Consuming fibre rich foods are beneficial to your child in many ways. This article explains more about the goodness of fibre.
By Dr Hemapriya Natesan
Ananya always believed that she was doing everything to keep her 4-year-old son healthy and disease free. But, as she basked in the knowledge that her child was getting the so-called balanced diet, she was often left puzzled by the occasional tummy aches. When she finally met a nutritionist, she found out that she wasn’t adding one of the most important nutritional components in her child’s daily diet, which was fibre. So, when she quizzed the doctor about its importance, following are the points he mentioned.
When we speak of fibre in terms of nutrition, we’re actually talking about dietary fibre, also referred to as DF.
Both kinds of fibre are essential for a healthy diet. Soluble fibre acts as a laxative and can reduce cholesterol levels while Insoluble fibre ensures a clean gut, aids weight loss and prevents digestive problems.
Cardiac problems: People who consume adequate fibre have their blood pressure and plasma cholesterol levels under control, which means they have lesser chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and stroke.
Diabetes: Since fibre isn’t digested by the body, it doesn’t raise blood glucose levels, making it ideal for adults and children who have diabetes.
Obesity: Fibre delays the absorption of fats and carbohydrates, thus increasing satiety. This helps overweight children lose weight and normal children maintain theirs.
Gastrointestinal disorders: Dietary fibre plays a key role in maintaining gastrointestinal health, preventing the onset of ulcers, GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), diverticular disease and haemorrhoids.
Cancer: According to various studies, people who eat low-fat, high-fibre diet have a significantly reduced risk of colorectal adenoma, a kind of colon tumour. Studies also suggest that fibre may even carry away excess estrogens thereby reducing the incidence of breast cancer.
A study in the Indian Journal of Applied Research shows that of the top 12 types of food consumed by Indians, six completely lack in dietary fibre. This can be set right by including fibre-rich food in every meal.
Some good sources of soluble fibre:
Some good sources of insoluble fibre:
Children can start having fibre as soon as they start weaning. Remember to start with very small amounts. The daily recommendation of dietary fibre for children of all ages is as below:
Since children can be picky eaters, they often end up getting less than the required amounts of dietary fibre. However, with a little creativity on the part of parents, regular meals can be customised to include more fibre. Here are some options:
Sudden increase in fibre intake can cause bloating, stomach cramps and increased flatulence.
Fibre absorbs water; so, lack of sufficient water intake can worsen constipation.
While a high fibre diet is generally recommended for people with irritable bowel syndrome, some people may experience a worsening of this symptom as it becomes tedious for the already strained digestive system to breakdown fibre.
Too much insoluble fibre can make diarrhoea worse.
It is advisable to exercise caution when feeding infants green leafy vegetables, as it can cause loose stools. To ease the digestive system into digesting fibre, it is best to start with the juice of cooked green leafy vegetables.
With a diet rich in whole grains, pulses, fruit and vegetables, we can ensure an adequate intake of dietary fibre. This will not only help with easier bowel movements, but also improve our children's overall health and well-being.
Dr HemaPriya Natesan, a medical practitioner with a degree in Industrial Health, is Founder and Chief Editor at MyLittleMoppet, CEO of Little Moppet Foods and the mother of two little moppets.
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