Dietary Fibre

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 cancer2. 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 benefits of keeping you feeling fuller for longer, helping to control blood sugar levels, which are 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, making it difficult to pass and causing 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 ½ cup 6.6
Untoasted Muesli ½ cup 2.7
Green peas ½ cup 3.4
Almonds ⅓ cup 4.0
Wholemeal pasta 1 cup 8.4
Apple with skin 1 medium piece 2.3
Dried Apricots 3 whole 4.5
Carrot, 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.

  • Min 1.5g/serve = Source of fibre
  • Min 3g/serve = High in fibre
  • Min 6g/serve = Very high fibre

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED AND IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE TOO MUCH?

On average Australian adults eat 18–25 g of fibre per day and children only 16g per day.

Recent research suggests that over 50% of Australian adults do not consume the recommended 30 grams of fibre a day. 77% of the adults that do meet the fibre intake recommendations eat breakfast cereal. Non breakfast cereal eaters average only a little more than 20 grams of fibre per day.

The food groups contributing most to daily fibre intake were vegetables (30%), fruits (16%) and breakfast cereals (12%).

Recommended Average Intake Fibre for Australia and New Zealand.
Children
1-3 yr
4-8 yr
14 g
18 g
Boys
9-13 yr
14-18 yr
28 g
24 g
Girls
9-13 yr
14–18 yr
20 g
22 g
Adult Men 30 g
Adult Women 25 g
Pregnancy
14-18 yr
19–50 yr
25 g
28 g
Lactation
14–18 yr
19–50 yr
30 g
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 (Jaffle)
  • 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 visit www.nestle.com.au/brands or call our Consumer Services Department during business hours on 1800 025 361.


REFERENCES

Better Health Channel Fibre in Food. May 2010 www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/BHCV2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Fibre_in_food

Boosting the Fibre in your diet. www.gastro.net.au/diets/fibreboost.html

Xyris software, FoodWorks Nutrition Labelling edition version 3.02.581. AusNut database (revision 14).

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MR) Nutrient Reference values for Australian and New Zealand. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Services 2005.

National Food Authority. Code of Practice - Nutrient claims in food labels and in advertisements, Commonwealth of Australia. (1995).