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Crohn’s Disease Diet: Best and Worst Foods – Health.com

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Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that impacts the gastrointestinal system with inflammation of the colon and intestines. It’s considered an autoimmune disease because the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells lining the digestive tract.

A Crohn’s disease diet for someone with the condition will be personalized but might consist of cooked fruits or vegetables without skins and no processed foods. Read on to learn more about what to eat with Crohn’s disease.

While no single diet works for every person with Crohn’s disease, some foods are best tolerated by people with Crohn’s disease. For instance, foods lower in fiber can be a good choice. Eating too much fiber can aggravate symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

Find examples below from various food groups to add to your diet if you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Use these foods to create a grocery list to prepare meals and snacks that won’t worsen your symptoms.

Fruits

Some people with Crohn’s find that eating fruits low in fermentable, oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs)—poorly absorbed carbohydrates by the digestive tract—helps them manage their symptoms. Low FODMAP options include:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Oranges
  • Pineapple 
  • Small servings of fruits like strawberries and blueberries

Vegetables

Like fruits, some vegetables are low in FODMAPs. Here are a few examples of low-FODMAP vegetables:

  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans 
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
  • Zucchini

Grains and Starches

Eating specific grains and starches can be helpful when you have Crohn’s disease. You can try options like:

  • Beans
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes and butternut squash
  • Whole grains like oats, quinoa, and brown rice

You may find leaner sources of protein are easier on your digestive system. Most people with Crohn’s disease opt for low-fat protein sources like:

  • Egg whites
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Lean poultry like chicken and turkey
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Tofu

Fats

When you’re feeling well, foods that contain healthy fats should be a regular part of your diet. Omega-3 fats, found in foods like fatty fish and shellfish, and antioxidant-rich fat sources like olive oil are especially beneficial healthy fats. Here are some examples of healthy fats:

  • Avocados
  • Dairy products like yogurt
  • Egg yolks
  • Fatty fish like sardines, trout, and salmon
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
  • Olive oil, flaxseed oil, and avocado oil

When you have Crohn’s disease, your diet will change significantly based on whether you’re in remission or are experiencing a flare. When you’re in a flare, you’ll need to follow a more restrictive diet to control your symptoms and take pressure off your digestive system. Examples of foods—and drinks—to avoid in general are:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Gas-producing foods, including fizzy drinks
  • High-fiber foods
  • Salty or fatty foods
  • Spicy foods

Trigger Foods

Knowing what triggers your symptoms if you have Crohn’s disease can help you determine specific foods to avoid. You can do this by noting in a food diary which foods cause problems.

What triggers one person’s symptoms may not trigger another person’s symptoms. For example, some people with an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease are more likely to be intolerant to lactose—a type of sugar found in dairy—and gluten—a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale.

Foods Associated With Inflammation

Foods that contribute to inflammation include:

  • Certain proteins: Grain-fed beef and processed meats like deli meat and hot dogs
  • Saturated fats: Dairy products, fruit juice, and meats like lamb, pork, or chicken with skin
  • Trans fats: Baked goods like cookies and pies, fried foods, and partially hydrogenated oils

During an active flare of Crohn’s disease, a diet low in fiber and residue—undigested parts of food that can end up in your stool—is typically best. You might stick with foods like refined grains, chicken, or cooked vegetables without seeds or skins.

When you’re in remission, you may be able to follow a less restricted diet. You’ll want to focus on whole foods and continue avoiding processed foods, red meat, and gluten.

Another essential part of managing Crohn’s disease symptoms is how you eat and prepare your foods. When eating, consider:

  • Blending, baking, or stewing fruits and vegetables
  • Chewing your food thoroughly
  • Drinking enough fluids
  • Eating smaller meals, which might contribute to you eating more often

Every person with Crohn’s disease has different dietary needs. Working with a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, is important to develop a plan that works best for you. 

You’re probably aware that certain foods can cause worsened symptoms of Crohn’s disease, especially during a flare. When you’re in remission and feeling well, following a nutritious, well-rounded diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, starches, proteins, and fat sources is best for overall health. 

Finding the right diet for Crohn’s disease can be tricky because every person has different needs and dietary requirements. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or aren’t sure what you should be eating to manage your Crohn’s disease, consider making an appointment with a registered dietitian who specializes in inflammatory bowel disease. 

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