Fabulous fibre

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Berna Harmse, a dietitian, explains why fibre is essential to include in your diet.

Fibre or dietary fibre is that part of plant food that can’t be fully digested by the small intestine and reaches the colon almost completely intact. Fibre is essential for the body to help regulate bowel movement, maintain a desirable level of friendly bacteria in the colon, and provide a source of fuel for the cells in the colon. There are two types of fibre.

Soluble fibre

This type of fibre is found in fruit, vegetables, oats and oat bran. It holds water and increases the bulk of the stool. It also creates a feeling of fullness after a meal by delaying stomach emptying. This is useful for weight management and diabetic glucose control. Soluble fibre is also beneficial for cholesterol management and can help control diarrhoea.

Insoluble fibre

Mainly found in wholegrain products, such as high-fibre breakfast cereals, skins and pips of fruit and vegetables, and mealie kernels. This type of fibre decreases transit time through the bowel by ‘pulling’ the food through the gut quicker and can help relieve constipation.

A daily fibre intake of 25-35g is recommended, but try not to exceed 50g as insoluble fibre can bind with certain minerals, such as calcium and iron, and prevent absorption.

General guidelines:

1. Increase your daily fibre intake gradually to avoid possible side effects, such as bloating and flatulence. The body will adapt to an increased intake and the side effects will gradually disappear.

2. Include generous servings of vegetables, and aim for at least three servings of fresh fruit daily.

3. Adequate fluid is essential. Drink at least eight to10 glasses of fluid, preferably water every day. Inadequate fluid with a high-fibre intake may cause or worsen constipation.

4. Select fibre from a wide variety of food sources and only use a fibre supplement if recommended or prescribed by your doctor or dietitian.

5. Regular exercise is also beneficial to help regulate bowel movements.

Count your fibre






White 1 slice 30g 1
Brown 1 slice 30g 2
Wholewheat 1 slice 35g 2
Seed 1 slice 35g 3
Rye 1 slice 30g 2.9
Provita 1 6g 1
Ryvita 1 9g 1
Cream Cracker 1 8g 0.5


Digestive bran 1tsp 5ml 4.2
Flour, white ½ cup 125ml 1.6
Flour, wholewheat ½ cup 125ml 8.8
Lentils, cooked 1tbsp 15ml 1.4
Popcorn ½ cup 125ml 1
Rice, white, cooked ½ cup 125ml 0.2
Brown and wild rice ½ cup 125ml 8
Rice, brown, cooked ½ cup 125ml 1
Wholewheat spagetti, cooked ½ cup 125ml 4


All Bran ½ cup 125ml 4.7
Cornflakes ½ cup 125ml 0.6
Hi Bulk Fibre Bran ½ cup 125ml 12
Oats, cooked ½ cup 125ml 2
Oats, uncooked ½ cup 125ml 9
Puffed rice ½ cup 125ml 0.3
Raison bran ½ cup 125ml 6.6
Wholewheat Pronutro ½ cup 125ml 13


Apple,with skin/ 1 medium 150g 3.3
Banana 1 medium 75g 1.2
Grapes 1 medium bunch 230g 1.6
Orange/grapefruit 1 medium 180g 4.3
Pear 1 medium 165g 4.3
peach/3 apricots/ pineapple 1med/ 3 / ½ cup 2
Strawberries ½ cup 80g 2
Dried fruit ½ cup 110g 12.7
Fig 1 large 55g 9
Raisons/prunes handful 50g 5


Broccoli, cauliflower cooked ½ cup 80g 2
Carrots ½ cup 80g 2.5
Cucumber 1 medium slice 1 0.1
Grean peas, cooked ½ cup 85g 3
Lettuce ½ cup 40g 0.4
Potato, cooked with skin 1 large 180g 5
Sweetcorn, cooked ½ cup 95g 4.7
Cabbage, eggplant ½ cup 80g 3
Green beans ½ cup 75 2
Avocado Pear ½ medium 75g 1.6
Butternut or pumpkin ½ cup 85g 3
Tomato, raw ½ cup 100g 1


Haricot,butter,beans etc., cooked ½ cup 85g 9
Lentils, cooked ½ cup 90g 6
Baked beans ½ cup 80g 5
Samp and beans ½ cup 115g 4.4
Nuts ½ cup 70g 4
Peanut butter 1tsp 5g 1.6


Berna Harmse is a private practicing dietitian. She holds a MSc in Dietetics, and has a special interest in oncology nutrition. She is also an external lecturer at Stellenbosch University Division of Human Nutrition.

MEET THE EXPERT – Berna Harmse

Berna Harmse is a private practicing dietitian. She holds a MSc in Dietetics, and has a special interest in oncology nutrition. Sheis also an external lecturer at Stellenbosch University Division of Human Nutrition.

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