Important nutrients for a gluten-free diet

Important nutrients for a gluten-free diet

Eating a gluten-free diet means it can be difficult to achieve an adequate intake of certain important nutrients.

Fibre

Fibre is an important part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Fibre helps to keep your bowels healthy by assisting food and waste products to move through the gut easily. Fibre can be found in foods such as fruits and vegetables (especially those with skin and seeds in), dried fruit and nuts and wholegrains like millet and quinoa which can be found in our Schar breads. Fibre is also found in naturally gluten-free foods like jacket potatoes.

Most people in the UK do not eat enough fibre. We should aim to eat 30g fibre each day, however the average adult in the UK eats just 12g!

Simple ways to increase fibre intake

It is important to increase your fibre intake gradually and ensure you drink plenty of water at the same time. We’ve compiled a list of easy ways to increase your daily fibre intake below:

  • Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Fresh, frozen dried, tinned and juiced all count as one of your portions
  • Add pulses such as lentils, peas or beans and extra vegetables to soups, stews and curries
  • Try gluten-free wholegrains such as quinoa and millet
  • Choose higher fibre versions of gluten-free breads, rolls, pasta and crackers
  • Choose high-fibre snacks throughout the day such as a handful of dried fruit, seeds or high-fibre crackers

 

Iron

Iron is essential for making red blood cells and maintaining a healthy immune system. Iron deficiency can result in anaemia, this often something that is diagnosed in people who have untreated coeliac disease. Iron deficiency can persist for some time, even when someone with coeliac disease has been following a gluten free diet carefully, as it takes time to build back up the body’s iron stores. Iron is found in meat (particularly red meats), chicken, fish and eggs. Plant-based sources of iron include beans, pulses and lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds green leafy vegetables, dried fruits and fortified breakfast cereals (check these are gluten-free). The iron from plant-based foods is less well absorbed than the iron found in animal products. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron, whilst some naturally occurring compounds within tea and coffee will reduce iron absorption, so it’s a great idea to have some fresh fruit juice with meals instead of a cup of tea.

Here’s some simple tips to help you increase your iron intake:

  • Add green, leafy vegetables to main meals
  • Add dried fruit to desserts
  • Include fruit and/or nuts and seeds as snacks
  • Try iron-fortified foods, e.g some types of breakfast cereals (check these are gluten-free),

 

Calcium

Calcium is essential for healthy bones, teeth and hair. The average adult needs around 700mg of calcium every day. If you have coeliac disease, your requirements for calcium are even higher, around 1000mg per day. As a guide, a 250ml glass of milk contains 240mg calcium. This is because the damage to the lining of the gut in undiagnosed or untreated coeliac disease leads to less calcium being absorbed from the diet.

Good gluten-free sources of calcium include dairy products, tinned sardines, green, leafy vegetables, oranges and dried figs. When choosing dairy products, opt for low-fat options as these contain as much calcium but less saturated fat than full-fat alternatives.

We’ve compiled some simple tips to help you achieve an adequate calcium intake:

  • Add milk or yoghurt* to your gluten-free breakfast cereal
  • Add green vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, curly kale, watercress and green beans to your main meals
  • Include dried fruit such as figs, seeds and nuts as gluten-free snacks
  • Use tinned fish with bones, such as sardines or pilchards, and include on toast
  • Check non-dairy sources of foods* such as milk and cheese are fortified with calcium

*Ensure suitable for a gluten-free diet.

Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from the diet. Most of the vitamin D is made by the action of sunlight on our skin. Foods rich in vitamin D include oily fish, eggs and fortified spreads and breakfast cereals. However, it is not possible to achieve an adequate intake of vitamin D from diet alone. Therefore, a vitamin D supplement could be considered during autumn and winter. Seek advice from a healthcare professional as to whether you need to consider taking a supplement.