Fibre is a type of complex carbohydrate that’s found in all types of plant-based foods, including fruit, vegetables and grains. Fibre doesn't get broken down and absorbed in your small bowel like other types of food. Instead, it passes undigested into your large bowel.
You might sometimes hear fibre referred to as two different types – soluble and insoluble. However, there’s no longer thought to be much difference between the two. The terms soluble and insoluble refer to whether or not the fibre dissolves in your small bowel. In the past, soluble fibre was generally thought to have more effect in your small bowel, and insoluble fibre in your large bowel. But this isn't always the case, and actually most food that is high in fibre has a mixture of both types.
Fibre is important for your digestive health. It helps to bulk up the stools in your large bowel and move it along your digestive tract more quickly, helping to prevent constipation. Fibre also makes your stools softer, which helps with this process.
There's also good evidence that fibre can help to reduce your risk of the following serious diseases:
It's recommended that adults should have 30g of fibre a day. Children need less than this.
Recommended daily amount of fibre
Adults aged 18 and above
Many people are currently eating less than half the recommended amount of fibre. Eating a healthy, balanced diet including plenty of wholegrain, starchy foods and fruit and vegetables can help you to get enough fibre.
Types of food that contain lots of fibre include:
- wholemeal and wholegrain breads, cereals and pasta
- peas, beans and lentils
- fruit and vegetables
- dried fruit
- nuts and seeds
Here are a few examples of the amount of fibre in certain foods.
Food (typical portion size)
Fibre content (g)
Starchy foods: cereals, breads and pasta
Bran flakes (40g)
Shredded wheat (40g)
Wheat biscuits breakfast cereal (two biscuits)
Wholemeal bread (two slices – 100g)
Baked potato, including skin (medium-sized – 180g)
Wholewheat spaghetti (75g when uncooked, 170g cooked)
Fruit and vegetables
Apple (small – 100g)
Dried apricots (30g)
Broccoli (80g, steamed)
Carrots (80g, boiled)
Lentils, beans and peas
Baked beans (150g)
Kidney beans (100g)
Red lentils (100g, cooked)
Peas (80g, cooked)
Nuts and seeds
Peanuts (a handful – 25g)
Almonds (flaked or toasted – 25g)
Sunflower seeds (25g)
- Choose wholegrain foods, such as bread, cereals and pasta rather than white or refined starchy foods. Wholegrain foods contain more fibre.
- Add fruit to your breakfast cereal or to plain yoghurt. This will help you to reach your 5-a-day target, as well as up your fibre intake.
- Add beans and extra veg to dishes such as curries, soups, stews and chilli.
- Go for chopped-up veg, fruit, dried fruit or nuts and seeds for snacks between meals.
- Check food labels when you're shopping to see which products are high in fibre.
If you don't currently eat enough fibre and need to up your fibre intake, it's best to do it gradually, to allow your gut to adjust. Increasing it too quickly may cause symptoms such as bloating and gas. It's a good idea to make sure you're drinking enough fluids too.
- Fibre. The Association of UK Dietitians (BDA). www.bda.uk.com, published September 2016
- Carbohydrates and health. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), 2015. www.gov.uk
- Macronutrients and energy balance. Oxford handbook of nutrition and dietetics (online). Oxford Medicine Online. oxfordmedicine.com, updated December 2015.
- McCance and Widdowson's composition of foods integrated dataset. Public Health England. www.gov.uk, published 25 March 2015
- Dietary fibre. British Nutrition Foundation. www.nutrition.org.uk, revised January 2017
- National diet and nutrition survey results from years 5 and 6 (combined) of the rolling programme (2012/2013 – 2013/2014). Public Health England and the Food Standards Agency, September 2016. www.gov.uk
- Government recommendations for energy and nutrients for males and females aged 1–18 years and 19+ years. Public Health England, August 2016. www.gov.uk
- The Eatwell Guide. Public Health England, July 2016. www.gov.uk
We’d love to know what you think about what you’ve just been reading and looking at – we’ll use it to improve our information. If you’d like to give us some feedback, our short form below will take just a few minutes to complete. And if there's a question you want to ask that hasn't been answered here, please submit it to us. Although we can't respond to specific questions directly, we’ll aim to include the answer to it when we next review this topic.
Let us know what you think using our short feedback form
Reviewed by Pippa Coulter, Freelance Health Editor, January 2018
Expert reviewer Mr Paul McArdle, Registered Dietitian
Next review due January 2021
About our health information
At Bupa we produce a wealth of free health information for you and your family. We believe that trustworthy information is essential in helping you make better decisions about your health and care. Here are just a few of the ways in which our core editorial principles have been recognised.
We are certified by the Information Standard. This quality mark identifies reliable, trustworthy producers and sources of health information.
What our readers say about us
But don't just take our word for it; here's some feedback from our readers.
“Simple and easy to use website - not alarming, just helpful.”
“It’s informative but not too detailed. I like that it’s factual and realistic about the conditions and the procedures involved. It’s also easy to navigate to areas that you specifically want without having to read all the information.”
“Good information, easy to find, trustworthy.”
Meet the team
Head of Health Content
- Dylan Merkett – Lead Editor
- Graham Pembrey - Lead Editor
- Laura Blanks – Specialist Editor, Quality
- Michelle Harrison – Specialist Editor, Insights
- Natalie Heaton – Specialist Editor, User Experience
- Fay Jeffery – Web Editor
- Marcella McEvoy – Specialist Editor, Content Portfolio
- Alice Rossiter – Specialist Editor (on Maternity Leave)
Our core principles
All our health content is produced in line with our core editorial principles – readable, reliable, relevant – which are represented by our diagram.
In a nutshell, our information is jargon-free, concise and accessible. We know our audience and we meet their health information needs, helping them to take the next step in their health and wellbeing journey.
We use the best quality and most up-to-date evidence to produce our information. Our process is transparent and validated by experts – both our users and medical specialists.
We know that our users want the right information at the right time, in the way that suits them. So we review our content at least every three years to keep it fresh. And we’re embracing new technology and social media so they can get it whenever and wherever they choose.
Here are just a few of the ways in which the quality of our information has been recognised.
The Information Standard certification scheme
You will see the Information Standard quality mark on our content. This is a certification programme, supported by NHS England, that was developed to ensure that public-facing health and care information is created to a set of best practice principles.
It uses only recognised evidence sources and presents the information in a clear and balanced way. The Information Standard quality mark is a quick and easy way for you to identify reliable and trustworthy producers and sources of information.
Certified by the Information Standard as a quality provider of health and social care information. Bupa shall hold responsibility for the accuracy of the information they publish and neither the Scheme Operator nor the Scheme Owner shall have any responsibility whatsoever for costs, losses or direct or indirect damages or costs arising from inaccuracy of information or omissions in information published on the website on behalf of Bupa.
British Medical Association (BMA) patient information awards
We have received a number of BMA awards for different assets over the years. Most recently, in 2013, we received a 'commended' award for our online shared decision making hub.
If you have any feedback on our health information, we would love to hear from you. Please contact us via email: email@example.com. Or you can write to us:
Health Content Team
Battle Bridge House
300 Grays Inn Road