By Chené Vorster, RD(SA)

According to the US Food and nutrition board of the institute of medicine total fibre (that we see on labels) include dietary fibre and functional fibre. Dietary fibre is comprised of the non-digestible part of plants, whereas functional fibre includes plant extracts of manufactured fibre that has known health benefits and is being supplemented in foods.

There are two types of fibres: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance – it almost works like a sponge. Soluble fibre is also known to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and acts as a broom in the gut, sweeping along and adding to stool. A fibre mix is found in most foods and is essential for our gut and general health and wellbeing. Below is a list of fibre sources:

Insoluble fibreSoluble fibre
Wheat (digestive) bran Bran flakesPsyllium husk Fibre supplements
Oat fibre Oat bran (porridge or baking); Rolled oats
Legume fibre Lentils (whole, brown, split); Baked beans; Chickpeas;Dried beans (kidney, black, butter, cannellini, small white)
Vegetables ½ cup cooked = +- 2g fibre
Green tossed mixed salad 1 cup cooked = +- 2-3g fibre
Fruits Tennis ball size fruits = +- 2-3g fibre

If your diet lacks fibre (and water), you can suffer from constipation and other gut problems.

Try these helpful tips to increase your fibre intake:

  • Add vegetables to all your meals! You can serve them separately, giving your plate a colourful and appetizing appearance. Alternatively, you can grate them into your main meals to hide them. Add veggies of all colours to all your favourite meals. Serve at least 1 cup per person at every meal.
  • Salads are great, especially when there’s a variety of vegetables inside. Use different types and colours of lettuce and tomatoes, add some cucumbers, sugar snap peas, carrots and spring onions to make a nice colourful and fibre-filled side dish.
  • Add dry beans, split peas, chickpeas or other legumes to your salads and main dishes. With winter approaching, it is quite easy to add them to our soups and casseroles. Tinned legumes are readily available and can be drained, rinsed and added to any dish. You can even add it to your baked goods – simply remove 1/3 of the flour and add a liquidised legume.
  •  Add a cup of wheat bran, digestive bran or oat bran to your baked goods or porridges as well.


  1. Whitney, E. and Rolfes, S., 2016. Understanding Nutrition. 14th ed. Stamford: Cengage Learning.
  2. Steenkamp, G. and Day, C., 2017. Food for sensitive tummies. Cape Town: Tafelberg an imprint of NB Publishers a division of Media24 Boeke (Pty) Ltd.