Hero photograph
Photo by Crohn's & Colitis New Zealand Charitable Trust

Nail the Nutrition Basics.

Dr Catherine Wall —

The nature of IBD means it can be hard to maintain adequate nutrition status and nutrition intake during disease flares, but also when your disease is in remission.

Many research studies have shown that people with IBD are more likely to have suboptimal nutrition status compared with their healthy peers. What can you do to try and get the most nutrition, and hopefully enjoyment too, from your diet? As a dietitian I see many people with IBD who have searched online about what to eat and found a lot of conflicting information and often end up more confused than previously. One of my top recommendations is that you concentrate on nailing the basics! One of the most important basics is 5+ a day of fruit and vegetables.

In New Zealand only half of adult men and two thirds of adult women eat 2 pieces of fruit per day and 70 % of adult females and 60% of adult males eat three servings of vegetables per day. International research suggests that if you have IBD you are likely to eat less fruit and vegetables than the general population. We can therefore probably say that the majority of adults with IBD do not eat 5 + a day of fruit and vegetables.

Fruit and vegetables are an especially important food group. Fruit and vegetables are a great source of fibre, the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Many of vitamins and minerals found in fruit and vegetables play a crucial role in maintaining a strong immune system, helping the body to fight inflammation and help the body to recover from a disease flare. Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables is also associated with a more diverse gut microbiome, which we think is important for good health. Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables has been also associated with increased well-being and happiness!

Do you struggle to eat 5+ a day of fruit and vegetables? Here some tips to make it easier to get your 5+ a day of fruit and vegetables:

1. Try to eat fruit and vegetables that are in season. When you eat seasonally you tend to eat a greater variety of foods across the year.

2. Aim to include vegetables in both your lunch and dinner meals. If you manage to do this most days you are more likely to eat 3+ a day of vegetables

3. Eat a “rainbow” of fruit and vegetables. Eating different coloured vegetables provides you with different nutrients.

4. If you struggle to digest particular vegetables try changing the texture of the vegetable. For example, steam leafy greens and then puree them before adding them to a dish e.g minced meat, pasta sauce, soup. Other ways to change the texture: grate vegetables into mixed dishes; serve vegetables well-cooked rather than stir-fried or lightly steamed; use canned vegetables e.g. tomatoes, beetroot; try small amounts of pickled or fermented vegetables

5. If you struggle to digest raw fruit you can also change the texture of the fruit. Try adding peeled and grated fruit to a smoothie, porridge or Bircher style breakfast. Cook the fruit first and eat it cold mixed through yoghurt. If possible, try to eat whole fruit rather than drinking fruit juice.

If you would like to read more about food, nutrition and IBD visit www.gutnutrition.co.nz/blog to read my recent blogs “What oil should I use?” and “Orange autumn produce”. 

Have you heard of the Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults or the Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Children and Young People? (links to each are at the bottom of the article) These guidelines provide general healthy eating information which is relevant to all New Zealanders and especially for you with IBD. 

Here are links to the New Zealand food and nutrition guidelines which contain other tips to help you eat 5 + a day of fruit and vegetables.

Young children guide https://www.healthed.govt.nz/resource/eating-healthy-children-aged-2-12nga-kai-totika-mo-te-hunga-kohungahunga

Young people guide https://www.healthed.govt.nz/resource/healthy-eating-young-people

Adult guide https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/eating-and-activity-guidelines-new-zealand-adults

Older adult guide https://www.healthed.govt.nz/resource/eating-healthy-older-peoplete-kai-t%C5%8Dtika-e-ora-ai-te-hunga-kaum%C4%81tua