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What is fibre?

Dietary fibre is a term that is used for carbohydrates found naturally in plants. Unlike other carbohydrates (such as sugars and most starches), dietary fibre is not digested in the small intestine and reaches the large intestine intact. 


It is important to eat a variety of fibre-containing foods as it helps to keep our digestive system healthy and can prevent constipation. A high fibre diet may also help to reduce our risk of some diseases. 

Which foods contain fibre?

Generally, healthier diets are fibre-rich because they include a variety of plant foods such as fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. These foods contain fibre as well as other important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and bioactive plant compounds (like polyphenols), which provide a range of health benefits.


In the UK, most adults do not consume enough fibre so it’s important to understand how we can get more fibre into our diets.


Dr Stacey Lockyer, Senior Nutrition Scientist, British Nutrition Foundation

Top 10 Sources Of Fibre

Our expert Dr Stacey Lockyer shares 10 of the best sources of fibre based on how easy they are to introduce into your existing diet.

Wholegrain breakfast cereals

Beans and pulses

Potatoes with skin

Nuts and seeds

Dried fruits

Wholewheat pasta

Wholegrain bread


Wholegrain crackers

Other wholegrains

Key facts about Fibre

  • ​​Dietary fibre is a carbohydrate found naturally in plants. 
  • Fibre helps to keep our digestive system healthy, maintain a healthy bodyweight and prevent constipation.
  • High fibre diets can help to prevent some diseases.
  • In the UK, most adults do not consume enough fibre so it’s important to understand how we can get more fibre into our diets.

10 Top Tips To Increase Your Fibre Intake

Remember, if you need to increase your fibre intake, it’s a good idea to make these changes gradually to avoid bloating and gas.

It’s also important to drink plenty of fluids (around 6-8 glasses per day for adults) and to be active for at least 150 minutes per week  - as these both contribute to keeping your gut healthy.

  1. Choose a high-fibre breakfast cereal - for example, wholegrain cereals like wholewheat biscuit cereal, no added sugar muesli, bran flakes or porridge. 
  2. Add fibre to your cereal - try adding fresh fruit, dried fruit, seeds and/or nuts to your cereal or yogurt. 
  3. Switch to wholemeal or seeded wholegrain breads - if you or your family usually only like white bread, start by trying the versions that combine white and wholemeal flours.
  4. Cook with wholegrains - like wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice.
  5. Leave the skin on potatoes - like baked potatoes, wedges or boiled new potatoes. 
  6. Snack on fibre-rice foods - try opting for snacks like fruit, vegetable sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes, houmous and unsalted nuts. 
  7. Include plenty of vegetables with meals - either as a side dish or added to sauces, stews or curries. This is a great way of getting children to eat more veg!
  8. Stoke up your freezer - keeping a handy supply of frozen vegetables in your freezer can prevent waste and ensure you’re never without.
  9. Add pulses to your favourite meals - pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas can be easily added to stews, curries and salads. 
  10. Don’t forget canned foods - canned beans or chickpeas are a quick and cost-effective way to add fibre to a meal.

Fibre FAQs

Although the science in this area is still at an early stage, it appears that having a diet rich in a variety of fibre may help to increase the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut.


It’s estimated that we have around 100 trillion micro-organisms in our gut (gut microbiota) and most of these are bacteria. There are many species of gut bacteria, and these can be either beneficial or harmful to our health. The balance of the bacteria in our gut can be affected by several different factors, including our diet and lifestyle. 


Research is increasingly showing the importance of the bacteria in our gut when it comes to our health. Studies have investigated the effects of our gut bacteria on different aspects of our health including gut health (such as irritable bowel syndrome), obesity, immune function and brain function.


Fermentable fibres such as inulins from onions, leeks, wheat and oats and galacto-oligosaccharides, found in pulses like beans, lentils and chickpeas provide a food source for ‘good’ gut bacteria.

If you are not getting enough fibre in your diet and you quickly increase your intake, you may experience bloating whilst your digestive system gets used to the change. 


You should aim to gradually introduce more fibre to allow the bacteria in your digestive system to adjust.

Yes. Consuming excessive amounts of fibre can cause symptoms like bloating, cramping, constipation or diarrhoea and dehydration. 


It can also prevent the absorption of some key nutrients.


Eating too much fibre can make you feel full, preventing you from consuming a variety of other foods. It's important to have a balanced diet so try to stick to the recommended amounts.


If you feel you are consuming too much fibre or suffering from the effects of too much fibre, you should seek medical and dietary advice from your GP. 

If you have been diagnosed with IBS, you may find that your symptoms worsen when you consume high fibre foods. 


However, there is no one recommended diet or medication for those who suffer from IBS. You should consult with your GP who may recommend creating a food diary to better understand your triggers whilst also ensuring you are getting the fibre you need to stay healthy. You may also be referred to a dietitian to help you manage your symptoms and diet. 

Examples of fibres

Fibres and the effects on our body

Cereal fibres - add bulk to stools and can help reduce constipation.

Beta glucans from oats and barley - can help control blood cholesterol.

Inulins from foods like bananas, onions and leeks provide food for gut bacteria.

Last reviewed October 2023. Next review due October 2026.

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Please note that advice provided on our website about nutrition and health is general in nature. We do not provide any individualised advice on prevention, treatment and management for patients or their family members.