What is fibre?
Dietary fibre is an essential nutrient which is recommended as part of a healthy diet. Fibre comes from the part of plants which is not digested, but instead passes through the digestive system without being absorbed. Its primary role is in supporting the normal functioning of the gut and helping to prevent constipation by making stools softer and easier to pass. Read our guide on fibre and why it’s so important to find out more.
Below, find out more about a low-fibre diet then check out our high-fibre recipes. Plus, see all our digestive health recipes and tips, including how to eat for IBS and what are probiotics and what do they do?
How does the low-fibre diet work?
The low-fibre or low-residue diet involves avoiding any foods which are considered high in fibre. This is to give your digestive system a rest, reduce the amount of stool produced and ease symptoms of digestive discomfort.
You may be advised to follow the diet for a number of medical reasons:
- Persistent diarrhoea, especially if caused by a flare-up of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis
- To ease the passage of stool through the bowel when there is an obstruction or stricture
- To reduce the amount of gas produced in the large bowel and so help to reduce symptoms such as bloating and stomach discomfort
- It may be recommended to prepare the bowel before undergoing bowel investigations
What foods can I eat on the low-fibre diet?
A low-fibre diet is made up of foods that are easily digested and absorbed, leaving minimal residue in the bowel.
- Fruit and vegetables: sieved tomato sauces (no skin or seeds), tomato purée, well-cooked vegetables (with no skin, seeds, or stalks), mash or creamed potatoes (no skin), melon (no seeds/skin), stewed apple, plums, tinned pears/peaches, ripe bananas and fruit juices with no bits.
- Starchy carbohydrates: any white bread, white rice and pasta, plain scones, white pitta, chapati, refined breakfast cereals like cornflakes and Rice Krispies.
- Meat, fish, dairy and alternatives: all fresh meat, sausages, bacon, meat pies (avoid tough or fatty meat). All fresh, tinned, smoked fish and fish in white breadcrumbs/batter. Eggs, soya and tofu
- All milk, yogurt with no bits and cheese
- Sugary foods: ice cream, jelly, custard, plain biscuits, jelly type jams, marmalade (no peel), lemon curd, chocolate and sweets – all should still be consumed in moderation
- Sauces: tomato sauce, brown sauce, salad cream and mayonnaise, Marmite, gravy and white sauce
- Liquids: Smooth and creamed soups like chicken soup. Tea, coffee, squash and smooth milkshakes.
What foods should I avoid on the low-fibre diet?
- All fruit skins, stalks, seeds and stones, all dried fruit and smoothies
- All vegetable stalks, skins, seeds and peel. Raw vegetables and all other vegetables not listed, including cabbage, curly kale, celery
- Wholemeal, granary and rye bread. All fruit and nut breads, including walnut, granary or fruit muffins or scones and pastries with fruit/dried fruit
- Brown rice, wholemeal pasta and bulgur wheat.
- Wholegrain and high-fibre cereals, such as Weetabix, All Bran, porridge oats, muesli, bran and wheat germ
- Meat casseroles, pies, pasties containing vegetables
- Fish in wholemeal breadcrumbs
- All types of nuts and all peas, beans, pulses e.g. kidney, baked, lentils
- Yogurt with bits
- Jam and marmalade containing fruit, seeds or peel
- Peanut butter
- Cake, scones or chocolate containing dried fruit
- Canned sauces containing vegetables or fruit
- Packet soups or tinned soup with vegetables added
- Herbs and spices
- Milkshake syrups with real fruit and seeds
- All seeds
What’s the difference between a low-fibre and low-residue diet?
While fibre is a nutrient we get from our diets, the term ‘residue’ refers to anything which is left in the large intestine after digestion. This could include undigested food, gas or bacteria. Low-residue and low-fibre diets are similar as they both try to limit bowl activity and may be used to ease symptoms of digestive issues, including cramping and diarrhoea. However, a low-residue diet is more restrictive as it cuts out meat and dairy, on top of the already lengthy list of foods to avoid.
Is the low-fibre diet healthy?
With a lengthy list of foods you should avoid, the low-fibre diet is restrictive and limits the nutrients you’re able to get from your diet. This could lead to further symptoms and complications in time. For this reason, it’s best to only follow the diet if advised by your GP or a health professional, such as a nutritionist. It’s also important to note that this diet is not recommended for weight loss.
Due to the restrictive nature of a low-fibre diet, it should not be followed long-term. If you are curious about low-fibre diets, speak to your doctor or a registered dietitian who can advise accordingly.
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Tai Ibitoye is a registered dietitian and a doctoral researcher in food & nutritional sciences. Tai has experience working in different sectors such as in the NHS, public health, non-government organisations and academia.
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