Fiber is an essential part of anyone’s diet. Typically found in all fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, fiber helps keep you feeling healthy in a variety of ways. But today, let’s talk specifically about the impact this nutrient can have on your children.
The presence, or absence, of fiber from their diet can be quite apparent. What’s more, many parents in the past have found that problems initially thought to need medical intervention were resolved by simply adding some more fiber to their child’s diet.
Before we go any further, let’s refresh ourselves on what fiber is and how it works in the body. Put simply, fiber is a nutrient from plants that is not digested by our stomachs or absorbed by the intestines.
Because this nutrient doesn’t break down like most other substances, it has some unique properties.
There are two main types of fiber, both of which have significant health benefits for young eaters.
Soluble fiber, known to absorb water and form a gel-like substance, helps make stools softer.
This type of fiber helps prevent constipation!
It is also important for controlling blood sugar levels and improving the use of nutrients in the body.
Insoluble fiber is made up of the skins and stalks from fruits and vegetables, and seeds (think of berries or chia seeds).
This type of fiber adds to stool bulk, making them easier to pass.
Fiber and Fullness
Fiber also slows down digestion, which keeps your little ones feeling fuller for more extended periods of time.
This little fact is so important, because it helps prevent overeating, introduces lower calorie/nutrient dense foods into the diet, and keeps you regular.
It can be challenging for your little ones to deal with hard stools. When the issue comes up, your first instinct as a parent will be to do anything you can to help ease their discomfort.
Medical solutions for constipation help relieve the problem once it has become an issue.
However, trying to take a more proactive approach to prevent constipation from happening in the first place is always a good starting point.
For constipation not caused by a chronic condition, fiber is the perfect natural and gentle solution!
Because the fiber itself cannot be fully digested or absorbed by the body, eating these foods will generally produce a larger volume of stool.
The stools produced will be much softer and much easier to pass. Just make sure to drink enough water!
Increasing Fiber in the Diet
First, it’s important to review how much dietary fiber your child has been eating.
Next, try to add 1-3 additional grams of fiber each week until they meet the recommended amount of fiber per day for their age.
Over time, you should see softer, healthier, and more regular stools. Don’t forget to make sure they’re drinking enough water as well! Fiber without water can make constipation worse.
Keep in mind that the typical recommended fiber intake for a full grown adult is 25 to 35 grams per day. If your child is consuming high amounts of fiber and still having constipation, make sure they are drinking enough fluids!
Dealing with Diarrhea
Fiber is a super-nutrient for all things digestive. What other foods are an effective treatment for both constipation and diarrhea?
For anyone suffering from diarrhea, soluble fiber helps to firm up the stool. Since soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance, it helps to slow down and firm up your child’s loose stool.
Helping Blood Sugar
For parents of children with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is an essential part of meal planning.
Since fiber isn’t completely digested and absorbed by the body, it helps to slow down the absorption of sugar.
Some examples of foods rich in soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, seeds, apples, and beans.
Soluble fiber helps in the absorption of calcium in the diet, too!
Adding soluble fiber to the diet can help ensure your child’s bones are strong and dense, helping them avoid breaks or fractures as they play.
There are a wealth of benefits passed on from a diet rich in fiber.
By adding foods that are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, you can help improve your child’s digestive health in a major way.
Fiber not only helps to avoid the discomfort of constipation, but it also ensures that many of the other nutrients they’re eating make it into the bloodstream, helping your little one grow up happy and healthy.