Fibre Q&As

Emma White - Nutritionist

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About the fibre target

Why doesn't my barchart change colour when 30g is exceeded?

The 30g target is quite challenging for most people – so if you're getting close that's great! Generally speaking, any amount of fibre intake is good and the more the better – so your bar will never show red or amber. If you manage to exceed your target, nutritionally that is fine, there are no harmful effects.

I'm struggling to meet 30g a day – what should I do?

The 30g a day target is quite challenging – on average most people achieve around 17g, so don’t beat yourself up too much! It’s great that you are now focussing on this important nutrient.

Start by making the most obvious food swaps in your diet;

  • Choose a high fibre breakfast cereal – e.g. Weetabix, Shredded Wheat or Porridge.
  • Choose wholemeal bread ideally (granary and seeded are higher in fibre than white bread, but not as good a source as wholemeal);
  • Opt for brown rice instead of white and whole-wheat pasta instead of white.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Include more pulses in your diet – these are a particularly good source of fibre.

You might find our eating guide about good fibre sources useful: download here

I'm exceeding 30g a day is this a problem?

Firstly well done! The average daily intake is around 17g, so you’re clearly doing something right.

Exceeding the 30g target is not a problem providing you gradually move up to this level of intake. Fibre, because of its nature – essentially indigestible matter – can be quite hard on our digestive system if your body is not used to dealing with it. Symptoms such as bloating, gas and constipation are not uncommon. So it’s advisable to increase your fibre intake gradually – and drink plenty of fluids.

About health matters

I'm eating 30g of fibre per day but I still have constipation, why is this?

Well done for reaching your fibre target each day. Sometimes increasing your fibre intake quite suddenly or having lots of fibre without adequate fluids, can actually cause bowel movements to slow down. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids – water is best, but tea, coffee and no added sugar squash count too. Ideally aim for 1.5-2 litres per day. If the problem persists, we’d recommend making an appointment to see your GP.

I am following a low residue diet for medical reasons. How reliable is your fibre data?

We provide fibre information for products that provide it, and while we do have very good coverage, there are food categories which are missing data. Eating out places for example tend not to provide data on fibre. If you are following a Low Residue diet for health/medical reasons, you should be mindful that the total fibre figure shown in your diary may be understated. You should review the individual foods listed in your diary to check how many include the fibre figure, to ascertain how accurate this total fibre figure is for you.

About fibre data

If there's a dash in the product nutrition breakdown for fibre – what does this mean?

If the data is not available because a manufacturer has not provided it, we show a dash. Our database is continually being updated, so if at some point the manufacturer adds fibre information, then we will pick that up. If a product contains NO fibre, this is shown as 0g.

Why do some products have no fibre values?

At present, it is not mandatory for UK food manufacturers to include fibre in the nutrition panel on pack. If a product is a good source of fibre, manufacturers tend to include it as it is a positive health message e.g. breakfast cereals. However just because a product does not include fibre in the nutrition panel doesn’t mean it contains no fibre, it is just not a requirement for a manufacturer to give the figure.

Why do some no fibre foods list as 0.5g fibre in your database?

Our system requires an absolute figure and does not recognise the ‘less than’ symbol (<). If a food contains < 0.5g fibre, Nutracheck will display 0.5g.

Why does the same product from different supermarkets give such different fibre values?

We obtain our fibre data from the nutrition panel on the product packaging. We have observed that the same type of food sometimes has quite different values depending on the brand or supermarket it is purchased from. Unfortunately, we do not have the answer as to why this might be – it’s likely down to how the supermarket or brand has analysed the product. To find out more, we recommend you contact the brand/supermarket directly.

Are there any calories in fibre?

For many years fibre was thought to remain undigested through the body, meaning it was calorie free. However more recently, we discovered there are two different types of fibre – soluble and insoluble.

Insoluble fibre is the stuff that helps to bulk out our diet, fills us up and keeps us 'regular'. Soluble fibre has a different role – as its name suggests it can be digested, and absorbed into the body, and may help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood.

Because we now know some fibre can be digested, it makes sense that it should have an energy value. Most recent research says fibre provides us with approximately 2 kcal per gram.

Why does the App not distinguish between soluble and insoluble fibre?

Currently, UK labelling laws don’t require soluble and insoluble fibre to be split out and highlighted separately on packaging. As we don’t have this information available to us, we’re unable to display how much of the fibre is soluble versus insoluble.

Most foods tend to contain a bit of both, and both types are good for our health – so focussing on total fibre is fine for most people. If you are getting plenty of fibre from various sources, then you are likely getting a good mix of both types.  

Why isn’t fibre shown in the pie chart in my diary if it contains calories?

At the moment, there is inconsistency in how fibre is displayed. Some data sources include it within the total carbs figure, so the calories are accounted for here – whereas others split it out from carbs.

We have made adjustments to ensure the calories are accounted for within the total ‘carbs’ figure in your pie chart – so you will still just see carbs, protein and fat. You can be assured that your total calorie intake for the day is accurate and includes the estimated calories from all nutrients.

Nutritionist Emma White (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.

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