The gallbladder stores and excretes bile and bile acids necessary for digestion of fat. Gallbladder problems include cholecystitis, or the inflammation of the gallbladder, and cholelithiasis, or gallstones.
Gallbladder problems may cause severe pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Surgical removal of the gallbladder is necessary in some cases.
A diet that's low in fiber and high in cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for gallbladder disease. Following a low-fat diet and avoiding certain foods can help you manage your gallbladder disease, ease symptoms and minimize attacks.
Read more: Foods to Avoid When You Have Gallstones
Why a Special Diet?
When you experience difficulty with your gallbladder, your body isn't able to digest and absorb fat properly. Therefore, you need to follow a low-fat diet. According to Regional Digestive Consultants, patients with gallbladder disease should restrict their fat consumption to 25 to 40 grams per day or 10 to 20 percent of their calorie intake.
It's important to eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups, but to limit high-fat foods, especially full-fat dairy and meat. Vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits and green peppers, help to break down cholesterol. You may require supplemental vitamin C and fat-soluble vitamins due to malabsorption.
Milk and other dairy products contain vitamin D, calcium and protein. While you need these nutrients, certain foods, such as whole milk, buttermilk, cream, butter, sour cream, nondairy creamer, whole-milk cheese, cheese spreads, chocolate milk and ice cream are high in fat.
You should avoid these full-fat foods; they can contribute to the formation of gallstones or trigger an attack of gallbladder pain. Instead, choose skim or 1 percent milk, yogurt made from skim milk, fat-free cheese, low-fat cottage cheese, skim buttermilk and nonfat sour cream.
Read more: 1% Milk Vs. Skim Milk
To avoid developing gallbladder disease or to prevent gallbladder attacks, limit meats that are rich in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Saturated fat is abundant in animal products, especially fried, fatty or heavily marbled meat, beef, spareribs, ham hocks, ground beef, eggs, tuna and salmon canned in oil, sausage, hot dogs, hamburger, duck, goose, gravy and peanut butter.
For healthier alternatives, choose prime cuts of lean meats, cold-water fish, poultry without skin, fat-free lunch meats, tuna or salmon packed in water, tofu and beans to meet your protein needs.
Read more: Sources of Low-Fat Protein
Eggs in Moderation
Eggs should be eaten in moderation on a gallbladder diet. You shouldn't eat more than three eggs per week. Eggs are rich in calories, fat and cholesterol; however, they're a good source of protein and choline, known to boost brain function. Prepare eggs by scrambling or poaching with very little or no fat. As an alternative, try using egg whites and egg substitutes with less fat.
One of the worst cooking methods if you're on a gallbladder diet is frying. Stay away from fried foods that are rich in calories, saturated fat and trans fat. Avoid foods such as French fries, onion rings, doughnuts, fritters, pastries and even vegetables that are fried. Limit your use of butter when sautéing foods; use a small amount of margarine instead.
Read more: Good Margarines for Cholesterol
Sweets and Desserts
Avoid commercial baked goods, desserts, cakes, pies, ice cream, doughnuts, chocolate, cookies and puddings when you have gallbladder problems. These foods are high in empty calories and fat and may not be well tolerated or support good health.
Choose sherbet and pudding made with skim milk, nonfat frozen yogurt, fruit ice, sorbet, gelatin, vanilla wafers, ginger snaps and graham crackers if you crave something sweet. Avoid adding whipped cream or dessert toppings that may be high in fat.
Read more: Foods You Can Eat With Gallstones