Each day, Americans are bombarded with mixed messages about healthy eating. That may be especially true for people with multiple sclerosis (MS). Thankfully, you don’t have to eat a special or restricted diet if you’ve been diagnosed with MS. Rather, experts believe that focusing on nutritious, healthy foods can help you feel better and reduce some disease-related symptoms. Below are some tips for eating well with MS.
Have a Plan
In general, people with MS should eat the same high-fiber, low-saturated fat diet that is recommended for all Americans. Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and other sources of protein, such as poultry, fish, beans and lentils, and low-fat dairy products. When eating carbohydrates, stick to whole grain options, such as brown rice, instead of white. Avoid processed foods high in saturated fats, such as fast food, fried foods, and packaged baked goods.
Focus on Fiber
Fiber—the part of plant-based food that your body is unable to fully digest or absorb—is especially beneficial if you have MS. Fiber aids in digestion, which can help relieve MS-related constipation. Fiber is also very filling, which can help you maintain a healthy weight.
One of the best ways to get your fiber is to eat fruits and vegetables. In addition to fiber, these nutrition powerhouses contain antioxidants. Antioxidants protect your cells from the damage of free radicals, which have been associated with the development of cancer and heart disease and are also linked to MS. Aim for about five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. To avoid gas and cramps, start slowly and gradually build up.
Bone Up on Calcium
People with MS have a higher risk for osteoporosis, a condition that causes weakening of the bones. This may be due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle or lack of weight-bearing exercise. To reduce your risk, focus on getting enough calcium through your diet. Low-fat dairy products like yogurt and milk are good choices. Other sources of calcium include canned salmon, sardines, and dark green vegetables like broccoli or kale. You can also try calcium-enriched orange juice or cereals.
Get Fortified with Vitamin D
Vitamin D, which the body makes when exposed to the sun, may be very important if you have MS. It is necessary for bone health because it helps the body absorb calcium and it may boost the immune system. However, research has also linked low levels of the vitamin to the development of MS. Studies show that the incidence of MS is greater the farther people live from the equator, perhaps because of reduced sun exposure.
Experts don’t know how vitamin D affects MS after it’s begun. But it may be wise to talk with your doctor to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts. If you’re vitamin D deficient, supplements may help.
Watch Your Calories
If MS has affected your ability to exercise, you may not be burning the same level of calories as you were before you were diagnosed. This can slowly cause weight gain, which can interfere with your health, energy, and mobility. To feel good and keep your weight in check, watch your calorie intake. Reduce portion sizes and avoid high-fat and high-calorie foods. If you need a little help, talk with a registered dietitian, who can design an eating plan that’s right for you.
Make Prep a Snap
MS-related fatigue can take a real toll on your food interest and preparation. When you are tired, running through a drive-throughor opting for fatty convenience foods may be more appealing than cooking a healthy dinner. To combat poor eating on days when your energy is low, plan ahead. Double or triple your favorite healthy recipe and freeze the extras. Stock easy and healthy go-to ingredients for nights when you can’t make it to the grocery store. And consider buying precut and prewashed produce to cut down on prep time.