Health benefits of dietary fibre


Dietary fibre has become a household word. Most food labels in the supermarket now list dietary fibre. Even though dietary fibre is not considered a nutrient, health professionals agree that most Americans and Africans do not get nearly enough in their diets.

Moreover, numerous prospective and well-designed experimental studies have highlighted several physiological and metabolic effects of dietary fibre which may be important to human health. Fibre has important benefits for health especially because of the effect on the digestive system.

This article will discuss how dietary fibre is important, what does fibre do? And how much fibre is enough or too much? The following information on the practical aspects of fibre in the diet as well as food sources and their dietary fibre content will answer these questions.

Dietary fibre is found only in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. The word “fibre” is derived from a Latin word fibra which means fibre thread.

Dietary fibres are complex carbohydrates which are not digested but are excreted from the body. It is divided into soluble and insoluble fibre. Both will be broadly discussed. The benefit of good health and nutrition are derived from eating foods high in fibre rather than consuming pills. Its health benefits will be further discussed in the article.

Definition of dietary fibre

The term dietary fibre was coined in 1953, but the health benefits have long been appreciated since 430BC. The word fibre is derived from a Latin word “fibra” meaning fibre thread, strong filament. So dietary fibre refers to nutrients in the diet that are not digested by gastrointestinal enzymes.

According to trowel et al (1985), dietary fibre consist of remnant of plant cells resistant to digestion by the alimentary enzymes of man whose components are cellulose, lignin, pectin and gums.

Wikipedia the Free Encyclopaedia defines dietary fibre as the indigestive portion of food derived from plant, while fibre is also known as roughage. It is the indigestive part of plant food that pushes through the digestive system, absorbing water along the way and easy bowel movement.

Classification of dietary fibre

It is classified into two:

  1. Soluble fibre (it dissolves in water)
  2. Insoluble fibre (it does not dissolve in water).

Soluble fibre

Soluble fibre dissolves in water and it changes as it goes through the digestive tracts where it is fermented by bacteria and becomes thick as it absorbs water. For example lignin, pectin, etc.

Insoluble fibre

This is the type of fibre that does not dissolve in water and as it goes into the digestive tracts, it does not change its form. For example cellulose, hemicellulose, dextrins, etc.

Sources of dietary fibre

The following are some of the sources of functional fibres:

Sources of soluble fibre

  • Soluble fibre can be naturally found in oats, bran, beans, peas, barley, soybeans, bananas, oranges, apples and carrots.
  • Soluble fibres can also be found in fruits, berries, seeds and citrus fruit extracted peels.
  • Some fruits such as apples, ripe bananas, carrots, berries and guava.
  • Vegetables such as sweet potatoes and onions.

Sources of insoluble fibre

They include;

  • Whole grain foods
  • Wheat and corn bran
  • Legumes such as beans and peas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Potato skins
  • Vegetables such as green beans
  • Some fruits such as avocado pear and unripe bananas.
  • The skin of some fruits including grapes and tomatoes.

Health benefits of dietary fibre

  1. Normalizes bowel movement: Dietary fibre increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass. It decreases the chance of constipation. It also helps to solidify water stool because it absorbs water and add bulk to stool.
  2. Lower cholesterol and LDL, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  3. Helps to control blood sugar level: Diabetic patients need soluble fibre in order to slow the absorption of sugar and helps to improve blood sugar level.
  4. It also aids in achieving healthy weight: High fibre foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you are no longer hungry, so you are less likely to overeat. Also, a high fibre diet tends to have fewer calories for the same volume of foods.
  5. It spreads the passage of foods through the digestive system, which facilitates regular defecation.
  6. Dietary fibre also helps to prevent the risk of colorectal cancer

Dietary references intakes for fibre

Age g/day fibre
1-3 years 19
4-8 years 25
9-13 years 31
14-18 years 38
19-50 years 38
51 years+ 30
9-13 years 26
14-18 years 26
19-50 years 25
51 years+ 21
< 18 years 28
18 years+ 28
< 18 years 29
18 years + 29



We cannot discuss everything about dietary fibre in an article, but we can conclude that high fibre diet both soluble and insoluble are good for everyone’s health for the functioning of the digestive system ranging from children in accordance with the table, but adding too much of fibre too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and even cramping. It is advisable that increase intake is gradually and often for few weeks. This will allow the normal bacteria of the digestive system to adjust to the changes.


Brydon, W. H. & Tadesse, K. (2000). Medical Aspect of Dietary New York: Datum House.

Hans, J. (2009). Man Made Fibre Dictionary (2nd ed.). London: Crest.

James, E.G. & Philip, B. (2006). The New Science of Strong Materials. London: Princetone University Press.

Kauffman, H. & George, B. (1993). The First Semi-synthetic Product (Fibre). Journal of Chemical Education 70 (11),887

Marlett, K. (2001). Handbook of Dietary Fibre. New York: Penguin.

Prynne, C. J. (2009). The Effect of Dietary Fibre on Faecal Excretion. Nutr 41 (3),56-60.

Serope, K & Steven, R.S. (2001). Synthetic Fibre Product (4th ed.) New York: PrenticeHall.

Tungland, B. A. & Meyer, D. (2002). Dietary Fibre and their Physiological  Role in Human Health and Food. Comprehensive Review in Food Science and Food Safety, 73 – 92.

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