Types of Fiber and Benefits of Fiber in a Child's Diet
A healthy digestive system can do wonders to keep your child fit, fine and happy. Wondering how to ensure that? The best way is by including sufficient amounts of dietary fibre in his daily meals. Fibre is not only helpful for making bowel movements smooth and hassle-free, it can help manage weight, prevent childhood obesity and even keep juvenile diabetes at bay. So, read on to know about the different kinds of fibres, how they behave in your child’s body and how you can incorporate them in his diet.
Why should you include fibres in your child’s diet?
Fibre is a kind of carbohydrate that the body doesn’t break down. Dietary fibre is found mostly in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans.
Fibre is important for children as it:
- Helps manage constipation
- Increases satiety and manages weight
- Lowers cholesterol
- Prevents heart disease and diabetes
- Reduces the risk of certain cancers
An easy way to calculate the amount of fibre your child requires is by adding 5 or 10 to your child’s age. For instance, a 5-year-old should consume 10 to 15 grams of fibre, while a 10-year old kid should get 15 to 20 grams, and a 15-year old should get 20 to 25 grams of fibre every day.
Soluble fibres slow down digestion, so that your child’s body takes a longer time to absorb the sugars present in the foods. This helps manage the rapid spikes in your kid’s blood sugar, thus preventing diabetes. Soluble fibre also helps decrease LDL by binding with fatty acids and transporting them out of the body. Insoluble fibre absorbs water and helps move the waste through your kid’s intestines, thereby preventing constipation.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and grains are some fibre-rich foods you can provide your child. Some foods and drinks might be fortified to increase their fibre content as well. Remember that getting fibre from natural foods is always better as your kids end up getting the additional nutrients as well. But, for some reason, if your kid is not getting enough fibre from his diet, fibre supplements for toddlers are the best alternative.
Types of fibres
There are various kinds of fibres you should know about. Each of them has a different function and contributes to your kid’s health in different ways. Soluble and insoluble fibres are the commonly known ones. Here are some of the different kinds of fibre:
- Cellulose and hemicellulose: These are insoluble fibres found in nuts, whole grains, bran and seeds. These are natural laxatives that decrease constipation and also help manage weight.
- Inulin oligofructose: These are soluble fibres extracted mainly from onions and are by-products of sugar production from beets. This keeps the gut healthy and enhances immunity.
- Lignin: Lignin is an insoluble fibre that is naturally found in flax, rye and some vegetables. It is very heart-healthy.
- Mucilage and beta-glucans: These are soluble fibres found in oats, beans, peas, barley, etc. They lower LDL cholesterol and prevent diabetes and heart diseases.
- Pectin and gums: These are mostly soluble and are found in berries, fruits and seeds. They help in lowering blood cholesterol and slow down the passage of food in the digestive tract.
- Polydextrose polyols: This is a soluble fibre that adds bulk to stools and prevents constipation.
- Psyllium: This is a soluble fibre extracted from seeds that helps manage constipation and cholesterol levels.
- Wheat dextrin: It is a soluble fibre that is extracted from wheat starch and helps reduce cholesterol, blood sugar, and prevents heart diseases.
How to increase your child’s fibre intake?
So, before you buy any food item from the market, check the nutrition label for the fibre content and make sure you pick products with more than 3 grams of fibre. Go for fibre foods for picky toddlers, and always choose whole grains over refined products, like brown rice over white rice. Always opt for a whole fruit instead of a juice, and try including fruits and vegetables in every meal. You can also sneak fibre into your child’s diet using the following ideas:
- Add fruits and nuts to yoghurt, oatmeal and cereals
- Stuff lots of vegetables in sandwiches
- Add beans to salads and soups and bran to baked foods
- Serve whole-grain crackers, air-popped popcorn, veggies and fruits as snack options
Remember to gradually add fibre into your little one’s diet, as too much of it may cause cramps, gas or bloating. Children will need to drink enough water as well, while having fibre-rich foods, which will help the fibre to move along the intestines. If your child experiences diarrhoea, constipation or belly pain after consuming fibre, do consult a doctor.