Fiber in the Diet

Fiber in the Diet

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

  • Prevents hemorrhoids

  • Prevents diverticulosis

  • 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:

  • Oat/oat bran

  • Flax seed

  • Nuts

  • Barley

  • 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

Age

Fiber/day

1-3 yrs

19 grams

4-8 yrs

25 grams

Girls 9-13 yrs

26 grams

Boys 9-13 yrs

31 grams

Girls 14-18 yrs

29 grams

Boys 14-18 yrs

38 grams

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