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Fibre is the portion of plant material that humans are not able to absorb or digest. There are two kinds of dietary fibre, soluble and insoluble. Both are important.

  • Soluble fibre dissolves in water, forming a gel in the intestines. Food sources include oatmeal, barley, kidney beans, and some fruits and vegetables.
  • Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water. Instead it passes through the digestive system almost intact. Food sources include wheat bran, whole grains, many vegetables and skins of fruit.

Health benefits

  • For cardiovascular health: Soluble fibre can help lower serum LDL cholesterol levels by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol.
  • For improved control of diabetes and blood sugars: Fibre helps to regulate or slow glucose absorption.
  • For preventing constipation and diarrhea: Soluble fibre supports the growth of friendly bacteria needed to help maintain a healthy gut, and helps slow down the time it takes for food to pass through the stomach into the intestine. Insoluble fibre adds bulk to stool, keeping stool soft and the bowels moving regularly.
  • For weight loss: Both types of fibre make you feel full without adding a lot of calories or fat.
  • For cancer prevention: Fibre-rich foods contain antioxidants and phytochemicals, known to reduce risk for certain types of cancer.
  • For overall health: Foods with fibre have lots of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. Fibre also helps our bowels to function properly on a regular basis.

Tips for boosting fibre in your diet

It's easy to get more fibre in your diet but 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 more whole grain foods such as wholemeal bread, pasta and rice.
  • Eat fresh fruit with the skin on as a snack.
  • Add fresh vegetables, barley, lentils and chickpeas to casseroles, curries and stews.
  • Keep the skin on vegetables, rather than peeling them. Seeds and nuts can also be a good source of added fibre.

This page contains general information and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific advice for your personal situation.