Dietary fiber is defined as the part of plant foods that cannot be digested. There are different types of fiber, which fall into 2 broad categories: Insoluble fiber and soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber functions mainly as a bulking agent and so it helps to regulate our bowel functions, prevent constipation and keep our large intestine healthy. As a bulking agent, insoluble fiber also tends to make us feel full (a high satiety index), and thus may be useful for people who are on a weight-reducing diet.
Good sources of insoluble fiber are wholegrain cereals, whole meal bread, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Soluble fiber, on the other hand, has been shown to help reduce blood cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar levels, thus lowering the risk for heart disease and improving diabetes management.
A good source of soluble fiber is found mainly in fruits, vegetables, beans and oats.
As both types of fibers are important for good health, dietitians recommend that we eat both. The easiest way to do so is to add a variety of fiber-rich foods in our daily diet.
Dietary Fiber Intake Recommendations
Dietary surveys in the US and Canada revealed that the fiber intake of adults average around 15 grams a day, an amount that falls short of the daily recommendation of 25 to 35 grams.
Children, on the other hand, need proportionally less. Experts recommend a gradual introduction and avoid adding too much fiber as it may have negative consequences. Too much fiber may:
- Fill up a young child’s stomach capacity before he eats enough food to meet his nutritional requirements.
- Bind with essential minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron, rendering them less available to the body. This may be a concern in children whose diets are already limited in these minerals.
Remember, when introducing fiber-rich foods into your child’s diet go slow and at the same time, encourage your child to drink more fluids, to optimize the functions of fiber.