Dietary Fibre 101

Dietary Fibre 101

Grandma would have said ‘eat more roughage’, but in the 21st century we say ‘get your dietary fibre’. We talk a lot about it, but what does fibre actually do and why do we need it?


Dietary fibre is the general name for the constituents of plants that the human body cannot digest.

There are two types of fibre. Despite providing no nutrition, both are essential parts of our diet.

  • Soluble fibre – absorbs water to make a gel, which soaks up unhealthy cholesterol. It also slows absorption and so smooths out sugar ‘spikes’.
  • Insoluble fibre – unaffected by water, so provides that essential ‘bulk’ for a healthy digestion. Let’s say that it isn’t just your external muscles that need to keep moving!

Fibre provides ‘full’ signals to the brain, which helps us to control calorie intake. A high fibre diet is also linked with a reduced risk of cancer and diabetes.

The daily fibre target for men is around 38 grams, while women should eat 25 grams.


For insoluble fibre, go for wholegrain cereals, cruciferous and leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

For soluble fibre, try root vegetables, beans, oats and tree fruits.


Increase the fitness of your digestive tract in the same way as you do with your other muscles – gradually. If you are not in normal gastric health or are diabetic, check with your doctor before making changes.

Here are five simple ways to learn to love that fibre:

  • Work on your five a day! Leave skins on fruit and vegetables. Don’t peel your apples and try to eat your potatoes in their jackets.
  • Swap sugary breakfast bars for wholegrain cereals – make sure that the wholegrain is first on the ingredient list.
  • Add beans to casseroles.
  • Try a flavoursome and warming vegetable dish, such as Greek briam.
  • Eat fruit for dessert or as a snack. Canned fruit is fine as long as it is in juice, not syrup.

A high-fibre diet is tasty, healthy and helps keep weight in check. Grandma was right!


The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.


Clare R.
7 November 2016

Clare R.

without wishing to go into too much detail, this is really useful information for me. You don't have to be a pensioner to suffer with your digestion, so I will be upping the fibre.

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