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Hepatitis C Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

Why a healthy diet matters

There isn’t a specific diet to follow if you have hepatitis C, but eating healthy foods and cutting out junk is often a good place to start.

Everything you eat and drink must be acted upon by the liver. Maintaining proper nutrition can improve the health of your liver and may even reduce the impact of hepatitis C.

If you have hepatitis C, your liver is already dealing with inflammation. Over time, this can lead to scarring (cirrhosis) and reduced liver function. In other words, your liver is dealing with a lot. Eating well may help ease some of this pressure.

Keep reading to find out what you should add to your diet and what you should kick to the curb.

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Foods to add

What your diet should include

Getting the right nutrients is crucial to your overall well-being. Not only can it support a healthy immune system, but it also has a direct effect on weight management.

It’s important to keep your weight in a healthy range, especially if you have hepatitis C. Being overweight can lead to hepatic steatosis, a condition caused by excess fat buildup in the liver. This can make hepatitis C harder to control.

People with hepatitis C also have an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, so it’s important to keep an eye on your sugar intake.

You may find it beneficial to use a food plan like the United States Department of Agriculture MyPlate plan. The plan recommends the following for a balanced diet:

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables provide:

  • fiber
  • folic acid
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin B-12
  • vitamin B-6

You should eat at least five servings daily. In order to get the widest range of vitamins, vary the types you eat. Find out which fruits and veggies are also low in carbs.

Opt for no-salt and no-sugar-added varieties when buying canned foods.

Protein

Foods containing protein are very important. Protein helps repair and replace liver cells damaged by hepatitis C.

Keep your protein lean! Great options include:

  • fish
  • seafood
  • chicken without the skin
  • nuts
  • eggs
  • soy products

The amount of protein you eat daily depends upon your age, sex, and activity level. Usually, 5 to 6 1/2 ounces of protein is sufficient. To help hit the daily target, add one of these easy-to-make smoothies to your meal plan.

If you have cirrhosis, your doctor may recommend a higher protein intake to reduce your risk of muscle wasting and fluid buildup.

Dairy

Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, are a good source of protein and calcium.

Adults should consume around 1-3 servings of dairy daily. About 2 ounces of processed cheese, or 1 1/2 ounces of natural cheese, count as one cup.

Whole grains

Whole grains are a good source of dietary fiber, which promotes healthy bowel function and reduces your risk for heart disease.

Whole grains include:

  • sprouted whole-grain breads
  • whole wheat, buckwheat, or quinoa pastas
  • brown or wild rice
  • oats
Did you know?
Research presented in a 2017 review of studies suggests that drinking two or more cups of coffee daily could have positive effects on liver health. But before you reach for that extra cup of joe, talk with your doctor about whether this is right for you. More research is needed before a conclusive recommendation can be made.

Opt for whole-grain products over white or refined varieties. Whole grains are typically higher in:

  • fiber
  • B vitamins
  • zinc
  • magnesium
  • iron

If you have Celiac disease, eat only gluten-free grains, such as buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth.

The amount of grain you should have depends on your age, sex, and activity level. On average, adults should eat around 3-4 ounces of grain foods daily. At least half of those servings should be from whole-grain foods.

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Foods to limit or avoid

What you should cut back on

What about alcohol?
Alcohol is a toxin, which can damage the liver. People with hepatitis C should eliminate alcohol from their diet completely. Drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, can accelerate the progression of liver disease.

Calories count, so think quantity as well as quality. Eating too much may lead to weight gain or obesity, which can increase your diabetes risk.

In general, you should limit foods that are:

  • fatty
  • greasy
  • processed
  • frozen
  • canned
  • from fast food chains

Reduce your salt intake

Cutting out dishes that are high in sodium is especially important. Salty foods can lead to water retention, consequently raising your blood pressure. This can be dangerous for people with cirrhosis.

If your disease is in its earliest stages, an occasional shake of the salt shaker may be fine. Talk to your doctor about how much sodium is appropriate for you. If they advise you to cut back, you’ll most likely restrict your diet to 2,000 milligrams or less each day.

Cut back on your sugar intake

Sugary treats are typically high in fat, which can lead to weight gain. To help stay on the right track, you may find it helpful to indulge every now and then instead of cutting sugar out completely. This way you can have your cake, and eat it too. Fruit also makes an excellent sweet choice.

Avoid raw or unpasteurized products

Fish is a great choice, but only if it’s cooked. Sushi and other raw foods can contain bacteria that may worsen hepatitis C. Other foods to avoid include raw eggs and unpasteurized milk and cheese.

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Tips and tricks

Tips and tricks for healthy eating

Do
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water or other fluids each day.
  • Create a regular eating routine that works for you. This could be three moderate meals a day or four to five smaller meals at regular intervals.
  • Go organic whenever possible. This can help limit the amount of toxins and pesticides ingested through your food.
  • Choose lean protein sources instead of beef.
  • Use no-salt seasonings and herbs.
Don't
  • Overeat.
  • Add salt to your food.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages.
  • Eat a lot of fast food.
  • Rely on dietary supplements to fulfill your daily nutrient needs.
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Takeaway

The bottom line

Your nutritional needs likely won’t stray far from the typical nutritional guidelines, though your doctor can provide you with individual benchmarks.

In general, a good food plan is one that emphasizes vegetables, eliminates alcohol, and helps you maintain a healthy body mass index. No diet plan is complete without a regular workout routine, so talk to your doctor about what amount of exercise is right for you.

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