We examined the effects of ingestion of five types of insoluble fibre on growth and Zn absorption in rats fed a marginally Zn-deficient diet (6·75 mg (0·103 mmol) Zn/kg diet) with or without added sodium phytate (12·6 mmol/kg diet). The types of insoluble fibre tested were corn husks, watermelon skin, yam-bean root (Pachyrhizus erosus) and pineapple core, and cellulose was used as a control (100 g/kg diet). Body-weight gain in the cellulose groups was suppressed by 57 % by feeding phytate. Body-weight gain in phytate-fed rats was 80 % greater in the watermelon skin fibre and yam-bean root fibre group than that in the cellulose group. Zn absorption ratio in the cellulose groups was lowered by 46 and 70 % in the first (days 7–10) and second (days 16–19) measurement periods with feeding phytate. In the rats fed the phytate-containing diets, Zn absorption ratio in the watermelon skin, yam-bean root and pineapple core fibre groups was 140, 80 and 54 % higher respectively than that in the cellulose group, in the second period. Fe absorption was not suppressed by phytate, however, feeding of these three types of fibre promoted Fe absorption in rats fed phytate-free diets. The concentration of soluble Zn in the caecal contents in the watermelon skin fibre or yam-bean root fibre groups was identical to that in the control group in spite of a higher short-chain fatty acid concentration and lower pH in the caecum. These findings indicate that ingestion of these types of insoluble fibre recovered the growth and Zn absorption suppressed by feeding a high level of phytate, and factors other than caecal fermentation may also be involved in this effect of insoluble fibre.