The effects of two vegetable flours, prepared from the African plants Detarium senegalense Gmelin, a legume, and Cissus rotundifolia, a shrub, on postprandial blood glucose and insulin concentrations in human subjects, were investigated. Chemical analysis indicated that these flours contained significant amounts of NSP. The detarium in particular was found to be a rich source of water-soluble NSP (SNSP). The flours were incorporated into two types of breakfast meal, a stew meal and a wheat bread meal, containing 50 g and 70 g available carbohydrate respectively. Both meals also contained 10–12g NSP, the major fraction of which was SNSP. Control and fibre-rich meals were consumed on separate days in randomized order by two different groups of subjects (n 5, stew meals; n 10, bread meals). Venous blood samples were taken at fasting (0 min) and postprandially at 30 min intervals for 2·5 h and the plasma analysed for glucose and insulin. Compared with the controls, detarium and cissus meals elicited significant reductions (P < 0·006) in plasma glucose levels at most postprandial time points and for area-under-the-curve (AUC) values (AUC reductions 38–62%). Significant reductions (P < 0·002) in plasma insulin levels at various postprandial time points and for AUC values were also seen after detarium and cissus breads (AUC reductions 43 and 36% respectively), but not after the fibre-rich stew meals. SNSP and starch are possibly the main, but not the only, components responsible for the glucose- and insulin-lowering effects of cissus flour. The main SNSP fraction of detarium, identified as a high-molecular-weight xyloglucan, is likely to be a primary factor in determining the physiological activity of detarium flour.