Gallbladder pain from gallstones can be incredibly uncomfortable. There are a number of different things that contribute to gallbladder problems, but tweaking your diet can help you avoid gallbladder attacks. Replace high-fat foods and refined carbohydrates with more nutrient-dense options.
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If you have gallbladder problems, ditch high-fat proteins and refined carbs in favor of omega-3s and fiber-rich foods.
What Causes Gallbladder Issues?
Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ filled with a digestive fluid called bile. Waste products in bile can clump together to form gallstones. The more common type of gallstones, cholesterol gallstones, are made primarily from undissolved cholesterol and look yellow in color. Less common are pigment gallstones, which are dark brown or black and made primarily from a waste product called bilirubin.
Gallstones affect over 25 million people in the United States, around 65 to 75 percent of them women. Most gallstones are asymptomatic, but about 20 percent of people with gallstones will have symptoms like upper abdomen pain, fever, chills, nausea and jaundice.
Other gallbladder issues include gallbladder cancer, inflammation (sometimes caused by gallstones) and bile duct injuries.
Read more: Side Effects of Gallstones
Try Vegetable Proteins
The ideal gallbladder diet involves swapping out high-fat animal proteins for vegetarian options. For study published in the July 2016 issue of _Preventive Medicine, r_esearchers analyzed data from 130,859 postmenopausal women. The results showed that a high intake of vegetable protein is linked to a lower risk of developing gallbladder problems.
- Tofu. A 100-gram serving of hard tofu provides 145 calories and 13 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat and 4 grams of carbs. It also contains 345 milligrams of calcium. Tofu is a great addition to stir-fries and soups and good in a breakfast tofu scramble to replace scrambled eggs.
- Seitan. Seitan is a vegan protein made from vital wheat gluten, which you can purchase pre-made or make yourself at home. Half a cup of vital wheat gluten contains 237 calories, 48 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat and 8 grams of carbs.
- Quinoa. Half a cup of cooked quinoa provides 111 calories, 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, 20 grams of carbs, almost 3 grams of fiber and less than 1 gram of sugar. Eat quinoa in taco bowls, alongside baked fish or in a stir-fry.
- Potatoes. A medium-sized, baked white potato with the skin on provides 159 calories, almost 4 grams of protein, 37 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 941 milligrams of potassium and 22 milligrams of vitamin C. Top a baked potato with vegetarian chili for a warm, filling meal.
Read more: What Are the Dangers of Eating Too Much Fat?
Eat More Soluble Fiber
According to the Mayo Clinic, eating 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber daily can reduce the amount of "bad" LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. A diet rich in soluble fiber may prevent gallstones from forming or growing. Nutritious high-fiber foods include:
- Lentils. Half a cup of cooked lentils provides 115 calories, 9 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbs including 8 grams of fiber. It also provides 178 milligrams of phosphorus, 365 milligrams of potassium and 179 micrograms of folate. Lentils are very versatile and go well in soups, salads, veggie burgers and chili.
- Split peas. Half a cup of cooked split peas provides 116 calories, over 8 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbs, including 8 grams of fiber. The serving also provides 355 milligrams of potassium. A low-fat split-pea soup is a protein-packed, fiber-rich meal.
- Chia seeds. A 1-ounce serving of chia seeds (that's 2 tablespoons) provides 138 calories, 4 grams of protein, almost 12 grams of carbs and 8 grams of fiber. Nutritious chia seeds are also a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Try chia seeds in a smoothie, mixed with yogurt or even combined with lean meat in chia seed meatballs.
- Chickpeas. Half a can of drained chickpeas provides 176 calories and 9 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and 29 grams of carbs, including 8 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugars. Benefits of chickpeas include their antioxidant content and total versatility in recipes ranging from burgers to hummus to salad.
- Artichokes. One medium-sized artichoke provides 61 calories, almost 4 grams of protein and 14 grams of carbs, including 7 grams of fiber. You'll also get 343 milligrams of potassium and 107 micrograms of folate. Eat steamed artichokes with a lemon dipping sauce, throw them into a salad or use them in a cauliflower crust quiche.
- Pears. A medium-sized raw pear provides 101 calories and over 27 grams of carbs, including 6 grams of fiber and over 17 grams of sugar. Pears are delicious in salads and portable enough for a take-anywhere snack.
- Air-popped popcorn. Switch out the buttery, salty stuff for 1 cup of air-popped popcorn, which will provide 31 calories, 1 gram of protein, 6 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber. You can jazz up your snack with dried spices or cracked pepper for added flavor.
Snack on Heart-Healthy Nuts
According to Harvard Health Publishing, eating nuts can stave off gallbladder issues. That's because the fat in nuts is primarily "good," unsaturated fat that helps lower your levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol. Nuts are also a good source of protein and fiber. Just don't overdo it on the nuts if you're watching your calorie intake, since nuts are calorie-dense.
- Almonds. A quarter-cup serving of raw, whole almonds — that's about a handful — will provide 207 calories, almost 8 grams of protein, 18 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fiber and 2 grams of sugars.
- Pistachios. A quarter cup of raw pistachios provides 172 calories, including over 6 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugars.
- Mayo Clinic: "Gallstones"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "What to Do About Gallstones"
- USDA: "Lentils, Mature Seeds, Cooked, Boiled, Without Salt"
- USDA: "Peas, Split, Mature Seeds, Cooked, Boiled, Without Salt"
- USDA: "Cereals, Oats, Instant, Fortified, Plain, Dry"
- USDA: "Snacks, Popcorn, Air-Popped"
- USDA: "Seeds, Chia Seeds, Dried"
- USDA: "Artichokes, (Globe or French), Cooked, Boiled, Drained, With Salt"
- USDA: "Nuts, Almonds"
- USDA: "Pears, Raw"
- USDA: "Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans, Bengal Gram), Mature Seeds, Canned, Drained Solids"
- Preventive Medicine: "Vegetable Protein Intake is Associated With Lower Gallbladder Disease Risk"
- USDA: "Vital Wheat Gluten"
- USDA: "Tofu, Hard, Prepared With Nigari"
- USDA: "Quinoa, Cooked"
- USDA: "Potatoes, White, Flesh and Skin, Baked"
- USDA: "Nuts, Pistachio Nuts, Raw"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Say Nuts to Gallstones"
- Gut and Liver: "Epidemiology of Gallbladder Disease: Cholelithiasis and Cancer"
- Mayo Clinic: "Cholesterol: Top Foods to Improve Your Numbers"