It’s recommended that adults consume 30g of fibre every day, but in the UK, most adults consume around 18g, which is about 60% of what it should be. Need to up your intake? We show you how

Unsure if you’re getting enough fibre in your diet? The chances are you probably aren’t getting what you need. We’re here to talk all things fibre, from what it is to how you can increase your fibre intake. Why? To help keep our digestive system happy and healthy! Plus, there’s plenty more benefits which we’ll delve into later.

What is fibre?

Dietary fibre refers to carbohydrates found naturally in plants. Unlike other carbohydrates, such as sugary and starchy foods like potatoes that are broken down, the body cannot digest them in the small intestine, meaning they are able to reach the large intestine (or colon) intact.

There are two terms that can be used to describe the type of fibre in your diet:

• Soluble fibre – found in foods like oats, fruit, vegetables and pulses. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and other body fluids.

• Insoluble fibre – the tough, less digestible of the two. These fibres add bulk to stools and promote movement through the digestive system. Insoluble fibres are found in the outer shell of grains, seeds and vegetables with skin like potatoes

You can also class fibre by its physical characteristics – viscosity (how thick it is) and fermentability (how well it breaks down). Viscous fibres form a gel that sits in your gut rather than being absorbed. Viscous fibres (from foods such as asparagus and sweet potatoes) can influence how quickly we absorb certain nutrients like sugar, whilst fermentable fibres (from foods such as beans and chickpeas) act as food for gut bacteria, which can influence the number and type of bacteria in the gut.

What can fibre support in the body?

Although there is still a lot we don’t know about fibre, there is plenty of research that suggests fibre offers several benefits for our health. Fibre can aid our digestive system and help keep it healthy by adding bulk to your stools, making them easier to pass. This can help prevent conditions like constipation.

Fibre can also play an important role in helping us maintain a healthy body weight. Why? Because foods that are high in fibre can help us feel fuller, which can minimise your need to snack throughout the day.

Eating plenty of fibre has also been associated with a lower risk of:

• Cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke

• Bowel cancer

• Type 2 diabetes

As there are many different types of fibre, the effect it can have on your body may differ. Ever heard of the term ‘keeping you regular’? It’s a quality that many people associate with fibre and the reasoning for this is simple. Some types of fibre can bulk up your stools which influences the speed at which food moves through the gut. This is known as gut transit time. Fibre adds bulk to stools by absorbing water which also softens them, making them easier to pass.

Recently, there's been a lot of research around the bacteria in our gut and how it benefits our health. Although there's still a lot to uncover, it’s thought that a fibre-rich diet may contribute to an increase of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. Research suggests some foods including wheat, beans and pulses provide ‘food’ for ‘good’ bacteria which can encourage them to grow and produce substances that are thought to have beneficial effects on health.

A lot more research needs to be carried out before we can fully understand how our diet may affect our gut bacteria. However, maintaining a healthy diet which includes a variety of fibre types may prove beneficial for our gut microbiome.

What is the recommended daily intake of fibre?

The government guidelines for fibre intake are as follows:

• 17 years old and over – 30g of fibre a day

• 11-16 years old – 25g of fibre a day

• 5-11 years old – 20g of fibre a day

• 2-5 years old – 15g of fibre a day

Although wholegrain foods are a good source of fibre, if you have a child under the age of two, you should avoid giving them only wholegrain starchy foods in their diet. This is because too many wholegrains can be high in fibre, which can make your child feel full up before they’ve got the calories and nutrients they need from their daily diet. It’s recommended that you gradually introduce your child to more wholegrains after the age of two.

You may notice that children don’t need as much fibre in their diet as teenagers or adults. However, it’s still just as important to ensure they’re getting enough as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Many older teenagers and adults struggle to reach the 30g a day recommendation. Does this mean it’s not achievable? Not at all. However, it does mean that most of us need help identifying ways in which we can increase our daily fibre intake, leading us onto…

How do I increase my fibre intake?

To help you maintain a healthy, balanced diet, you should aim to include a variety of fibre sources into your daily meals (take a look at the ‘What foods have fibre?’ section of this article for some inspiration).

You can also follow some of these top tips to further increase your fibre intake:

• Need a snack throughout the day? Try sticking to vegetable sticks, fresh fruit, oatcakes, nuts or seeds

• Switch up your breakfast with a high-fibre cereal. Porridge oats and wholegrain cereals like bran flakes are a great option (you can add some dried fruit too)

• Whether you love a good stew, curry or salad, or you like to make meal prep easy with batch-cooking recipes, add plenty of vegetables to your dishes, along with beans, lentils or chickpeas for some extra fibre

• Choose wholemeal or granary bread over white. If you usually have white bread, slowly transition to versions that combine white and wholemeal flours to ease yourself in

• Regardless of which form of potato you like to incorporate into your meals, choose potatoes that have their skins on as potato skins are a great natural source of fibre

• Experiment with wholegrains in your cooking. Wholewheat pasta and brown rice are some good everyday staples to start with

• You can never get enough vegetables into your diet. Being perishable items, fresh vegetables can be tricky to store. A hack? Keep a frozen supply of vegetables in your freezer so you never fall short

The general rule of thumb when introducing more fibre into your diet is to do it gradually. At first, you may experience gut issues like bloating and gas. If this happens to you, try not to worry. This is a normal way for your body to react and signifies that you may need to slow down your fibre intake slightly.

One top tip that can help aid your digestion during this time is to drink more water. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to break down food, allowing your body to absorb the nutrients. It also makes your stools softer and easier to pass because fibre acts like a sponge and soaks up water.

So, how much water should we drink? The Eatwell Guide recommends that adults should aim to drink around 6-8 glasses of water or other fluids per day. If you struggle to drink enough water throughout the day (you’re not alone!) our tips to drink more water can help.

Incorporating regular, physical activity into your daily routine can also help stimulate your gut and increase intestinal activity, which can help prevent future digestion problems. Need some inspiration to help you get started? Take a look at our guide to 15 of the best home workouts, exercises and free classes to try.

How do I get more fibre in my daily diet?

The best way to incorporate a mix of different fibre types into your diet? Plant foods. And the good news is, there is a wide variety out there that can help you reap all the benefits of fibre.

You may have heard research that suggests we should all aim to eat at least 30 different plant foods a week. It might seem like a lot, but research shows it may help influence good gut health which we think is a pretty great benefit. Plant foods are a food that has been grown and there are six main groups:

• Vegetables

• Fruits

• Wholegrains

• Legumes (beans and pulses)

• Nuts and seeds

• Herbs and spices

So, what daily meals can help you meet your fibre intake? The NHS give the following meal examples:


• Two thick slices of wholemeal toasted bread (6.6g)

• One sliced banana (1.4g)

• Small glass (150ml) of fruit juice (1.2g)

Total:  Around 9.2g of fibre


• One baked potato with the skin on (4.7g)

• Half a can of reduced-sugar and reduced-salt baked beans in tomato sauce (9.8g)

• One apple (1.2g)

Total:Around 15.7g of fibre


• Mixed vegetable tomato-based curry cooked with onion and spices (6.6g)

• Boiled wholegrain rice (2.7g)

• Low-fat fruit yoghurt (0.4g) – some yoghurts can be high in added sugars so always check the label

Total: Around 9.7g of fibre


• Small handful of nuts (30g) – almonds are a great option as they can have around 3.8g of fibre. When doing your food shop, choose unsalted nuts without added sugars if possible

The above meal plan totals around 38g of fibre. Of course, you can switch this up to suit your own tastes, and the following can be used for inspiration to help you get started. With all these meals you should always ensure you're drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day.

There are some medical conditions where fibre may need to be increased or restricted in your diet. If you have an underlying health condition, your GP will advise you and they may also refer you to an NHS Registered Dietitian for advice on the correct diet plan to follow.

What foods have fibre?

There are many sources of fibre. In fact, we’re pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to incorporating them into our diets. Some great sources of fibre include:

• Wholegrain breakfast cereals

• Wholemeal bread

• Wholewheat pasta

• Nuts and seeds, including almonds and peanuts

• Peas, beans and lentils

• Vegetables, including broccoli and parsnips. If you need help incorporating more vegetables into your meals, read more about how to get your five-a-day

• Fruits, including figs and strawberries

• Potatoes with skin on

And there’s plenty more where that came from! When looking for foods that are a source of fibre, always check the nutrition labels of the products you’re adding to your shopping basket. You want to look at the fibre content per 100g of the food you have chosen. To be a ‘source of’ fibre, the food item must have at least 3g of fibre per 100g.*

So, what’s the difference between a ‘source of’ fibre and ‘high in’ fibre food item? When visiting the supermarket, you may notice some foods are labelled as either a ‘source of’ or ‘high in’ fibre. A source of fibre means the food item has at least 3g of fibre per 100g. Foods that are ‘high in’ have more than 6g per 100g.**

Fibre & pregnancy

Fibre plays an important role in pregnancy with many women needing to up their fibre intake. Not only is this important for digestive health but it also helps address a common health problem in pregnancy – constipation. This occurs when stools remain in the colon for too long, minimising your trips to the toilet and subsequently making it harder to poo.

Therefore incorporating more fibre into your diet can help prevent constipation, which minimises your risk of other health conditions such as haemorrhoids.

If you’re pregnant and are looking for more advice to up your fibre intake, take a look at our pregnancy diet articles for some inspiration. Alternatively, you can speak to your midwife or GP.

Now you’ve got all the support and advice you need, it’s time to up your fibre intake to help you maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Read on for more nutrition advice.

*Or at least  1.5g per 100 kcal.

**Or at least 3g per 100 kcal.