Definitely children in urban India are undergoing a worrying “nutrition transition”. There is clear evidence to show that their diets have become higher in fat and refined processed food with little consumption of fruits and vegetables. This shift is leading to numerous health concerns at a fairly young age – cholesterol, weight, diabetes…! Generally it is good to discuss the complete diet, than single nutrients, but for some nutrients like iron and fibre we need to make an exception so the role of these nutrients is better understood!
So what is Dietary Fibre? Why is it important?
Dietary fibre comes from plant food like whole grain, fruits and vegetables. It is the part of plant food which resists digestion or absorption by the body. You may wonder if fibre resists digestion, basically does not add to the calorie intake, what is its function in the body? The fact is, a diet rich in fibre can do wonders – the benefits range from regular bowel movements, satiety, less chance of overeating, maintaining body weight, to lowering cholesterol levels and blood glucose response after a meal. Actually overwhelming scientific evidence has led to many health bodies around the world to approve health claims on fibre!
There are two types of fibre, one which is soluble and the other insoluble, and both are important. Both types can be found in a food, but some foods could be a better source of either one. Soluble fibre forms a gel in the body, which can delay the emptying of the stomach. It is also usually associated with its ability to lower cholesterol, and growth of friendly bacteria. Insoluble fibre absorbs water and adds bulk which helps the wastes to pass more quickly though the body and key to preventing constipation.
Soluble fibre is found in barley, oats, nuts, rajma, channa, peas, apples, pears, flax seeds. Insoluble fibre is found in whole grain cereals – wheat bran/whole wheat flour, brown rice, nuts, seeds, dates and vegetables.
How much fibre for children?
The recommended intake for fibre in our country is 40g per day based on a 2000 calorie diet, but we do not have specific recommendation for children. Guidelines form other countries indicate 18 g for 4-8 years, 20—25 g for 9-13 years and around 22-28 g 14-18 year olds. These numbers show that the amount required is not small and most Indians do not meet their daily requirements for fibre.
Tips to increase fibre intake in children
We all know it is not possible to know the number of grams of fibre we are feeding our children. Also not many kids will crave to eat foods rich in fibre! So it is a challenge, but here are some tips that can ensure your child is getting enough fibre every day.
Consciously evaluate the source of fibre at every meal. If you feel one meal is poor in fibre, ensure you balance it out in other meals – for example if you plan a white bread cheese toast in the morning, please ensure there is some fruit for snack, more veggies at lunch, some rajma/channa for dinner.