What Is Dietary Fibre?
Dietary fibre is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by our bodies’ enzymes. It is found in edible plant foods such as cereals, fruits, vegetables, dried peas, nuts, lentils and grains. Fibre is grouped by its physical properties and is called soluble, insoluble or resistant starch. All three types of fibre have important roles to play.
What Does Fibre Do?
Dietary fibre helps keep the gut healthy and is important in helping to reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and bowel cancer. Fibre reaches the large bowel undigested where it is fermented by bacteria. The by-products of this fermentation are carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The SCFAs are used by the body. Initially, increasing fibre intake can cause an increase in gas production which can result in bloating. However, depending on the type of fibre chosen, our bodies do adapt and gas production for most people should decrease over time. Soluble fibre and resistant starch also function as prebiotics and support the probiotics (bacteria) we have in our large bowel which are essential for digestive health.
Where Are The Different Types Of Fibre Found?
Soluble fibre is found in foods like fruit, oats, beans and barley. When it dissolves in water it forms a gel-like substance. Soluble fibre helps to:
- Support the growth of friendly bacteria needed to help maintain a healthy gut
- Reduce cholesterol absorption by binding to it in the gut
- Slow down the time it takes for food to pass through the stomach into the small intestine. This helps slow down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream and has the benefit of keeping you feeling fuller for longer, and can help to control blood sugar levels, (which is important for the management of diabetes)
Resistant Starch develops during the heating and then cooling of some foods such as potato and rice. Some grains and grain products have been developed for their high resistant starch levels and these include Hi-maize and BARLEYmaxTM. Foods high in resistant starch often have a low glycaemic index.
- Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and is found in foods like wholemeal bread, wheat bran, vegetables and nuts. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to stools by absorbing water, and helps to keep you regular. It is important to increase your fluid intake as you increase fibre. Without fluid, the fibre stays hard, which can make it difficult to pass and leads to constipation.
Which Foods Are Rich In Fibre?
Dietary fibre is found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain breads and cereals. Most sources of dietary fibre tend to have a combination of both soluble and insoluble fibre in varying proportions. Resistant starch is not always measured when fibre is assessed in a food and we may underestimate how much fibre is present in some foods.
Food Serving Size Total Dietary Fibre (g)
|Baked beans 1/2 cup||6.6|
|Untoasted muesli 1/2 cup||2.7|
|Green peas 1/2 cup||3.4|
|Almonds 1/3 cup||4.0|
|Wholemeal pasta 1 cup||8.4|
|Apple with skin 1 medium piece||2.3|
|Dried Apricots 3 whole||4.5|
|Carrots, raw 120g (medium)||4.0|
|Potato, cooked 1 medium (150g)||2.0|
|Multigrain bread 2 slices||3.1|
Table 1 : Fibre content of common foods.
Identify packaged foods that are sources of fibre, check the per serve column of the nutrition information panel. The industry code of practice utilizes the following guide:
1.5g/serve = Source of fibre
3g/serve = High in fibre
6g/serve = Very high fibre
How Much Do You Need and Is It Possible To Have Too Much?
On average New Zealand adults eat 19-20g of fibre per day 8. The food groups contributing most to daily fibre intake were bread (17%), vegetables (16%), starchy vegetables (potatoes, kumara, and taro), and fruit (12%) 8.
Recommended Average Intake Fibre for New Zealanders.
|1-3 yr||14 g|
|4-8 yr||18 g|
|9-13 yr||24 g|
|14-18 yr||28 g|
|9-13 yr||20 g|
|14-18 yr||22 g|
|Adult Men||30 g|
|Adult Women||25 g|
|14-18 yr||25 g|
|19-50 yr||28 g|
|14-18 yr||30 g|
|19-50 yr||30 g|
It has been suggested that achieving a fibre intake higher than the average can help reduce the risk of some diseases. Introducing too much fibre too quickly or eating too much can cause constipation or diarrhoea in some people. It is important to introduce fibre into your diet gradually and ensure that you drink adequate amounts of fluid.
Tips For Boosting Fibre In Your Diet
It’s easy to get more fibre in your diet but remember, if you’re going from a low fibre diet then add fibre in slowly and you won’t suffer the bloating discomfort than can occur. Try some of these ideas:
- Change to a breakfast cereal that is high in fibre; add some extra bran, dried fruit or nuts. Porridge oats are also a good choice as they contain soluble fibre.
- Choose wholegrain or wholemeal bread instead of white. Add variety to sandwiches by including salad items such as lettuce, grated carrots and tomatoes.
- Curb afternoon cravings by eating fresh fruit with the skin on as a snack.
- Use wholegrain pasta instead of plain pasta when cooking your favourite pasta dish.
- Bulk up stews by adding fresh vegetables, barley, lentils and chickpeas.
- Keep the skin on fruits and vegetables, rather than peeling them. Remember to wash them well first.
- Top a baked potato with baked beans, or put them in a toasted sandwich.
- Use brown rice rather than the more refined white rice. Most fibre is contained in the outer layers of grains; the refining process removes these layers. Seeds and nuts can be a good source of added fibre.
- Read food labels to help you select those products that are higher in fibre.
This fact sheet contains general information. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific advice for your personal situation.
If you would like current information about our products please go to www.nestle.co.nz/brands or call our Consumer Services Department during business hours on 0800 830840.
Check out the following article for further reading:
1. Harvard School of Public Health. Fibre. 2011. Available at: www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/fiber.html
2. Deakin University for Better Health Channel. Better Health Channel Fibre in Food. 2014. Available at: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/BHCV2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Fibre_in_food
3. Gastronet. Boosting the Fibre in your diet. 2012. Available at: www.gastro.net.au/diets/fibreboost.html
4. Dietitans Association of Australia. Fibre.2011. Available at: http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/fibre/
5. Xyris software, FoodWorks Nutrition Labelling edition version 3.02.581. AusNut database (revision 14).
6. Department of Health and Ageing. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Department of Health and Ageing. 2006
7. National Food Authority. Code of Practice – Nutrient claims in food labels and in advertisements, Commonwealth of Australia. 1995.
8. University of Otago and Ministry of Health A Focus on Nutrition: Key findings of the 2008/09 New Zealand Adult Nutrition Survey. Ministry of Health: Wellingon. 2011.