Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How to increase your fibre intake

Having established that fibre has definite benefits to offer, how can you make sure you get enough of it on a regular basis? Basically, there are three ways of upping your fibre intake, namely:through following a natural high-fibre diet (lots of fruit and vegetables, wholewheat bread, unrefined rice, etc)by eating fibre-enriched foodsby taking fibre extracts or supplements in the form of bran, pills, tablets, powders or granules.

It probably goes without saying that the first option is the healthiest. A natural high-fibre diet in which more unrefined plant foods and less foods of animal origin are eaten, is preferable not only because it ensures adequate intakes of vitamins and minerals, but because it also includes less animal fat - whereas the pill-popping method will merely increase the intake of indigestible fibre.

Eating fibre-enriched products - such as some breakfast cereals and home-baked muffins to which bran has been added - will certainly increase fibre intake, but will not necessarily rectify dietary imbalances. This is because most South African recipes for wholewheat home-baked products contain too much fat and sugar, which may improve the flavour but also markedly increases the kilojoules. However, it is possible to cut both the fat and sugar content to healthier levels when baking at home.

Diet Start

Fibre extracts are useful in the treatment of disease. They should only be used for medical reasons and not as foods, and must be taken under the guidance of a physician or dietitian. Insoluble extracts such as bran should always be used in combination with adequate water intake to treat constipation and related diseases. Soluble extracts, such as konjac-glucomannan, pectin or guar gum, are used to lower blood cholesterol levels and to control glucose levels in diabetic patients.

How much is enough?

Recommendations for fibre intake are based on those of developed populations in the past (before the escalation of the diseases of affluence) and on intakes of population groups at low risk for these diseases - such as rural, less developed populations and vegetarians.

On average, affluent Western populations presently consume 10 to 20g total dietary fibre per day; it has been recommended that this should be increased to between 30 and 40g per day. Our own research has shown that white South Africans on a typically Western diet eat approximately 2g total dietary fibre per 1000 kilojoules (kJ) per day - a figure which should be doubled. Based on this recommendation, a fairly active adult woman with a daily energy need of between 8000 and 9000 kJ should take in 32 to 36g dietary fibre per day, while a moderately active adult man with an energy need of 9000 to 11000 kJ should consume 36 to 44g fibre.

The table below shows that you can obtain approximately 40g of total dietary fibre by eating six small to medium portions of wholegrain cereals (which include wholewheat bread, brown rice and unrefined breakfast cereals), one medium portion of legumes (beans, peas, lentils), three medium portions of vegetables and two medium portions of fruit per day.

Foods (and portion sizes) that will provide approximately 40 g total dietary fibre per day



amount (g)

Dietary fibre

(g) -

4 medium slices"wholewheat


1 slice: 95 X 90 X 10 mm = 35 g



1 portion All

Bran Flakes

125 ml



1 portion cooked brown rice

125 ml



1 portion cooked dried beans

125 ml



1 portion cooked broccoli

125 ml



1 portion grated raw carrots

125 ml



1 portion mixed raw salad

125 ml



1 medium apple

52 X 66 mm



1 medium orange

65 X 70 mm





... andjoyohoxing