Unless your health care provider has recommended you cut back on your fiber intake, you probably haven’t come across anything on a low-residue diet.
It’s been hammered into us that a high-fiber diet is good for us. Fiber is a part of fruits, vegetables and grains. It can reduce the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol and diabetes, improve gut health, help you feel fuller longer, and keep you regular.
Unfortunately, not everyone handles fiber well or some may need a break from it.
Read on to understand more about a low-residue diet and if this is the proper diet for you.
What is a low-residue diet?
A low-residue diet consists of food that is very low in dietary fiber.
“The word ‘residue’ is the part of foods (such as fiber and bacteria) that passes undigested through your bowels and forms stool (poop, if you will),” said Beril Hezer, a registered dietitian with Banner Health in Phoenix, AZ. “Low-residue foods are easily digested and absorbed and leave the least residue. The result is fewer and smaller poops.”
The goal of the low-residue diet is to allow your bowels (digestive system) time to rest. Eating low-fiber foods means your intestines don’t need to work as hard.
Your health care provider may recommend you follow this temporary diet if you are recovering from an intestinal or bowel surgery (such as a colostomy, ileostomy or resection), preparing for a colonoscopy, or following radiation therapy to the pelvis or lower intestines.
“It can also be a helpful diet for those who experience symptoms of abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea or digestive flare-ups due to a gastrointestinal condition, such as Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, gastroparesis or ulcerative colitis,” Hezer said. “That being said, it depends on the condition and how well you manage side effects. It’s important to talk to your health care provider before starting this diet to ensure it is right for you.”
What are the pros and cons of the low-residue diet?
As with any diet, the low-residue diet has some pluses and minuses.
The benefits, as mentioned earlier, are that this diet can help prepare your bowels for surgery or colonoscopy and may help with symptoms related to an inflammatory bowel condition. It can also act as a transition from a liquid diet to a solid diet.
On the flip side, you might miss out on essential nutrients. You might notice you’re hungrier sooner and struggle to poop due to constipation.
“Most Americans don’t get the recommended amount of dietary fiber each day, so it’s important to work closely with your health care provider or a registered dietitian before following a diet like this,” Hezer said.
What can you eat on a low-residue diet?
You should only start a low-residue diet after discussing it with your health care provider or a registered dietitian.
“Even if two people have the same condition or symptoms, this diet might work for one person but not the other,” Hezer said. “Sometimes it’s a little trial and error to determine which foods cause issues, which is why it’s best to work alongside a medical professional.”
When considering which foods to eat, look for ones close to 0 grams of fiber per serving. Low-fiber diets contain less than 8 grams of fiber, and fiber-restricted diets contain less than 13 grams of fiber per day.
Foods to avoid
- Whole grain bread and pasta (oatmeal, millet, buckwheat, flax)
- Whole grain, bran, granola, nut or dried fruit cereals
- Wild or brown rice
- Potatoes with skin
- Most raw fruits and vegetables (see included fruits and vegetables)
- Prunes, figs, raisins and other dried fruits
- Legumes (peas, beans, lentils), nuts and seeds
- Vegetables with seeds
- Peas and beans
- Tough, chewy meat with gristle
- Pickles and relishes
- Spicy foods
- Jellies, preserves and jams
- Alcohol (ask your doctor)
Foods to include
- Refined grain products, such as white bread, pasta and cereal
- White rice
- Cream of wheat, grits
- Cooked potatoes without skin
- Dairy products or dairy alternatives (if you can tolerate them)
- Fruit without peels or seeds and certain canned or well-cooked fruit (ripe banana, peeled apples, seedless grapes, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, plums, papaya, apricot)
- Well-cooked or canned vegetables without seeds (spinach, eggplant, green and wax beans, carrots, yellow squash, pumpkin, beets)
- Raw lettuce, onions and zucchini
- Well-cooked meat, including ground beef, chicken and fish
- Eggs and tofu
- Creamy peanut butter
- Oil, margarine, butter, mayonnaise and salad dressings and sauces without seeds
- Honey and syrup
- Clear jelly
- Plain Jell-O and puddings
- Plain cookies and cakes
- Caffeinated drinks, including tea, soda and coffee (ask your doctor)
Since this diet can affect your bowel movements, staying hydrated is important. So, drink plenty of water and liquids unless your provider or dietitian tells you otherwise.
A low-residue diet consists of foods that are very low in dietary fiber. Your provider may recommend this diet if you are preparing for certain surgeries or if you have a gastrointestinal condition like Crohn’s or diverticular disease.
Because it lacks fiber, it can be challenging to meet your nutritional needs and may lead to issues with constipation.
Before starting this diet, talk to your health care provider or a registered dietitian. They can help determine if this diet is right for you and the appropriate amount of time you should follow. They can also guide you on when it is safe to slowly start adding fiber back into your diet.