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Dietary Fiber: Good Sources For Your Child

Dietary Fiber:  Good Sources for Your Child

Dietary fiber offers many health benefits. Here's how to include more in your diet.

Eat more fiber. You've probably heard it before. But do you know why fiber is so good for your health?

Dietary fiber — found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes — is probably best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But fiber can provide other health benefits as well, such as lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Selecting tasty foods that provide fiber isn't difficult. Find out how much dietary fiber you need, the foods that contain it and how to add them to meals and snacks.

What is dietary fiber?

Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes all parts of plant foods that your body can't digest or absorb. Unlike other food components such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates — which your body breaks down and absorbs — fiber isn't digested by your body. Therefore, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, colon and out of your body. It might seem like fiber doesn't do much, but it has several important roles in maintaining health.

Fiber is commonly classified into two categories: those that don't dissolve in water (insoluble fiber) and those that do (soluble fiber).

The amount of each type of fiber varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods.

Benefits of a high-fiber diet

A high-fiber diet has many benefits, which include:

Your best fiber choices

If you or your child aren't getting enough fiber each day, you may need to boost your intake. Good choices include:

Refined or processed foods — such as canned fruits and vegetables and pulp-free juice, white bread and pasta, white rice, and non-whole-grain cereals — are lower in fiber content. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content. Similarly, removing the skin from fruits and vegetables decreases their fiber content.

Whole foods rather than fiber supplements are generally better. Fiber supplements — such as Metamucil, Citrucel and FiberCon — don't provide the vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients that high-fiber foods do. However, some people may still need a fiber supplement if dietary changes aren't sufficient, or if they have certain medical conditions such as constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome. Always check with your child’s doctor if you feel (s)he needs to take fiber supplements.

Tips for fitting in fiber

Need ideas for high-fiber meals and snacks? Try these suggestions:

High-fiber foods are good for your health. But adding too much fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Increase fiber in your diet gradually over a period of a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change. Also, drink plenty of water. Fiber works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.