13 Best Foods for Crohn’s Disease
What to eat if you have Crohn’s
If you’ve got inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you need to make calories count.
Certain foods won't speed gut healing, but there are plenty that can help you stay well-nourished without aggravating symptoms, says Tracie Dalessandro, RD, a nutritionist based in Briarcliff Manor, NY, who also has Crohn’s disease.
Here are 13 foods that should be easy on your digestion. However, the right Crohn's diet is highly individual—so use trial and error to see what works for you.
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 20 calories per serving.
Related video: How to Make Your Own Almond Milk
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,” says McDonald, who directs the Burlington Senior Center in Massachusetts and has ulcerative colitis. “Honestly when I’m flaring I just end up eating carbs.”
Insoluble fiber—the kind in raw veggies, fruits, and nuts—draws water into the colon and can worsen diarrhea for those with IBD. But oatmeal has soluble fiber, which absorbs water and passes more slowly through your digestive tract, says Dalessandro, who is also a nutritional advisor to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America.
“If you have very soft-cooked oatmeal, that’s a great breakfast,” she says.
But even during a flare-up, pureed veggies like pumpkins, butternut squash, carrots and parsnips are fine. And you won’t lose nutrients, like you do when vegetables are boiled.
Lean protein, like seafood, is your best option. “Fish is extremely beneficial, especially fish that’s high in omega-3s, like salmon,” Dalessandro says.
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.
“Mango and papaya are super-high in nutrients and very, very easy to digest,” Dalessandro says.
Papaya contains an enzyme, papain, which helps your body digest proteins; 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.
But pureed chickpeas—the main component of hummus—and well-pureed lentils are a terrific source of lean protein and other nutrients, and should be safe even if your Crohn’s is acting up, Dalessandro says.
They’re also mild and easy to digest, making them a go-to protein source for anyone with IBD.
They’re also one of the only fruits that contains digestion-friendly soluble fiber along with the insoluble type.
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.
Roasted red peppers
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,”says McDonald.
Just make sure these simple carbs aren’t crowding protein and well-cooked veggies out of your diet.
Smooth nut butters
You can get the benefits of nuts without aggravating symptoms by eating nut butters.
Make sure to choose smooth, not chunky versions of these products. In addition to peanut butter, most stores now stock almond and cashew butter, too.