Fiber is the indigestible carbohydrate and lignin found in plants. It moves through our digestive system creating bulk and preventing constipation. 1

  • There are two kinds of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber (dissolves in water): helps lower cholesterol, specifically low-density lipo-protein cholesterol (LDL), thus aiding in heart health.1 It’s found in whole grains as well as in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, such as beans, soybeans, and peanuts. 2

  • Insoluble fiber (does not dissolve in water): is not digested, but it adds bulk to the stool and can be very helpful to treat constipation. 2 It is found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, and broccoli as well as in many vegetables.
  • Most fibrous foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds have a combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Consuming adequate dietary fiber is especially important for people on the gluten-free diet.

Fiber helps you to: 1,3

  • Maintain regular bowel movements. Some people on the gluten-free diet may have trouble with constipation due to inadequate fiber in their diet.
  • Prevent certain chronic diseases, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and diverticular disease.
  • Normalize blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Fill you up on fewer calories. Visit the Weight Gain section to read more about how fiber can help you lose or maintain your weight.
Americans typically don’t get enough fiber in their diet! A 3-day diet analysis of adults on a gluten-free diet showed that more than 50% of females did not eat adequate amounts of FIBER, iron, or calcium. 4

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

Take a look at this chart for your recommended average daily intake of fiber based on your age and gender. Speak to your dietitian or doctor to discuss your individual fiber needs.

Men 19-50 years 38 grams
Men over 50 30 grams
Women 19 – 50 years 25 grams
Women over 50 21 grams

Reference: Thompson, T. The Gluten Free Nutrition Guide. McGraw Hill, 2008.


Many gluten-containing grain products, such as whole grain breads and cereals, are made from whole grains, such as whole wheat and/or barley. They are typically high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

This is not necessarily the case with gluten-free grain products.

There are at least three reasons why relying heavily on certain gluten-free food products limits your intake of nutrients. 1

  1. Historically most gluten free products used the common gluten-free ingredients; corn, rice, potato and tapioca starch. These ingredients were processed or refined in an attempt to produce foods that are similar in texture and taste to gluten-containing products.
  2. The Anatomy of a GrainToday manufacturers are beginning to use more gluten-free whole grains to improve the nutritional quality of the products.
    • Milling and processing of grains was originally done to increase the shelf life of the grains. Removing the germ, which contains unsaturated fats that can spoil or go rancid over time when exposed to heat and sunlight, allows the grain to last longer. 1
    Refining a grain: The outer layer (bran) of the grain which contains most of the fiber is removed, leaving only the starchy inner layer (endosperm) which contains very little fiber. Many vitamins and minerals are also removed.

    Whole grains or foods made with them contain ALL the parts of the grain: the bran, germ, and endosperm.

    • Bran: outer layer containing:
      • Fiber
      • B vitamins
      • Minerals
      • Protein
    • Endosperm: middle layer containing:
      • Protein needed for germination
      • Carbohydrates
    • Germ: inner layer containing:
      • Minerals
      • B Vitamins
      • Vitamin E

    100% Whole grain stamp from the Whole Grain CouncilTo help identify foods that have been made with whole grains, the Whole Grain Council launched the “100% Whole Grain“ stamp in 2003. This stamp is placed only on foods made with 100% whole grains and that have a minimum of 16 grams of whole grain per serving. Visit for more details. 1

  3. The main source of B vitamins—thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate—in the American diet is enriched flours, breads, crackers, and breakfast cereals. This means that the vitamins removed during refinement are added back. Unfortunately, many gluten-free grains are not enriched and have fewer B vitamins than their gluten-containing counterparts. 1,4
  • Eating whole grains is good for us because they are high in fiber, low in fat, contain protein, and are rich in B vitamins.
  • Consume at least one half of your grains each day as whole grains. The US Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Whole Grain Council both recommend that at least three 1-ounce servings (48 grams of whole grain; this is different from fiber) or HALF of the grains we consume daily should be whole grains. 1

    Nutrition Facts Label

    What’s an example of a 1-ounce serving:
    • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or other cooked whole grain
    • 1/2 cup cooked 100% whole grain pasta
    • 1/2 cup cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
    • 1 ounce uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
    • 1 slice 100% whole grain bread
    • 1 very small (1 oz.) 100% whole grain muffin
    • 1 cup 100% whole grain ready-to-eat cereal
  • All grains must be labeled gluten-free.
  • To learn much more about serving sizes and “ounce equivalents, visit the Whole Grains Council
  • By eating fewer lower fiber gluten-free grains and more gluten-free whole grains, such as high-fiber gluten-free breads and crackers, and grains like quinoa, brown rice, and millet, the nutrient content of your diet vastly improves.
  • Some people are not able to tolerate moderate or high fiber diets due to certain medical conditions such as Crohns, a history of bowel obstructions, complicated diverticulitis, or a particularly sensitive gut. Others may have an intolerance or allergy to one or more grains. If this is you, speak to your doctor or dietitian about how to balance your diet using other foods, such as starchy vegetables and tubers (turnips, parsnips, etc) and other sources of fiber.
    Whole Grains Legumes Fruits and Vegetables
    Amaranth Black beans Artichoke hearts
    Buckwheat Edamame (soybean) Raspberries
    Brown rice Garbanzo (chickpea) Blackberries
    Chia Lentils Figs(dried)
    Corn Lima beans Prunes
    Flax seed Peas Pear
    Millet Pinto beans Kiwi
    Gluten-free oats Soybeans Spinach
    Popcorn Squash
    Quinoa Parsnips
    Sorghum Broccoli
    Teff Turnip Greens
    Wild rice

    Reference: Adapted from Higgins, L. Whole Grains = Nutritional Gold. In Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten-Free. Eds. Dennis M, Leffler D. AGA Press. Bethesda, MD, 2010. Thompson, T. The Gluten Free Nutrition Guide. McGraw Hill, 2008.

  • Look for enriched gluten-free breads, pastas, and baking mixes and fortified breakfast cereals. 5
    Sample Ingredient List of a gluten-free enriched refined bread product: 5 White rice flour, Water, Tapioca Starch, Whole Eggs, Sugar, Yeast, Sunflower and/or Canola Oil, Dextrose, Poly Dextrose, Pea Protein, Sodium Carboxy Methylcellulose, Salt, Vitamin Blend (Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folic Acid, Iron)
  • Amaranth - a seed high in protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, and lysine (an essential amino acid )
  • Buckwheat – a fruit kernel high in protein, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, niacin, riboflavin, B vitamins, and fiber
  • Millet - a seed high in easily digestible protein, as well as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, fiber, iron, magnesium, and zinc
  • Quinoa – a seed grain high in high quality protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, B vitamins and fiber
  • Pulses - the edible seeds of legumes (plants with a pod), such as dry peas, lentils, dry beans, and chickpeas
  • Sorghum – a cereal grain high in protein, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, iron, phosphorus and potassium
  • Teff – an Ethiopian seed grass high in calcium, iron, magnesium, thiamin, zinc, protein and fiber
  • Nutrition Facts LabelLook for at least 2 grams of fiber per serving on the Nutrition Facts panel. 5
  • As they break it down, bacteria in the colon ferment bacteria which can cause gas. Slowly increase the amount of fiber you are eating so your intestines have time to adjust to the increased fiber load.
  • Space your fiber intake throughout the day so you are not eating it all at once.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water (6-8 cups) as you add more fiber to your diet.
  • Eating too much fiber can bind with minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, copper, magnesium and selenium in your foods or supplements and keep them from being fully absorbed. Typically, however, this is not a common problem among people on the gluten-free diet.
  • Aim for comfortable, well formed bowel movements without straining.
  • Rinse all grains well before cooking.
  • Cook all grains well and according to the package directions before eating them.
  • Use a gluten-free cookbook when using gluten-free flours to make baked goods. To achieve good quality in the finished product, the amounts and mixtures of flours is important.
  • Do not purchase these grains from bulk bins. Purchase them in sealed packages to help prevent cross contamination.
    Grain Amount of Liquid Amount of Grain Cooking Time Uses
    Amaranth 2-3 cups 1 cup Simmer 7 minute;, let stand covered 10 minutes Hot or cold cereal, thickener for soups or stews
    Buckwheat 2 cups 1 cup Simmer 15 minutes Hot cereal, side dish, soups, stews, casseroles
    Quinoa 2 cups 1 cup Simmer 15 minutes Side dish, cold salad, soups, stews
    Teff 2 cups 1/2 cup Simmer 15-20 minutes Hot cereal, side dish
    * For more ideas, check out the cookbooks listed in Resources.

Reference: Adapted from chart by Anne Roland Lee, MS, RD. In Higgins, L. Whole Grains = Nutritional Gold. In Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten-Free . Dennis M, Leffler D, eds. AGA Press. Bethesda, MD, 2010.


Note: All grain and flour based products and flax seed should be labeled gluten-free. Oats should be specially produced, labeled gluten-free oats.

  • Whole-grain gluten-free waffles topped with almond or peanut butter and honey or syrup, and fruit: Make a whole batch and freeze them for the week. Waffles also make great sandwich bread in a pinch.
  • Hot gluten-free cereals made from buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, and specially produced, labeled gluten-free whole rolled oats with sliced almonds, ground flax seed, dried or fresh fruit, and milk or non-dairy gluten-free beverage (gluten-free almond or rice milk)
  • Whole-grain cold cereals: brown rice, whole sorghum, ground flax seed, and whole grain corn with fruit and your choice of milk or non-dairy, gluten-free beverage
  • Yogurt (preferably greek yogurt) with a spoonful each of ground flax seed, sliced almonds, and dried or fresh fruit
  • Brown rice or quinoa crackers with peanut, almond, cashew or walnut butter
  • Popped corn
  • Yogurt with a spoonful of ground flax seed
  • Fresh cut vegetables (peppers, cucumbers, celery) and hummus
  • Brown rice crackers with hummus and gluten-free “tabbouli” (made with quinoa or brown rice instead of cracker wheat)
Lunch & Dinner
  • Quinoa salad: cooked quinoa mixed with a variety of chopped vegetables, seeds, nuts, and a mild dressing
  • Brown or wild rice with vegetables and chicken, fish, or meat
  • Sandwich using high-fiber gluten-free bread, turkey, chicken, tuna or egg salad, avocado, tomato, spinach leaves, mayonnaise or mustard (gluten-free)
  • Buckwheat mixed with vegetables and nuts, lean chicken or turkey in your choice of gluten-free marinade
  • Enriched gluten-free pasta, meat and spaghetti sauce, and your choice of vegetable
  • Brown rice and red beans with salad and avocado slides
  • Tacos made with 100% corn tortillas (labeled gluten-free), vegetarian refried beans, tomatoes, lettuce, low-fat cheese, and fresh salsa

Reference: Adapted from Higgins, L. Whole Grains = Nutritional Gold. In Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten-Free . Dennis M, Leffler D, eds. AGA Press. Bethesda, MD, 2010.




  • Eating soluble fiber helps to eliminate “bad” cholesterol, or low-density lipo-protein, thus aiding in heart health. Insoluble fiber helps with constipation. Fibrous foods have a combination of both types.
  • You can get noticeably fuller on smaller servings of whole versus refined gluten-free grains –this can help with weight loss or weight maintenance.
  • As an eye-opener, compare the fiber content on labels you used to buy with the ones you are buying now. Look for at least 2 grams of fiber or more per serving on gluten-free foods.
  • It’s possible to get constipated on too much fiber. Since fiber absorbs a lot of water as it moves through your digestive tract, increase it slowly and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Rinse and drain all grains well. For best results, cook or bake with them according to the package or recipe directions.

University of Virginia. Division of Digestive Health. Whole Grains article.

Thompson, T. The Gluten Free Nutrition Guide. McGraw Hill, 2008.

Allergic Living: Getting Enough Fiber:

Web MD: Adding Fruits and Veggies to your Diet:


  1. Higgins, L. Whole Grains = Nutritional Gold. In Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten-Free . Eds. Dennis M, Leffler D. AGA Press. Bethesda, MD, 2010.
  2. Simpson S. Constipation. In Real Life with Celiac Disease: Troubleshooting and Thriving Gluten-Free . Eds. Dennis M, Leffler D. AGA Press. Bethesda, MD, 2010.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet. Accessed March 5, 2013.
  4. Thompson, T., M. Dennis, L. A. Higgins, A. R. Lee, and M. K. Sharrett. Gluten-free diet survey: Are Americans with coeliac disease consuming recommended amounts of fibre, iron, calcium and grain foods?" J Hum Nutr Deti, 2005;18(3):163-169.
  5. Dennis M, Kupper C, Lee AR, Sharrett MK, Thompson T. Celiac Disease Toolkit. American Dietetic Association, 2011.

Revision Date: 4-24-13 
Authors: Melinda Dennis, MS, RD, LDN and Nicolette Taggart 
Editors: Anne Lee, MSEd, RD, LD and Daniel Leffler MD, MS

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