Food is good medicine. That’s especially true when you have ulcerative colitis (UC). Certain vegetables are notorious for worsening UC symptoms like bloating, cramps, and diarrhea. You may want to avoid them while you’re in the middle of a flare.

It’s also important to be careful not to cut too many foods out of your diet. UC causes inflammation in your intestines that increases the risk for the following vitamin and mineral deficiencies:

  • calcium
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • vitamins B-6, B-9, and B-12
  • vitamin D
  • zinc

Deficiencies in these nutrients can increase the risk of developing complications such as bone loss (osteoporosis) and anemia. Avoiding vegetables and other healthy foods could reduce your nutrient stores even more.

It’s important to keep some vegetables in your diet. The trick is to find ones you like and those that don’t cause problems for your UC.

Choose vegetables in a variety of colors. Skinless and noncruciferous options are the best fruits and vegetables for ulcerative colitis, especially when you’re in an active flare.

Here are a few safe vegetables for UC:

  • asparagus tips
  • beets
  • carrots
  • celeriac
  • cucumbers
  • eggplant
  • green beans
  • lettuce
  • okra
  • onions
  • mushrooms
  • parsnips
  • peas
  • red or green peppers
  • spinach
  • sweet and white potatoes (take off the skins if they bother you)
  • squash
  • turnips
  • zucchini

Some vegetables are harder to digest and may give your GI tract trouble. Vegetables with thick skins and seeds tend to trigger ulcerative colitis symptoms.

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower contain insoluble fiber and have tough stalks. They may cause problems with gas and bloating.

Keep a food diary if you often have symptoms after you eat. Write down what you eat and how you feel afterward. Share your food diary with your doctor and dietitian so they can help fine-tune your diet.

Here are a few menu ideas featuring safe vegetables for ulcerative colitis:

For breakfast

  • scrambled eggs with avocado, spinach, and low fat cheddar cheese
  • honey-sweetened butternut squash and hazelnut muffins
  • goat cheese, zucchini, and dill frittata
  • diced butternut squash home fries
  • smoothie with spinach, cucumber, and mint
  • spinach-mango smoothie

For lunch

  • shepherd’s pie with sweet potato topping
  • butternut squash bisque
  • baby spinach salad with roasted pears, walnuts, and goat cheese
  • carrot soup
  • oat risotto with peas and pecorino cheese
  • smoothie with coconut milk, coconut yogurt, bananas, pineapple, and spinach
  • peppers, carrots, and zucchini cut into matchsticks and rolled into sliced turkey
  • canned tuna mixed with mayonnaise and diced peppers on cucumber slices

For dinner

  • sautéed sole with lemon, chickpeas, and baby spinach
  • bell peppers stuffed with a mixture of diced onions, chickpeas, ground turkey, steel-cut oats, feta, and sun-dried tomatoes
  • foil-baked tilapia (or other white fish) with chopped zucchini, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, and lemon
  • zucchini lasagna
  • spaghetti squash with tomato sauce
  • spinach-butternut squash pizza
  • stir-fried onion, carrots, celery, asparagus, mushrooms, and baby spinach with chicken or tofu in teriyaki sauce
  • rice noodles with tofu, carrots, green beans, bell pepper, and baby corn in peanut-soy sauce
  • root vegetable mash with turnips, carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes

Snacks

  • spinach artichoke yogurt dip
  • mushrooms stuffed with chopped spinach and farmer’s cheese
  • carrot, beet, and celeriac root chips
  • lactose-free yogurt topped with banana slices and nut butter
  • toasted gluten-free bread topped with cottage cheese, squeezed lemon, and sliced cucumbers

How you prepare produce is almost as important as the fruits and vegetables you choose.

Peels and seeds can be hard to digest. You may want to remove them before eating.

The fiber in raw vegetables is good for you, but your body may have trouble breaking it down. Eating too many raw veggies can lead to uncomfortable gas.

Cooking vegetables is generally better for people with UC. The fat in fried foods can be hard for your body to absorb. Grilling, steaming, or boiling your vegetables is less likely to cause symptoms.

You can also drink your vegetables in juice form. It may be easier for your body to digest.

Changing your diet doesn’t mean you have to settle for bland food. Add flavor to your meals with a variety of herbs. Spices are usually easy for people with UC to tolerate, even on flare days.

A well-balanced diet is important for everyone. Eating nutritious foods is especially critical when you have UC. Ulcerative colitis can affect how well your body absorbs vitamins and minerals.

Some vegetables are more likely to cause UC symptoms than others. The more colorful the vegetables you choose, the more nutrition you’ll get. Try different vegetables and cooking methods to see which ones bother you and which ones you can tolerate.