We often read about the benefits of fibre for our overall health and specifically for our gut. Our In-House Paediatrician Dr Sophie is here to answer your top questions about fibre for your little one.
What is fibre and why is it important?
Fibre is the general term for a variety of carbohydrates and other food compounds our gut cannot fully digest. Instead, it travels through our intestinal system all the way to the final part, the colon, where it is fermented by our gut bacteria into beneficial smaller compounds called ‘short chain fatty acids’. These have been shown to have positive effects on our blood sugar levels. Fibre can also help with common digestive problems, such as constipation.
Is every fibre the same?
There are two different types of fibre - soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water or with intestinal fluids and forms a gel-like substance. This gel moves slowly through your intestines, giving healthy gut bacteria the opportunity to feed from it and your gut the chance to absorb and digest nutrients, which are caught in the gel. Soluble fibre can, for example, be found in oats, beans and apples.
Insoluble fibre will remain intact as it passes through the intestinal tract and, therefore, keeps your gut moving, which can help with constipation. Sources of insoluble fibre are wholegrain foods and root vegetables.
How much fibre should my child eat?
There are no strict guidelines for children under the age of 2 but getting our little ones used to a fibre-rich diet will help them set up healthy habits from early on. The older children get, the more fibre their intestines will tolerate.
Age-based recommendations for fibre intake are:
- 2 - 5 years 15g per day
- 5 - 11 years 20g per day
- 11 - 16 years 25g per day
- Adults 30g per day
This is what 15g of fibre per day could look like:
- Breakfast: 30g porridge + 1/2 banana (4g)
- Snack: 1/2 Apple (2g)
- Lunch: 30g whole wheat pasta + tomato sauce, side of cucumber sticks (50g) (5g)
- Snack: Slice of wholemeal toast with avocado (2g)
- Dinner: Scrambled eggs with spinach (1 cup) (2g)
How can I make sure my little one has enough fibre in their diet?
The following food groups are particularly rich in fibre:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nuts and seeds (just remember, no whole nuts for children under 5)
- Wholegrains including brown bread, pasta and rice
- Pulses (chickpeas, beans and lentils)
By trying to meet your goal of 5 servings of vegetables and fruit per day and by adding wholegrains and pulses into your little one’s diet, you will offer plenty of fibre to your child without having to worry about specific targets. Some of our Little Tummy meals are a great source of fibre, too!
Can my little one have too much fibre?
If your little one eats too much fibre, it might make them feel full and they might reduce the amount of food they eat overall. A sudden increase in fibre intake can also lead to bloating. Gradually introduce a variety of fibre-rich foods and you should not run into any troubles.