy the process of eating for improved health!


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9 responses to “FIBER: Movement, Beyond the Grain

  1. Alaine at My GF & DF Living

    June 25, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    I love this article! Very informative! Thanks for the suggestions on how to spice up a salad too. I am always looking for new ideas.

  2. Gretchen without Gluten

    June 26, 2012 at 9:23 am

    I’m glad you found it useful to you! I think that as long as we aren’t eating processed carbs, we need less fiber to “push” it through, but more raw veggies are always a good thing, regardless! Salads can definitely be a creative meal 🙂

  3. Len M.

    June 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Great article! I’m grain free as well, and yes, you can get plenty of fiber without grains in the diet, and more! Fruits and vegetables provide fiber and a whole host of other nutrient goodness that grains can’t come close to!

    • Gretchen without Gluten

      June 30, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      We have a couple friends who cannot believe that we get any fiber without grain in our diet, which is completely untrue… I wrote this to prove my point!

      • Len M.

        July 1, 2012 at 10:30 am

        I don’t think a lot of people really sit down to actually think about the nutrient value of the foods they eat. I’ve always found that kind of weird, considering it’s the most vital aspect of our well being.

  4. Gretchen without Gluten

    July 1, 2012 at 10:43 am

    I agree. There isn’t anything that comes into such direct contact with our bodies as food does, except for medicines. Yet, so many people take it all for granted and believe that if it can go into your mouth, it’s edible, it’s healthy. Diet is the most fundamental basis for health and I also believe, for treatment. When something goes wrong in our systems, I believe that what we are eating is the first thing that should be questioned or adjusted.

  5. Becca

    July 6, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Fabulous article! Thanks so much for breaking down the fiber content. I’ve been second-guessing our fiber intake and needs so this was a much-needed assurance. 🙂

    • Gretchen without Gluten

      July 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      I am so glad that this was helpful to you! It’s amazing how much fiber we get from healthy foods. We LOVE avocados, so that was just one more benefit to add to their long list. I do suspect that we actually “need” much less fiber in our diet when we are not eating paste though 😉

  6. Gretchen without Grain

    September 4, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I don’t think that one method is superior to another; it depends what style of cooked egg you prefer! We eat them in all forms in our home. I find that I have room in my budget for high-quality eggs because I no longer spend money on processed foods like we once did. Without crackers, breakfast cereals, chips and soda, we can afford the eggs we want. Everyone is different, of course, so just purchase what you can afford.


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