How much fibre should I eat a day?

Fibre has been linked with a myriad of health benefits. But the question is: just how much fibre should you and I eat each day in order to maximise those health benefits?

I go into various ways of figuring out your minimum intake in this post, but if you want the TL;DR version: you should be aiming for a minimum of 25 g of fibre a day, and more is better.

2017 study into fibre intake

A 2017 study into “Carbohydrate quality and human health” examined the role of dietary fibre and concluded that:

Risk reduction associated with a range of critical outcomes was greatest when daily intake of dietary fibre was between 25 g and 29 g.

They also noted that

higher intakes of dietary fibre could confer even greater benefit to protect against cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal and breast cancer.

Carbohydrate quality and human health: a series of systematic reviews and meta-analyses (The Lancet)
Granola and fruit is a good way to increase the fibre you eat for breakfast.
Granola and fruit

American Guidelines

The American dietary guidelines are worked out on the basis of 14 g of fiber per 1,000 kcal eaten. They recommend the following:

  • Child aged 1-3 should eat 14 g of fiber a day.
  • Female child age 4-8 should eat 16.8 g of fiber a day.
  • Male child aged 4-8 should eat 19.6 g of fiber a day.
  • Female aged 9-13 should eat 22.4 g of fiber a day.
  • Male aged 9-13 should eat 25.2 of fiber a day.
  • Female aged 14-18 should eat 25.2 g of fiber a day.
  • Male aged 14-18 should eat 30.8 g of fiber a day.
  • Female aged 19-30 should eat 28 g of fiber a day.
  • Male aged 19-30 should eat 33.6 g of fiber a day.
  • Female aged 31-50 should eat 25.2 g of fiber a day.
  • Male aged 31-50 should eat 30.8 g of fiber a day.
  • Female 51+ should eat 22.4 g of fiber a day.
  • Male 51+ should eat 28 g of fiber a day.

Source: health.gov

UK Government Guidelines

The UK guidelines are a little simpler and easier to follow:

  • 2 to 5 year-olds should eat about 15 g of fibre a day.
  • 5 to 11 year-olds should eat about 20 g of fibre a day.
  • 11 to 16 year-olds should eat about 25 g of fibre a day.
  • Adults should eat about 30 g of fibre a day.

Source: NHS

Is it possible to eat too much fibre?

Suddenly increasing the amount of fibre in your diet will result in bloating, gas, abdominal cramping, and other digestive issues. It’s much better to slowly increase the amount of fibre you consume!

Some people say that eating more than 70 g of fibre a day may result in issues like weight loss, mineral deficiencies, loss of appetite, and severe constipation.

On the other hand, the Hadza tribe in Tanzania average around 100 g of fibre a day!

And Dr Greger who wrote How Not to Die says that:

If you really don’t want a stroke, we should try to get 25 grams a day of soluble fiber (found concentrated in beans, oats, nuts, and berries) and 47 grams a day of insoluble fiber (concentrated in whole grains).

Michael Greger M.D. FACLM (Nutrition Facts)

He does go on to note that this is a difficult amount to achieve without eating an extraordinarily healthy diet!

So it is likely that, as long as we increase our fibre intake slowly and focus on getting it from whole-food sources rather than supplements, there is no real ‘upper limit’ to the amount of fibre we can consume.

I can’t eat that much!

Don’t worry – any increase in fibre consumption will result in health benefits. For example, a 7% increase in fibre will lead to a 7% reduction in risk of stroke.

Here’s a few tips to help you increase the amount you eat:

  • Swap refined grains for whole grains, e.g. eat brown bread instead of white bread, whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta etc.
  • Add whole grains like barley to soups and stews.
  • Eat fresh fruit and vegetables with every meal or as snacks through the day.
  • Start eating oatmeal for breakfast.
Beef and barley soup with fresh bread,
Add barley to soups and stews. Photo by jeffreyw.

High-fibre meal plans

Meal planning makes it easy to reach your nutritional goals. Use a meal planning journal or a dry-erase board and plan out your meals for the week. Keep a handful of healthy snacks on hand, and you’ll be set up for success.

Otherwise you’ll find yourself reaching for the frozen pizza or fast food menu one evening after work when you can’t think what to cook.

Here are some meal plans that have already been done for you. Use them as-is, or use them as inspiration for your own meal plans:

Happy eating!

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