Importance of Fibre

Parts of plant foods that is not broken down or absorbed by the digestive system, is referred to as fibre. Fruit, vegetables, cereals, grains and legumes all contain fibre. Dietary fibre is also known as non-starch polysaccharides. This is because it has the same structure as polysaccharides, but it is not a starch.

Some starches act like dietary fibre, but are not digested and pass into the large intestine (bowel). These are known as “resistant starches”. These starches may also have some of the same good qualities of fibre.

Healthy bacteria in the bowel will break down resistant starch and produce butyrate. Butyrate helps reduce the chances of carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) damaging the bowel lining. It also aids to keep the bowel healthy.

Resistant starch can also help increase healthy bacteria growth in the bowel, and reduce pathogenic bacteria growth. It can also help with regularity and to increase the bulk of faeces. Small amounts of resistant starch can be found in pasta, rice, lentils, various cereals and a supplement called “Hi-Maize” TM. This supplement is a corn based product that is added to many food products.

There are two types of dietary fibre, soluble and insoluble fibeer. Insoluble fibre reduces constipation and helps speed up the digestive processes. Soluble fibre aids with lowering blood cholesterol by binding bile acids. Bile acids are made from cholesterol and will digest fats. If bile acids are bound and excreted, the body needs to convert more cholesterol to bile acids, which in turn, decreases blood cholesterol.

Soluble fibre helps regulate blood sugar by slowing down absorption of glucose. This lowers the glycaemic index (gi) of foods. Therefore soluble fibre is helpful in protecting against coronary heart disease and in the control of diabetes.

Both soluble and insoluble fibre increases the bulk of foods we eat. This helps to ease the passage through the gastrointestinal tract. Fibre will also increase the absorption of water, and bulk up faeces, so more fluids are required to reduce the chance of constipation. At least a 6-8 glasses per day (2 Litres) of fluid is recommended to keep the digestive tract moving properly.

The bulking up effect of fibre can also assist with weight control as it helps to keep you feeling full. Eating plans that are high in fibre tend to be low in energy density and usually rich in low glycaemic index CHOs. They are normally low in fat, bulky and are often recommended to anyone attempting to lose weight.

Dietary Fibre Content of Foods

Food Dietary fibre content (grams)
BREADS (per slice)
Dark rye 3.6
Fruit loaf 1.0
High fibre white 1.3
Lebanese 110g 3.0
Multi grain 1.4
Rye 1.7
White 0.8
White toast thickness 1.1
Wholemeal 2.0
Bread roll white 1.8
Bread roll wholemeal 5.0
Muffin half 1.0
Cracker bread wholemeal 2 1.0
Rye crispbread 2 2.0
Allbran 9.5
Bran flakes 7.0
Cornflakes, Special K 1.0
Muesli 8.0
Muesli flakes 3.5
Nutrigrain, Rice Bubbles 0.5
Porridge 5.0
Unprocessed bran 1 Tbsp 3.0
Weet-Bix 2 3.0
Wheat germ 1 Tbsp 2.0
Pasta cooked 2 cups 6.5
Rice cooked 1 cup white 1.5
Rice cooked 1 cup brown 3.0
Cracked wheat ½ cup 5.5
Asparagus 1.5
Beans green 3.0
Beans kidney, lima, soya 1 cup 12.0
Beans baked 1 cup 13.0
Bean sprouts 0.5
Broccoli 4.0
Brussel sprouts 3.0
Cabbage 2.0
Carrots 3.0
Cauliflower 3.0
Celery 1.0
Corn on the cob 1 cob 6.5
Cucumber 0.5
Lentils 7.5
Lettuce 1.5
Mushrooms 2.5
Parsnip 3.0
Peas 1 cup 7.0
Potato with skin 3.5
Potato peeled 1.5
Pumpkin 1.5
Spinach 4.5
Sweet potato 2.5
Tomato 2.0
Yam 4.0
Zucchini 2.0
Apple 3.5
Apricots 3.0
Avocado half 2.0
Banana 3.0
Blackberries half punnet 9.0
Cherries 150g 2.5
Figs fresh 1 2.0
Figs dried 50g 6.5
Grapes 200g 2.0
Grapefruit half 1.0
Kiwi fruit 2.5
Mango 3.5
Melon 200g 2.0
Nectarine 2.0
Orange 3.0
Passionfruit 1 3.0
Pawpaw 150g 3.5
Peach 2.0
Pear 4.0
Pineapple 120g slice 2.5
Plums 2 4.0
Prunes 6 5.0
Raisins or sultanas 50g 2.5
Raspberries half punnet 9.0
Rhubarb cooked 4.0
Strawberries half punnet 3.0
Watermelon 200g slice 1.5
Almonds 4.5
Brazil nuts 4.0
Cashews 3.0
Coconut fresh 4.0
Coconut dried 1 Tbsp 1.5
Hazelnuts 5.0
Macadamias 3.0
Peanuts 4.0
Peanut butter 1 Tbsp 2.5
Pecans 4.0
Pine nuts 1 Tbsp 1.0
Pistachios 4.5
Walnuts 3.0
Pumpkin seeds 1 Tbsp 2.0
Sesame seeds 1 Tbsp 0.5
Sunflower seeds 1 Tbsp 1.0
Tahini 1 Tbsp 3.5
Popped corn 1.0
Corn chips 50g 5.0
Meats all types, poultry, seafood 0.0
Milk, cheese, dairy product 0.0
Eggs 0.0
Fats 0.0
Sugars 0.0

Westerners are encouraged to consume 30g fibre per day. The average Western diet contains 15-20g/day.

Rich food sources of insoluble fibre

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Wholegrain wheat based breads, cereals, pastas and crackers
  • Wheat bran

    Rich food sources of soluble fiber

  • Legumes (e.g. baked beans, kidney beans)
  • Fruits
  • Oats (e.g. porridge)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Rice
  • Barley
  • Psyllium husks
  • Lentils

    It is important to not over consume fibre as it can lead to nutrient imbalances. Keeping fibre intake within the recommended limits is the best way to go. An excessively high fibre diet can reduce your absorption of other vital nutrients. Commonly, unprocessed bran can be added to cereals to assist with regularity. Unprocessed bran is high in phytic acid. This can bind and decrease the absorption of dietary calcium, zinc and iron. Consume just one to two tablespoons daily and all will be fine.

    Tips to increase Fibre intake

  • Eat at least 2 pieces of fruit each day, keeping the skin on where possible
  • Eat plenty of wholemeal and wholegrain breads and cereals
  • Regularly eat legumes and lentils
  • Replace white flour with wholemeal flour when possible
  • Snack on high fibre foods
  • Consume plenty of rice, pasta and other grains
  • Eat 5 serves of vegetables each day (1 serve = ½ cup)



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