13 Best Foods for Crohn's Disease

Here are 13 foods that should be easy on your digestion. However, the right Crohn's diet is highly individual—so work with your healthcare provider to see what's best for you. 

If you've got inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an ongoing inflammation in the organs of the digestive tract, your dietary choices can help manage the condition.

Certain foods won't speed gut healing, but there are plenty that can help you stay well-nourished without aggravating symptoms, Tracie Dalessandro, RD, a nutritionist based in Tarrytown, NY, who is a nutritional advisor to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation and also has Crohn's disease, told Health.

Common recommendations include avoiding high fiber foods during IBD flares of symptoms, such as abdominal cramping and diarrhea, and eating smaller meals more often, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

These 13 foods may help support your digestion. However, there is not just one type of Crohn's diet and individual responses to foods vary, so discuss dietary recommendations and changes with your healthcare provider.

Almond Milk

Lactose, a sugar found in dairy, is a potential trigger for Crohn's symptoms, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. Luckily, there's a great dairy alternative: almond milk, which is made from ground-up almonds and can be fortified to contain as much calcium as regular milk (check the label).

Almond milk also has vitamin D and E, but contains no cholesterol or saturated fat, and fewer calories than cow's milk. Many varieties contain added sweetener; choosing an unsweetened product cuts about 7 grams of added sugar per serving.

Eggs

Eggs, especially if they are poached or soft-boiled, are an inexpensive source of easily digested protein, according to a 2019 study in the journal Nutrients.

Make sure you've always got some in the fridge.

Eggs and toast are a standby for Marge McDonald, 46, during a flare up, along with potatoes and egg noodles. "Anything non-greasy," Marge McDonald, who directs the Burlington Senior Center in Massachusetts and has ulcerative colitis, told Health. "Honestly when I'm flaring I just end up eating carbs."

Oatmeal

This food is a great choice if you have Crohn's. "Oatmeal is even OK when I'm flaring, if I'm not flaring too badly," McDonald said.

Insoluble fiber—the kind in raw veggies, fruits, and nuts—is more difficullt to digest because it pulls water into the gut and can worsen bloating, diarrhea, gas, and pain for those with IBD, according to a 2013 report from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. But oatmeal has soluble fiber, which absorbs water and passes more slowly through your digestive tract, said Dalessandro.

"If you have very soft-cooked oatmeal, that's a great breakfast," Dalessandro said.

Vegetable Soups

"A lot of people I see are really, really afraid of eating vegetables," said Dalessandro. "Most of the time their diet consists of a lot of white carbohydrate products, which of course are OK, but they don't have a lot of nutrients."

But even during a flare-up, pureed veggies like asparagus, squash, or sweet potato are usually fine, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. And you won't lose nutrients, like you do when vegetables are boiled.

Salmon

About 5 ounces of protein per day is typically recommended, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Lean protein, like seafood, is your best option. "Fish is extremely beneficial, especially fish that's high in omega-3s, like salmon," Dalessandro said.

Shrimp and white fish like tilapia and flounder are also nutritious and easily digestible. Prepare seafood by steaming, broiling or grilling, and skip the deep-fat fryer.

Papaya

People with Crohn's may think they should avoid fruit, but even during a flare, tropical fruits like bananas are an easy-to-digest, nutritious option.

"Mango and papaya are super-high in nutrients and very, very easy to digest," Dalessandro said.

Papaya contains an enzyme, papain, which helps your body digest proteins and may help ease digestive symptoms, according to a 2013 study published in Neuroendocrinology Letters; this butter-soft fruit is also rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, folate and potassium, and is available year-round. Cantaloupe is a good choice too.

Pureed Beans

Beans may sound like the ultimate no-no for anyone who's having digestive trouble.

But pureed chickpeas—the main component of hummus—and well-pureed lentils are a terrific source of lean protein and other nutrients, and may be tolerated, according to the Brigham and Women's Crohn's and Colitis Center.

Poultry

Fatty meats can trigger symptoms and lean meats tend to be better tolerated by those with IBD, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. Chicken and turkey are protein-rich, and also lean if you limit your consumption to the white meat and bake or grill instead of frying.

They're also mild and easy to digest, making them a go-to protein source for anyone with IBD.

Avocado

Soft, smooth, and chock-full of good fats, B vitamins, vitamin E, and potassium, avocados should be on the menu if you have Crohn's disease.

They're also one of the only fruits that contains digestion-friendly soluble fiber along with the insoluble type.

Butter Lettuce

A Crohn's diagnosis doesn't mean your salad days are over, said Dalessandro.

As long as you're not experiencing severe diarrhea, you should be able to enjoy a salad made from butter lettuce.

Also known as Boston Bibb, this widely available light-green lettuce is much more tender and easily digestible than other salad greens.

Whenever adding salad and other veggies, start with small portions to see how it affects you, according the Brigham and Women's Crohn's and Colitis Center.

Roasted Red Peppers

Brilliant and super-tasty, roasted peppers—with skins removed—are delicious, nutritious, and safe for people with Crohn's to eat, Dalessandro said.

Add them to a salad, slip them into a sandwich, or even use them as a soup garnish.

But see how they affect your digestion; they may not be for everyone. "For me peppers have always been a really bad food," said McDonald.

Rice

A traditional choice for anyone who's suffering from stomach woes, white rice and other refined carbohydrates may not be super-nutritious, but they're easy on the gut.

White rice was one of the foods most commonly reported to improve symptoms in those with IBD, according to a 2012 survey by Crohn's and Colitis Foundation published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences.

White rice along with foods like yogurt and bananas, which were also reported to frequently improve symptoms in the survey, may be especially helpful during flares.

Just make sure simple carbs like white rice aren't crowding protein and well-cooked veggies out of your diet.

Smooth Nut Butters

Nuts are an excellent source of good fats, vitamin E, and protein, but digesting them presents an insurmountable challenge to most people with Crohn's, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation.

You can get the benefits of nuts without aggravating symptoms by eating nut butter.

Make sure to choose smooth, not chunky versions of these products. In addition to peanut butter, most stores stock almond and cashew butter, too.

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