In a day and age where most diet fads focus on protein intake or revolve around carbohydrate consumption, this is an important time to talk about what many of us are lacking in our diet – fiber.

The best source of this important nutrient is plants: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, nuts and seeds.

“Generally, Americans don’t get enough fiber in their regular diet,” said Maria Petzel, a senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson Cancer Center and a member of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Board at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN). “Adding a high fiber breakfast cereal can be a good way to start the day.”

If you don’t want to sit down to cereal and milk you can sprinkle dry cereal on yogurt or salads. Also, an easy and efficient way to consume fiber on the go is by making homemade snack bars.

Though breakfast cereals are a great way start the day, it does not stop there. To meet your daily recommended intake (depending on age, for adult women 21-25 g per day and men 30-38 g per day) include unprocessed plant foods in your diet throughout the day.

On your mission to healthier living, it’s important to remember to gradually increase your intake of fiber to allow the body time to adjust and drink plenty of water, otherwise, it can cause constipation. It’s also important to note that juice is not a good source of fiber. Even if juice is made from fresh fruits and vegetables, the fiber is often removed during the juicing process.

Pancreatic cancer survivors may have to adjust fiber intake because of disease or treatment-related side effects. “For individuals who have loose or frequent stools, insoluble fiber foods may make diarrhea worse,” said Petzel. “During times of diarrhea individuals should limit insoluble fiber, however, food high in soluble fiber can remain in the diet and may help thicken the stools.”

Soluble fiber: also known as viscous fiber because it attracts water and turns to gel during digestion. This slows digestion. Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables. It is also found in psyllium, a common fiber supplement. Some types of soluble fiber may help lower risk of heart disease.

Especially good sources of soluble fiber that may help during diarrhea:

  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Apples without the peel
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
     

Insoluble fiber: is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains. It adds bulk to the stool and appears to help food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines.

Sources of high amounts of insoluble fiber to limit during diarrhea:

  • Whole grains
  • Wheat bran
  • Vegetables and fruits with thick skins and/or lots of seeds
     

Are you a pancreatic cancer patient or caregiver? You can access comprehensive disease information, including diet and nutrition tips, recipes and a booklet on the subject – all reviewed and approved by renowned leaders in the field, including Petzel, by contacting the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s one-on-one Patient Central by phone or email.

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