An evaluation of the opportunity to introduce fiber in the diet of weaning infants.
A descriptive review of the literature to assess the role of fiber in the following dietary interventions: (1) definition of the nutrient amounts that meet the weaning infant's physiologic needs; (2) modulation of digestive and absorption processes; and (3) improving the nutritional balance between the 6th and the 12th months of life and setting habitual dietary patterns for subsequent years.
Whole cereals, nonstarchy vegetables, fruits, and legumes lower the caloric and proteic density of meals, modulate nutrient and antigen absorption, and provide bulk material. They supply proteins of low biological value, minimal amounts of lipids (mostly essential polyunsaturated), complex carbohydrates, and soluble fiber, which are fermented into short-chain fatty acids by the colonic flora, and insoluble fiber that modulates intestinal function. Minerals, trace elements, and vitamins add to the value of fiber-containing foods in the diet. Recent nutritional surveys indicate that the diets of 12-month-old infants tend to include too much animal proteins and to be too protein-dense, which could be corrected with an increase of fiber-containing foods.
Fiber-containing foods share unique characteristics with nutritional and metabolic implications for the weaning infant. Whole cereals, green vegetables, and legumes should be routinely introduced during the weaning process to achieve a better nutritional balance and to accustom children to diets with fiber content. The daily intake of fiber should be gradually increased to 5 g/d during the second semester of life.