28 Nov 2019
Fibre is an essential nutrient for the normal functioning of the gut. It is related to a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
Most of us need to eat more fibre and having a very good intake from a wide variety of foods is linked to a better overall nutritional intake.
What is fibre?
Dietary fibre is the edible parts of plants resistant to digestion and absorption in the small intestine. It is completely or partially broken down by bacteria in the large intestine. Fibre includes carbohydrates called polysaccharides and oligosaccharides, plus lignin.
The many health benefits of fibre are shown in Table 1.
Health benefits of fibre
|Why increase your fibre intake||High fibre foods to eat|
|To lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and colorectal cancer.||All foods high in fibre, in particular cereals and wholegrains|
|To treat or prevent constipation, make stools softer and easier to pass.||All foods high in fibre, in particular wheat and other cereals|
|To help lower a high blood cholesterol level or high blood pressure.||Oat bran|
Some of the best food choices for fibre are:
- starchy foods: porridge, oat bran, high fibre breakfast cereals, sweet potato, potato with skin, wholemeal or wholegrain bread and pasta (see our Food Fact sheet on Wholegrains)
- beans and pulses such as baked beans, hummus and dahl
- vegetables: peas, parsnip, mixed veg (from frozen), green beans, carrot, canned sweetcorn and broccoli
- fruits: pear, apple, raspberries and blackberries, plums and prunes, banana and orange
- seeds such as linseeds and chia seeds
- nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and peanut butter.
When you read food labels check for the grams of fibre per serving or 100 g. A food product is: ‘high fibre’ if it contains at least 6g of fibre per 100g a ‘source of fibre’ if it contains at least 3g of fibre per 100g.
How much fibre do you eat?
In the UK, the average fibre intake for adults is 60% (18g) of what it should be (30g). Overall for children, those at primary school age should try to eat 5g more a day, whilst those secondary school aged should try to eat 9g more. For adults, dietary fibre intake should increase to 30g a day, as part of a healthy balanced diet.
|Age Group||Amount of recommended fibre (grams per day)|
|Children (2-5 years)||15g|
|Children (5-11 years)||20g|
|Children (11-16 years)||25g|
|Adolescents (16-18 years)||30g|
How much fibre should I have?
Table 3: Fibre containing foods
Type of food
|Total fibre per 100g|
Cereals and Carbohydrates
|Fibre flake/Bran cereals||13-24.5g|
|Wholemeal bread (2 slices)||5.0g|
|Brown rice (boiled)||0.8g|
|Wholemeal spaghetti (boiled)||3.5g|
Fruit and Vegetables
Nuts and seeds
Peas and beans
|Baked Beans (in tomato sauce)||3.7g|
|Chick peas (boiled)||4.3g|
Tips on how to increase your fibre
- Have a high-fibre cereal at breakfast.
- Add fruit to breakfast cereal.
- Have an oat-based cereal bar as a snack (*be aware of sugar content - check the label)
- Mix linseeds into yogurt.
- Have a wholemeal sandwich at lunch with carrot sticks and hummus.
- Try a homemade vegetable soup with rye bread?
- Have wholemeal pasta with vegetables at dinner time.
- Add pulses such as baked beans and lentils to dishes.
- Add extra vegetables to sauces such as bolognaise, curry and chilli.
- Keep a supply of frozen vegetables so you are never without!
- Leave the skin on vegetables and fruit and aim to have 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Have fresh fruit as a snack.
- Blend together some fruit and milk/yogurt for a refreshing smoothie.
- Other snack ideas include an oat-based cereal bar, trail mix, popcorn or a slice of wholemeal toast.
An example of foods to choose to provide you with the recommended ‘at least 30g of fibre’ in a day (for an adult)
|Portion size||Fibre per portion (g)|
|1 banana or apple||1 medium sized||2g|
|Baked Potato||180g - medium cooked||5g|
|Suggestion: add a tomato based sauce and vegetables|
|Wholmeal Bread||2 slices||6g|
|Peanut Butter||1 Tablespoon||1g|
If you need further help, ask your doctor to refer you to a dietitian.
Remember to increase your fibre intake gradually to avoid gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating and gas and allow your gut to adjust to the higher intake. Remember to drink plenty of fluid, to allow the fibre to do its job properly, aiming for 8-10 cups of fluid per day at regular intervals.