Fibre, wholegrain cereals and cancer

Dietary fibre can help to ensure a healthier digestive system and reduce the risk of bowel cancer.   Eating a diet high in fibre and wholegrain cereals (such as multi-grain bread) can also lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and can help you maintain a healthy body weight.

Wholegrain and wholemeal foods are high in dietary fibre. Other foods high in fibre include fruit and vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes such as peas, beans and lentils.

What are wholegrain cereals?
Wholegrain cereals include wheat, rice, corn, oats, rye, barley and millet. Wholegrain cereals contain the three layers of the grain. Wholemeal foods are made from wholegrains which have been crushed to a finer texture. Nutritionally, wholegrain and wholemeal foods are very similar.

Examples of wholegrain cereals are:

  • Wholemeal or multi-grain bread, muffins and crumpets
  • Wholegrain or whole-wheat breakfast cereals or muesli
  • Wholemeal or mixed grain crisp bread
  • Brown rice, rice cakes
  • Wholemeal pasta
  • Corn, oats, quinoa, unpearled barley, millett or amaranth
  • Cracked wheat (bulgur)

Wholegrain cereals contain more fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than refined cereal foods such as white bread, because many of the important nutrients occur in the outer layer of the grain which is lost during processing.

How much do I need to eat?
Dietary fibre is an important part of a nutritious, well balanced diet. It is recommended that Australian women eat 25g of dietary fibre per day and men 30g per day.

In order to reach this, Cancer Council recommends:

  • Eat at least four serves of wholegrain or wholemeal foods every day. This means ensuring about half their daily serves of breads and cereals are wholegrain or wholemeal varieties.
  • At least two serves of fruit per day and five serves of vegetables per day including legumes.

It is recommended that whole foods be consumed over a dietary fibre supplement, as the benefits of fibre may be from the combination of nutrients working together.

What is a serve?
One serve of wholemeal or wholegrain foods equals:

  • 1 slice of wholegrain bread
  • 1/2 a medium wholemeal bread roll
  • 1/2 a cup of cooked brown rice, pasta or noodles
  • 1/2 a cup of cooked porridge
  • 2/3 cups of wholegrain breakfast cereal
  • 1/4 cup of untoasted muesli

Easy ways to eat more wholegrains


  • Enjoy wholegrain, wholemeal or mixed grain toast instead of white.
  • Eat wholemeal English muffins or crumpets instead of white.
  • Choose whole-wheat breakfast cereal or porridge with low fat milk.
  • Try creamed corn on mixed grain or wholemeal toast.


  • Make sandwiches on wholemeal or mixed grain breads, e.g. pita bread or rolls.
  • Try wholegrain or wholemeal crisp breads with toppings such as creamed corn or salsa dip.
  • Whip up a brown rice salad, wholemeal pasta salad or tabouli (made with cracked wheat).


  • Try brown rice or quinoa with casseroles or curries.
  • Use wholemeal or mixed grain dinner rolls.
  • Serve wholemeal pasta and sauce, or wholemeal lasagne.
  • Include sweet corn – it counts as both a vegetable and cereal food.
  • Use wholemeal flour to thicken sauces, gravies and stews.
  • Add barley to stews or soups or use it instead of rice in risotto.
  • Try oat topping for fruit dessert crumbles.


  • Snack on some low fat popcorn.
  • Munch on low fat muesli cereal bars.
  • Choose wholemeal crispbread, crackers or biscuits.
  • Try untoasted muesli sprinkled over low fat yoghurt.

See the Fibre, Wholegrain Cereals and Cancer Position Statement for more information.