Fiber is defined as the indigestible portion of plant foods. The nutrient plays numerous roles in your body and is important for overall good health. As a teenager, you are in a period of rapid growth and development, and your needs for fiber are generally higher than the needs of adults. According to TeensHealth, most Americans are not eating enough fiber.
One of the most highly noted functions of fiber is its role in preventing constipation. Fiber helps soften your stool and allows you to pass bowel movements more easily. Fiber also helps keep your blood cholesterol low and plays a role in the prevention of heart disease and diabetes. While as a teenager you may not be concerned with heart disease, it is important to develop healthy eating habits early, since heart disease usually develops gradually over the years.
As a teenager, your fiber needs differ by age and sex. The Institute of Medicine recommends that male teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 consume 38 g of fiber per day, and female teenagers between 14 and 18 consume 36 g of fiber daily.
Tips on Adding Fiber
TeensHealth provides several recommendations you can follow to increase the amount of fiber in the diet. Add fiber-rich fruits, such as apples, berries and bananas, to your cereal in the morning. Switch your sugary cold cereal with hot oatmeal, which contains significant amounts of fiber. Replace regular waffles with whole-grain waffles and top them with fiber-rich fruits. Make your sandwiches with whole-wheat bread, and trade white spaghetti for whole-grain varieties. Add nuts to salads and beans to your favorite dishes.
If you are not used to eating high amounts of fiber, increase your intake gradually over the course of several weeks. If you increase your fiber intake too quickly, it can cause uncomfortable side effects, such as abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating and flatulence. When adding more fiber to your diet, increase your intake of fluids, preferably water.