Fibre

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.

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 the table below.

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 fibre rich food choices 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 should I have?

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
Adults 30g

How much fibre do you eat?

Fibre containing foods

Cereals and Carbohydrates

Type of food Total fibre per 100g
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

Type of food Total fibre per 100g
Apple 1.8g
Banana 1.1g
Broccoli (boiled) 2.3g
Carrots (boiled) 2.5g

 

Nuts and seeds

Type of food Total fibre per 100g
Almonds 7.4g
Peanuts 6.4g
Sunflower seeds 6.0g

 

Peas and beans

Type of food Total fibre per 100g
Peas (boiled) 4.5g
Baked Beans (in tomato sauce) 3.7g
Chick peas (boiled) 4.3g

Tips on how to increase your fibre intake

  • 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 menu to choose to provide you with the recommended ‘at least 30g of fibre’ in a day (for an adult)

Breakfast

Food Portion size Fibre per portion (g)
Porridge 50g 5g
with rasberries 80g 2.5g

 

Snack

Food Portion size Fibre per portion (g)
1 banana or apple 1 medium sized 2g

 

Lunch

Food Portion Size

Fibre per portion (g)

Baked Potato 180g - medium cooked 5g
Baked Beans 80g 3g
Sweetcorn (tinned) 80g 2g

 

Dinner 

Food Portion Size Fibre per portion (g)
Wholemeal Spaghetti 150g 5g

(Suggestion: add a tomato based sauce and vegetables)

Snack

Food Portion size Fibre per portion (g)
Wholmeal Bread 2 slices 6g
Peanut Butter 1 Tablespoon 1g

TOTAL: 31.5g

Summary

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.


This Food Factsheet is a public service of The British Dietetic Association (BDA) intended for information only.

It is not a substitute for proper medical diagnosis or dietary advice given by a dietitian.

If you need to see a dietitian, visit your GP for a referral or a private dietitian.

To check your dietitian is registered check www.hcpc-uk.org.

Written by Sammie Gill, Nona Ozerianskaya and Yvonne McKenzie, Dietitians.

The information sources used to develop this fact sheet

Download this as a PDF.

© BDA September 2016. Review date: September 2019