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13 Best Sources of Protein During a Crohn's or Colitis Flare

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If you're not sure which sources of protein are best for your crohn's or ulcerative colitis flare, look no further.

I've created a list of the 13 best sources of protein you'll most likely tolerate during your flare up. 

(1) Fatty Fish

Fatty fish, aka cold water fish, include fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna. Fatty fish are a great source of protein during a crohn's or colitis flare because they contain omega 3 fatty acids which are suggested in research studies to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. 

Omega 3 fatty acids tend to under consumed. So adding 1-3 servings of fatty fish into your weekly diet, depending on the type of fish, is one way to boost your omega 3 intake. 

Omega 3 fatty acids are actually originally found in Microalgae and phytoplankton consumes the microalgae. Then, fish consume phytoplankton and omega 3 fatty acids accumulates in the tissues of these cold water fish.

A common concern about eating fatty fish is getting mercury poisoning due to the mercury in their tissues.

The EPA has a resource that illustrates the recommendations of how much and how often of which types of fatty fish you can consume on a weekly basis that I've found helpful.

As a quick recommendation though, salmon is typically one of the lowest mercery containing fish and one of the highest omega 3 containing fish. So salmon is probably one of the safer choices when it comes to mercury based on current literature.

(2) Other types of fish

All other types of fish are also great sources of high quality protein and offer another way to add more variety into the typical bland flare up diet.

(3) Chicken breast and ground chicken

Lean, skinless, boneless chicken breast is one of the best sources of protein during an inflammatory bowel disease flare. That's because the fat in meat (saturated fat) has been suggested in research studies to be inflammatory. So choose the leanest cuts of meat, such as 99% fat free chicken breast, and then cut off the fat you can see.

Add more variety into your diet by using the leanest ground chicken you can find to make a chicken burger or meatballs or just throw it on top of some rice and serve with a vegetable you can tolerate. 

(4) Turkey breast and ground turkey

Lean turkey breast (not turkey in the form of lunch meat/cold cuts) is a great source of protein during a flare. Just like with chicken, you want to find the leanest turkey breast you can find.

You can also add more variety into your diet by using ground turkey. Use it for taco meat, in a burrito bowl, or in soup.

(5) Smooth seed butters

Seed butters, such as tahini, are another great way to get more protein into your meals, snacks, and desserts. 

 I've used tahini to make creamy sauces instead of milk/cream and have spread it across gluten free toast for a protein-packed snack, and have used it to make energy balls, or even a dessert. 

(6) Seed meals

Whole seeds contain protein and a lot of other nutrients including insoluble fiber which often causes people with crohn's or ulcerative colitis to have urgent diarrhea or constipation depending on which symptom they typically struggle with more often.

Seed meals, such as flaxseed meal or chia seed meal on the other hand, still contain protein and insoluble fiber, but the insoluble fiber is broken down into a much smaller particle size making it significantly better tolerated.

And bonus: seed meals are also typically a great source of omega 3 fatty acids!

Sneak seed meals into your diet by adding them into oatmeal, soups, smoothies, or baked goods. 

(7) Nut butters

Nut butters, such as peanut and almond, are excellent sources of protein for people in a flare, especially if you're struggling with weight loss because it'll help add more calories and nutrients to your meal. 

I recommend choosing the all natural nut butters, even though they're more annoying to mix up, so that you'll avoid food additives.

You'll also want to choose the smooth nut butters instead of chunky because just like whole seeds, whole nuts contain larger insoluble fiber particles which could exacerbate your symptoms. 

(8) Nut flours

Like nut butters, nut flours are a great way to add more protein into your diet and contain smaller insoluble fiber particle sizes so they tend to be better tolerated. 

You can use nut flours to thicken up homemade sauces, to coat fish or chicken, in baked goods, smoothies, and even in oatmeal.

(9) Firm tofu

Tofu is an excellent source of protein for people in a crohn's or ulcerative colitis flare, especially if you want to add more vegetarian sources of protein into your diet.

Firm tofu not only has a better texture than soft tofu but it also tends to be better tolerated.

Another reason tofu's a good source of protein during a flare is that it's naturally low in fat which makes it easier to tolerate. 

I recommend baking tofu (instead of frying it), and serving it with rice and tolerated vegetables, or scrambling it with herbs and spices, or blending it into your smoothies, sauces, or soups. 

(10) Eggs

Eggs are a quick and easy way of getting in your protein during a flare.

You can use 2-3 eggs along with some avocado toast to make a quick meal or make hard boiled eggs for a snack. Scrambled eggs (without adding milk/cream) are typically well tolerated because they're fully cooked and easily digested. You can throw scrambled eggs on top of rice and a tolerated vegetable for a meal, or into a corn tortilla along with some roasted potatoes for a filling breakfast burrito. 

(11) Tempeh

Tempeh is product made from fermented soybeans. It's packed with protein and is another way to add more variety into a bland flare up diet. Just like tofu, tempeh is low in fat which will make it easier to tolerate. 

You can make tempeh meatballs or meatloaf, make a stir fry with it, or even grill it.

(12) Kefir

If you're lactose intolerant, you'll still likely tolerate kefir because it's actually low in lactose (the type of dairy sugar people tend to have intolerance to). 

To increase your likelihood of tolerating kefir, try the low fat or fat free versions and go with plain instead of flavored kefirs. 

If you're anything like me, that probably sounds repulsively bland. So, I recommend adding cinnamon and pure vanilla extract to it if you plan to drink it straight up. Or, you can just add it into a smoothie to add some creaminess. 

(13) Plain non-fat Greek yogurt

 Greek yogurt is like kefir because it's naturally low in lactose so even if you suffer from lactose intolerance, you'll likely be able to tolerate it.

But the same recommendations apply to Greek yogurt as they do to kefir. Try fat free and plain Greek yogurt to increase your likelihood of tolerating it.

You can eat it plain with a banana and your favorite nut butter, or mix it into oatmeal, add it to smoothies, use it to create a sauce, or even use it in baked goods.

I hope this list has inspired you to try different sources of protein in new ways that will add more variety into your diet. How many types of these proteins do you currently eat? 

More IBD Resources:

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The Flare Fighter Recipe Book

We've put together this 40+ page recipe book to give you some ideas for what to eat when you have IBD. These recipes are designed to be quick, simple, and delicious. We hope you enjoy them! Download the recipe book at the link below.

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The IBD Starter Kit

An essential self-advocacy guide for people with IBD and their caregivers. We designed this Starter Kit with you in mind, to save you time and give you the tools you need to be your own best healthcare advocate. Download the Starter Kit at the link below.

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