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Carbohydrate and fibre


Carbohydrate provides us with energy and is an essential component of a balanced diet.

Find out why it is important to eat and enjoy a wide variety of foods each day.

Nutrition factfile

  • Carbohydrates, along with fat and protein, provide energy so we can perform and go about our daily lives.
  • Most of the energy (calories) we need should come from carbohydrate foods.
  • Carbohydrate can be divided into two types: simple and complex.
  • Simple carbohydrates are sugars which are easily absorbed by the body providing instant energy. Regularly eating sugar is a major form of tooth decay so sugary foods and drinks should be limited.
  • Complex carbohydrates include plant-derived starchy foods and dietary fibre which are broken down more slowly helping us to feel full for longer, especially if you choose the wholegrain varieties that contain more fibre.
  • For at least half the recommended dietary energy to come from complex carbohydrates, we need to include plenty of these throughout the day and they should form the major part of most meals.

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Food basket guide

A well balanced diet will provide enough carbohydrate for our bodies needs. Find out how to get this nutrient into your food basket.

Sources of starchy carbohydrates include:

  • Bread
  • Cereals
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Potatoes and yams

Sources of non-starchy carbohydrates include:

  • Fruits and vegetables, which provide carbohydrate in the form of sugars and fibre.
  • Pulses such as beans, peas and lentils.
  • Dairy products such as milk, which provides the sugar lactose.
  • Foods and drinks containing sugars e.g., glucose, fructose and sucrose.

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Dietary fibre

Fibre helps to maintain a healthy digestive system and helps us to feel full for longer.

Nutrition factfile

  • Fibre is only found in foods derived from plants and passes through the body mostly undigested.
  • The recommended adult intake of dietary fibre in the UK is 30g/day.
  • There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. We should all try to include more fibre in the diet from both types.
  • Soluble fibre is broken down in the colon (bowel) by beneficial bacteria.
  • It may also help reduce blood cholesterol and may help control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar. This may help in managing diabetes.
  • Insoluble fibre absorbs water as it passes through the digestive system which adds ‘bulk’ and aids bowel movement - this is important for avoiding constipation and helps stave off hunger by making the body feel full.

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Food basket guide

Most people don’t eat enough fibre - find out how to get this nutrient into your food basket.

Sources of soluble fibre include:

Sources of insoluble fibre include:

  • Wholegrain cereals
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Brown rice
  • Wholegrain pasta
  • Some breakfast cereals
  • Nuts and seeds

Find out more about some of these foods and what makes them delicious and nutritious