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Diet

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What Is a Good Diverticulosis Diet?

By Betsy D. Williams
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

A good diverticulosis diet is one that is rich in fiber and provides plenty of fluids. Specifically, an individual can benefit from whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Water can be consumed as a drink or in foods to maintain proper hydration and regular bowel movements. Switching to such a diet should happen gradually to avoid problems such as bloating, and even healthy foods need to be monitored for added preservatives or chemicals that can negatively affect colon health.

Diverticulosis Basics

Diverticulosis, or diverticular disease, is a condition in which an area of the digestive tract (usually the colon) contains bulging sacs, or diverticula. Many people have this condition without knowing it. They often discover it only after a routine colonoscopy, or when it advances into diverticulitis, the inflammation or irritation of diverticula.

General Dietary Guidelines

Diverticula can become irritated when too much pressure is exerted on them. They also can become infected if there is an overabundance of bad bacteria in the colon. This means that, typically, getting constipated or having irregular bowel movements can aggravate the condition. Fluids and fiber are the body’s two main tools for propelling waste through the colon and out of the body, so when a person has diverticulosis, the general rules of thumb are to eat foods with high fiber content and to keep water intake high.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are the complete fruits of cereal grasses such as oats. As whole seeds, they contain three parts. These are the bran (outer skin), the germ (embryo that can sprout) and the endosperm (the food supply for the germ). The bran has a very high fiber content, so eating whole grains and whole grain products is part of a diverticulosis diet.

One of the most common whole grains consumed in the United States is oats. Another is wheat. Oatmeal, whole grain breads and whole grain pasta are three readily available foods to try. People also can eat wild or brown rice, but these options provide only about 25 to 50 percent of the fiber found in oats and wheat. Some of the best high-fiber whole grains are barley, aramanth, rye and triticle.

Store-bought cereals can also provide fiber, although not all are made with whole grains. Shoppers should look out for those that include at least 4 grams per cup, if not more. Some people find that high fiber cereals have a strange taste, but a growing array of choices means that there is probably one for nearly every palate. Eaters may also want to mix it with their normal cereal until they get used to the flavor.

Fruits

Fruits such as apples, kiwis, grapes, berries (especially raspberries) or cherries are typically a great source of fiber. Others fiber-rich fruits include bananas, avocados, oranges, prunes, and raisins. As an added benefit, many fruits are extremely high in antioxidants, substances that protect cells by fighting off the damage caused by free radicals.

Vegetables

A diverticulosis diet also should include high-fiber vegetables. High-fiber options include artichokes, peas, broccoli and brussel sprouts. A person also can get fiber from potatoes with skin, corn and carrots.

Legumes

Legumes include plants whose seeds split into separate halves. An excellent fiber source, most beans fall into this category. They can be substituted for meat at least one night a week for dinner. Lima beans, kidney beans and pinto beans are good in chili, stew, wraps and tacos, or in a bean salad. Garbanzo beans are a great addition to salads and are the main ingredient in hummus, a spread often used with pita chips or bread.

Fluid Intake

Fiber increases stool bulk in part because it can absorb water. Failure to replace the water absorbed by the fiber can cause constipation, which is the opposite of what a person with diverticulosis wants. The often repeated recommendation to avoid constipation and stay healthy is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day, but experts point out that this is not a hard and fast rule.

People have very different physiologies, and they also engage in different levels of activity. In addition, some foods have extremely high water contents. Lettuce and watermelon are perhaps the best examples. This means that two people can have very different water needs, and that it isn’t necessary to drink all the water that a person has to have. The more contemporary recommendation is to pay close attention to thirst and to drink whenever it feels necessary, watching that the amount of water intake is high enough to produce very light yellow to clear urine.

Considerations

The move to a diverticulosis diet should happen gradually. This gives the body time to adjust to the new foods. Avoid consuming too much fiber too fast, as this can result in painful gas and bloating. The American Dietetic Association (ADA) suggests individuals consume anywhere from 20 to 35 grams (0.70 to 1.24 ounces) of fiber every day.

Although eating a diveriticulosis diet needn’t require completely cutting out processed foods, they should be eaten only in moderation. They are less nutritious than whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, and they usually exchange fiber for fat or sugar. That can lead to problems such as weight gain or diabetes. Even when eating a balance of diverticulosis-safe foods, be mindful of preservatives and chemicals added during the growth or manufacturing stages, as these substances can disturb healthy bacteria in the colon and cause other problems such as cancer.

What Is a Liquid Diet for Diverticulosis?

When you’re suffering from inflamed diverticula, you may want to switch to a clear liquid diet until symptoms clear up. Having only liquids in your system allows the diverticula to become less inflamed. Acceptable liquids include:

  • Clear broths, such as beef, chicken, vegetable or fish
  • Fruit juices without pulp, including apple juice, grape juice or lemonade
  • Water and ice
  • Popsicles with no bits of fruit or fruit pulp
  • Gelatin, either commercial or homemade, with no fruit added
  • Coffee and tea, without cream or milk

What Are the Next Steps After a Liquid Diet?

When you’re starting to feel better after your diverticulosis flare-up, you may want to add low-fiber foods to your diet. A low-fiber diet reduces the amount of residue your body creates, giving your diverticula a chance to ease back into dealing with stool again. Some great low-fiber foods to try include:

  • Milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Cooked or canned fruits without the skins or seeds
  • Processed white bread 
  • Cooked or canned veggies such as carrots, skinless potatoes and green beans
  • Fish, poultry and eggs
  • Low-fiber cereals
  • Fruit or vegetable juice that has no pulp
  • White rice and pasta

When you’re feeling good on a low-fiber diet, you can resume a healthy, high-fiber diet with plenty of liquids to keep stool moving through your system, keeping your diverticula healthy. You should definitely not stay on the low-fiber diet; doing so can aggravate your diverticulosis and cause flare-ups again.

How To Treat Diverticulosis With Diet Alone?

Diverticulosis is very treatable with diet alone. To put it simply, eat lots of low-fat, fiber-rich foods and drink plenty of fluids. You want to avoid eating too much fat, because it can slow your digestive system.

If you struggle with constipation, which can cause diverticula to form, your doctor may recommend a dietary supplement called psyllium or another called methylcellulose, both of which help bulk up your stool and keep your bowels moving. When you’re constipated and have to strain to have a bowel movement, that can cause diverticula to form and cause inflammation in any diverticula you may already have.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

If you’re a woman under 51 years of age, you should eat at least 25 grams of fiber every day. If you’re 51 or older, you want to aim for 21 grams. If you’re a man under 51 years old, you need to consume 38 grams of fiber each day. Once you’re 51 or older, you should consume 30 grams.

Don’t eat too much fiber — that can cause its own set of problems, including cramping, bloating and gas. Keep your fiber consumption under 70 grams daily to avoid these issues.

What Diet Is Best for Diverticulosis?

The best diet for diverticulosis is one that is low in fat and high in fiber, with sufficient fluid consumption.

What Foods Are Low-Fat?

The easiest way to eat low-fat foods is to eat foods in their purest forms, either raw or lightly cooked with broth instead of oil or butter. Avoid red meat and pork due to their innate fat content. Lean meats such as chicken and fish may become mainstays in your diet.

Skip most foods that come in boxes, and be wary of foods that come in cans. These processed foods can have high fat, as well as high sugar or salt content, which also aren’t good for you.

What Foods Are High in Fiber?

High-fiber foods not only help keep your stool moving but also help lower your cholesterol, improve your body weight, control your blood sugar and aid in preventing colon cancer. Some excellent high-fiber foods to eat include fruits such as:

  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Bananas

Many vegetables are also great sources of fiber:

  • Carrots
  • Artichokes
  • Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Lentils
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sweet potatoes

Also be sure to incorporate certain beans, nuts, and grains:

  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Oats
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Chia seeds
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds

Which Foods Are High in Water Content?

Keep in mind that you can get water from fruits and vegetables. Some of the best sources of water in foods include tasty fruits and vegetables:

  • Watermelon
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Cucumbers
  • Bell peppers
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cabbage

Your water can also come from dairy sources like low-fat milk and yogurt, or from drinking coconut water and fruit or vegetable juices. Soups also add water to your diet.

Some experts tout drinking eight glasses of water per day. Other experts say to take your body weight in pounds, divide it by 2, and make that your target number of ounces of water to drink daily. Under this guideline, someone who weighs 200 pounds would need to consume 100 ounces of water every day.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1005719 — On Nov 03, 2021

Over the past five years, I’ve had three or four mild diverticulitis attacks. I guess I’m lucky they were mild compared to most. Anyway the last flare got my attention but it cleared up with antibiotics. I am being much more cautious on food intake and eat foods high in fiber. ( great way to start your day is oatmeal with rolled oats, bananas, blueberries, wheat germ). I snack on dried fruits like prunes and dates. Original Triscuits are also good for snacks and high fiber. Almost forgot, pasta is good as long as it’s whole wheat. I drink lots of water, too. (Lots of red meat and fried foods are a no no.) You’ll get used to it and can certainly live without it! Salads are great fiber food, but avoid seeds in vegetables. Tomatoes are OK, but remove the seeds (easy to do). The key is to keep the plumbing working properly!

By MarshaNV — On Aug 27, 2018

There are so many contradictions on what we can & can't eat with diverticulosis! Supposedly no fruit with seeds (i.e. strawberries, blackberries, etc;.) but squash is ok. I don't get it!

By anon991509 — On Jun 26, 2015

Apparently I've had the "pouches" for a few years but I "forgot" about it and had been eating copious amounts of seeds and nuts this summer. Wow. I ended up in the ER with so much pain that I was sure it had to be an appendicitis. I waited about four hours and finally I was about to be admitted when almost miraculously it disappeared! They kept me "in the system" until midnight in case I had to come back so I wouldn't have to start over.

I'm beginning to learn what to eat and what not. "Skin" on fruits such as grapes and apples seem to be frowned on. Wow. Also, tomatoes because of the seeds! Does that mean I can't have pizza?

How about zucchini, squash and cucumbers?

If you've read this far, and have any suggestions or recommendations or warnings, please feel free to write! Thanks and best wishes with your diverticula! Sounds like something from a scary movie.

By anon958016 — On Jun 24, 2014

I have over 100 pockets and I suffer greatly. I have given up a lot of foods: anything with seeds, nuts, corn, popcorn, grains, and a lot more. Plus I have other issues in my guts that have required me to give up other foods like salads, cabbage, and other veggies.

I'm getting limited as to what I can eat. It only takes a few bites to cause me great pain and suffering, and yet I can find no help with a diet plan as to what I can eat, so I have learned the hard way. I have always eaten a lot of high fiber foods in the past so that's not always true what they say. I still eat beans and potatoes as those do not hurt me. Sometimes I don't think the medical world has all the answers.

By anon946063 — On Apr 16, 2014

Please read the new study info regarding a good diverticulosis diet. It does not include fiber. In fact, fiber is now known to case problems with diverticulosis. I believe the new studies because I have no problems with mine unless I eat a lot of fiber or a lot of nuts.

By anon324891 — On Mar 13, 2013

Yes there is a hereditary component to Diverticulitis. My Mom, Dad, brother and aunt have all had it. I was the only one who had not gotten it yet. I, however, eat very healthy. I eat nuts, seeds, beans, berries, whole foods, vegetables and fruits like crazy. I was doing everything right to avoid this, and this past Sunday on my 49th birthday I ended up in the ER with diverticulitis. The doctor told me I was doing everything right, but that you "can't outrun your genes" that with my family history it is/was a given that I would get it eventually.

I had a very mild attack according to my CT scan, and since I keep a food journal daily I have a pretty good idea of what caused it. I'm going to give my intestinal tract some time to heal, but I'm going to start introducing all those things back into my diet again because I have been eating them for years and don't believe they make a difference. What I do think the biggest issue is is straining to go eliminate. It puts pressure on the pockets and can force feces and other stuff from your digestive tract into them, causing the infection.

I think staying hydrated and eating plenty of food that keeps things moving is most important. I have several friends who have had this as well, and they say that eating lighter meals is also helpful. If you start to feel any discomfort when eating, then load up on fluids and switch to soft foods only to try and move things through your system faster.

Again, I must emphasize: keeping your BM functions in proper working order is dependent on water and fiber, and any straining you do, only increases your chance of getting this by enlarging or stretching out any pockets you have, and further aggravating already disturbed ones.

By burcinc — On Oct 27, 2012

I've had diverticulosis for six years. My recommendation to anyone suffering from this is to avoid fruits with seeds, like black grapes with seeds, blackberries, pomegranate, etc.

My other recommendation is aloe vera juice; it is good for inflammation.

By SarahGen — On Oct 26, 2012

The reason why seeds and nuts are not recommended for diverticulosis patients is because they are not soft foods and can cause inflammation of diverticula as they go through the intestines. So they can literally pull on the sacks as they move through but it doesn't mean that it's going to irritate everyone. Some diverticulosis patients even get bothered from eating raw vegetables.

If someone's diverticulosis is very severe, it's a good idea to stay away from seeds, nuts, popcorn. If it's not severe and you really want to eat these, you can try a small amount one day and see if it causes you any discomfort.

By ysmina — On Oct 25, 2012

@anon267549-- No, beans are okay. In fact, you should eat beans about three times a week if you can on the diverticulosis diet. Beans are extremely rich in fiber and you can have any kind-- lentils, lima beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, anything!

You should obviously follow your doctor's directions since everyone's specific condition is different. But I do think that nuts are okay as well. I ate almonds and walnuts on my diverticulosis diet and I didn't have any problems.

By orangey03 — On Oct 25, 2012

@Perdido – Sadly, a lot of delicious foods are on the taboo list for people with diverticulosis. I can no longer eat sausage or bacon for breakfast, and I've had to give up my ham sandwiches at lunch.

What really killed me was the fact that pepperoni and steak are bad for diverticulosis patients. I can't eat pizza topped with pepperoni anymore, and I can't enjoy a delicious steak hot off the grill.

Even hamburgers can irritate the condition. I've never been huge on eating chicken and fish, but I'm going to have to learn to love them.

By Perdido — On Oct 24, 2012

Can someone who is on the diverticulosis diet tell me foods to avoid if you have this condition? I've heard a lot about what I should be eating but not so much about what I shouldn't.

I had an infection a few months ago, and it was so painful that I want to do all I can to avoid getting another one. I'm sure that I will have to give up some of my favorite foods, because I don't eat much healthy stuff, but it would be worth it.

By healthy4life — On Oct 24, 2012

@lighth0se33 – I've never heard of it being hereditary, but it certainly couldn't hurt to adopt the diverticulosis diet plan. Think of how healthy it would make you!

We should all be eating raw fruits and vegetables and whole grains instead of candy and processed foods. I think that a person with diverticulosis has a blessing in disguise, because they are more motivated to eat a diet that will make them live longer and feel better while they are alive!

By lighth0se33 — On Oct 23, 2012

My dad has diverticulosis, and he has suffered multiple infections. He has intense pain in his intestines and a fever, and he loses his appetite during these episodes.

He always has to go get antibiotics when this happens. Ever since his last major attack, he has altered his diet to include more fiber. He no longer eats white bread or snack cakes with lots of sugar in them, and he has switched to a multi-grain cereal in the morning.

I am wondering if diverticulosis is hereditary. Should I start following the diet plan just in case I have it and don't know it yet?

By anon267549 — On May 10, 2012

I just got a diverticulosis diagnosis. The doctor told me not to eat seeds, nuts, corn and beans. She said nothing about skin that can get caught or irritate the sacs. The diets for diverticulosis recommend beans. Which is it?

By anon139889 — On Jan 06, 2011

what effects do bananas have on one's diet?

By anon78718 — On Apr 19, 2010

but if the kernels from popcorn get caught in the diverticula bulges and cause inflammation, doesn't that mean that you shouldn't eat popcorn?

By bananas — On Mar 10, 2009

It has been held for a long time that nuts and popcorn should not be part of a diet for people who suffer from diverticulosis, even though there was never any evidence to support that belief. It was believed that those foods may contribute to the infection of diverticuli, or pouches, also known as diverticulitis.

In Seattle, at the University of Washington, results of a recent study actually confirmed that, the long term belief is not true. The finding was that these foods do not complicate the disease, nor do they increase the risk of the disease.

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