Fibre and Your Health

HealthLinkBC File Number: 
Last Updated: 
May 2016

What is fibre?

Fibre, also called dietary fibre, is the part of plant foods that the body cannot digest. Fibre is found in foods like vegetables and fruit, whole grain products, nuts and seeds, and legumes (dried peas, beans and lentils). There are 2 types of fibre: insoluble and soluble. Most foods that have fibre have both types.

Why is fibre important?

Insoluble fibre can help keep your gut healthy and prevent constipation.

Soluble fibre can help:

  • lower your blood cholesterol level;
  • control your blood sugar levels; and
  • keep you feeling full longer, which can help you to control your weight.

Dietary fibre may also help prevent colon cancer.

How much fibre do I need?

Depending on your age and sex, aim for the following amount of fibre each day:

Age (years) Male Female
1 to 3 19 g 19 g
4 to 8 25 g 25 g
9 to 13 31 g 26 g
14 to18 38 g 26 g
19 to 50 38 g 25 g
51 to 70+ 30 g 21 g
Pregnancy (any age) / 28 g
Breast feeding (any age) / 29 g

g = gram

People with intestinal or bowel diseases may not be able to eat large amounts of fibre. Speak with your health care provider or dietitian to find out how much fibre is right for you.

How can I increase the amount of fibre I eat?

Add additional fibre to your diet slowly to reduce gas, cramping and discomfort. As you increase the amount of fibre in your diet, drink more fluids such as water to help keep your bowel movements soft.

Choose high fibre foods every day. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start the day with a high fibre breakfast cereal (see “Food Sources of Fibre” table for ideas).
  • Choose fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruit. Juice is not high in fibre.
  • Eat 100% whole grain breads, brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
  • Add cooked legumes, like lentils or beans to your soup, casserole, or salad.
  • Add dried fruits, nuts or seeds to yogurt, muffins, or salads, or eat them on their own.

If you find it hard to eat enough fibre from food, talk to your health care provider or dietitian about a fibre supplement.

Tips for Reading Food Labels

Check the Nutrition Facts table on the package for the amount of fibre in a serving. This will usually be shown in grams. Look for labels that say high or very high source of fibre, which mean the food has at least 4 to 6 grams of fibre per serving.

Check the ingredient list. Look for ingredients such as bran, whole grain wheat, oatmeal, or rye flour. Enriched wheat flour and unbleached flour are both refined white flour, and are not good sources of fibre. The word multigrain may mean that a small amount of whole grain has been added to enriched flour. Multigrain does not mean that the food is a good source of fibre.

For more nutrition information, call 8-1-1 to speak with a registered dietitian.

Food Sources of Fibre

Food Portion Fibre (grams)
Insoluble and Soluble
All bran cereals (any kind) 30 g 11*
Almonds, roasted 60 mL or ¼ cup 4
Apple with skin 1 medium 4
Banana 1 medium 2
Black beans, cooked or canned baked beans 175 mL or ¾ cup 9 to 10
Blackberries or raspberries 125 mL or ½ cup 4
Bran, 100% natural wheat bran 30 mL or 2 Tbsp 3
Bran flakes 30 g 5*
Bread, sprouted grain 35 g or 1 slice 3 to 5*
Brussels sprouts 4 sprouts 3
Corn, carrot, or broccoli, cooked 125 mL or ½ cup 2
Dates, dried 3 dates 2
Edamame/green soy beans, cooked and shelled 175 mL or ¾ cup 6
Flax seeds, ground 15 mL or 1 Tbsp 3
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), cooked 175 mL or ¾ cup 6
Green peas, cooked 125 mL or ½ cup 6
Hummus 175 mL or ¾ cup 7 to 11
Kidney beans, dark red, cooked 175 mL or ¾ cup 9
Kiwi fruit 1 large 3
Lentils, cooked 175 mL or ¾ cup 6
Mango 1 fruit 4
Mixed vegetables, cooked 125 mL or ½ cup 3
Oat Bran, prepared 175 mL or ¾ cup 5*
Oatmeal (large oats), prepared 175 mL or ¾ cup 3 to 4*
Peanut butter, natural 30 mL or 2 Tbsp 3
Peanuts, dry, roasted 60 mL or ¼ cup 3
Pear, canned halves 125 mL or ½ cup 2
Pear, with skin 1 medium 5
Popcorn, popped 500 mL or 2 cups 2.4
Potato, with skin 1 medium 3
Raisin Bran 30g 4*
Red River® cereal, prepared 175 mL or ¾ cup 4*
Shreddies or Spoon Size Shredded Wheat 30g 4*
Soy nuts, roasted 175 mL or ¾ cup 7
Split peas, cooked 175 mL or ¾ cup 4
Sunflower seed kernels, dried, hulled 60 mL or ¼ cup 4
Whole wheat bread, commercial 35g or 1 slice 2*
Whole wheat spaghetti, cooked 125 mL or ½ cup 2*

g = gram, mL = millilitre, Tbsp = tablespoon

*Check the label to confirm the amount

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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