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Facts on Fibre

Facts on Fibre

Like all nutrients, fibre is an essential part of our daily diet. In the United Kingdom, The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) reports that the average intake per day for females is just 17g and 20g for males, both falling short of the recommended 30g per day. In this blog, we will discuss what fibre is, what role it plays in our wellbeing, and how we can increase our intake to meet our daily needs.


What is fibre?

Fibre is a form of complex carbohydrate sourced from indigestible components of plant based foods. Complex carbohydrates, such as those found in wholegrains and vegetables, differ from simple carbohydrates, such as those found in sugary snacks, as they are formed from longer chains of sugar molecules than those of simple carbohydrates. With longer chains of sugar molecules, fibre is not easily broken down and mostly passes through our digestive system relatively unchanged.

There are two forms of dietary fibre, soluble and insoluble.



Once ingested, soluble fibre is readily dissolved in the water within our gut to form a gel like substance. This gel provides a number of protective mechanisms and plays a key role in maintaining gut health.

The gel formed from soluble fibre has been found to reduce the risk of bowel cancer by blocking the absorption of a number of harmful compounds that are found in and formed from red and processed meats. Increasing our intake of soluble fibre can help reduce the levels of bad cholesterol which, in turn, helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other benefits include aiding in control of blood glucose levels by slowing down the rate at which glucose from carbohydrates can be absorbed into our blood from our digestive system.

Sources of soluble fibre include:

- Fruits and vegetables

- Beans

- Pulses
- Wholegrain cereals; Wholemeal breads 



Unlike soluble fibre, insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water. This inability to be dissolved causes what is referred to as an osmotic like effect, whereby water is drawn into the bowel and subsequently into our stool. This uptake in water helps with softening of stools making them easier to pass as well as promoting bowel regularity.

Sources of insoluble fibre include:

- Wholegrain cereals; Wholemeal breads

- Nuts
- Bran
- Vegetable skins, such as those of sweet potato


How much do I need?

SACN have set out recommended daily intakes of fibre for different age groups in the United Kingdom as follows:

  • 16 years and over: 30g per day             
  • 11-16 years: 25g per day
  • 5-11 years: 20g per day
  • 2-5 years: 15g per day

When consuming our recommended intake of fibre, it is key that we do so alongside drinking plenty of water. Try not to consume too much fibre as despite aiding in helping with constipation, consuming more than 50g per day can result in bloating, gas and constipation. This can also happen if you are not used to much fibre in your diet, therefore increase it gradually by making 1 or 2 changes at a time.



Getting enough fibre through our daily diets can be challenging for some given their dietary preferences, such as those who struggle with eating fruits and vegetables. Meeting fibre requirements can also be difficult during formula food low energy diets used for weight loss. In such instances, fibre supplementation can be used in conjunction with adequate fluid intake.


As we have discussed, the average intake of fibre in the UK falls well short of the recommended 30g per day. Increasing our intake can provide a number of benefits, from improving our overall bowel function, to reducing the risk of bowel cancer, cardiovascular disease, and blood glucose management. Aim to increase gradually and try and include both soluble and insoluble fibre containing foods.



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