Dietary fiber, sometimes called roughage, is a substance found in plants that the body doesn’t digest. Fiber helps move food thru the body and keeps the digestive system healthy.
Some of the health benefits of dietary fiber include:
Strengthening the immune system
Treating and preventing constipation
Decreases blood cholesterol levels which protect against cancer
Helps you feel full
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps move the bulk through the intestines, promotes regular bowel movements, prevents constipation, and removes toxic waste through the colon in less time.
Foods that have insoluble fiber include:
Vegetables such a dark green leafy vegetables and green beans, Whole-wheat products
Seeds and nuts
Fruit and root vegetable skins.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and binds with fatty acids, and prolongs stomach emptying time so sugar is released and absorbed more slowly.
Foods that have soluble fiber include:
Dried beans and peas.
It is important to have both kinds of fiber in your diet. You can do this by eating a variety of foods each day.
Fiber recommendations for Children
Girls 9-13 yrs
Boys 9-13 yrs
Girls 14-18 yrs
Boys 14-18 yrs
2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
High fiber foods can help prevent constipation, but only if served with enough fluids.
Tips to Increase Fiber Intake
Foods that supply the most fiber are whole-grain breads and cereal, grains, and fruits and vegetables.
Too much fiber added too quickly to the diet may cause gas, cramping bloating or diarrhea, so do it gradually.
Drink plenty of fluids – at least 8 cups every day. The general guideline for daily fluid intake is 1 ½ ounces of fluid per pound of body weight or 100 cc/kilogram.
Eat fresh fruits, 100% fruit juices, and vegetables.
Limit bananas, cheese, chocolate and fried foods.
Use whole grain foods such as:
Whole-wheat bread instead of white bread
Cornbread muffin instead of white roll
Brown rice instead of white rice
Whole-wheat pasta instead of enriched pasta.
Scan food labels for bread and cereal products listing whole-grain or whole-wheat as the first ingredient.
Look for cooked and ready-to-eat cereals with at least 2 grams of fiber per serving.
Eat raw fruit and vegetables; they have more fiber than cooked or canned foods, or juice. Dried fruits are also good sources of fiber.
Remember the peelings on fruits and vegetables contribute fiber.
Increase fiber in meat dishes by adding pinto beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, bran, or oatmeal.
If you are following a low-fat diet, use nuts and seeds in moderation.
Dairy foods provide little fiber. Boost fiber by adding fresh fruit, whole-grain, bran cereals, nuts or seeds to yogurt or cottage cheese.
How to read a food label
Look for these terms when you are walking through the supermarket aisles:
High fiber = 5 grams or more per serving
Good source = 2.5 to 4.9 grams per serving
More or added fiber = at least 2.5 grams per serving.
A diet rich in fiber can help prevent constipation, but only if served with additional fluids. The extra fiber means you need extra fluid to help soften stools. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Check with your registered dietitian nutritionist about appropriate size and frequency of recipe servings for your child. The textures of these recipes may need to be adapted to meet the needs of the child.
Portions of the document adapted from ADA Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 2nd edition, Revised 7/08