(If you haven’t already, take a quick look at our blog “IBD – is diet important?” to get a bit of background….)

Iron, Vitamin C and fibre are specific nutrients important to focus on in IBD, as well as calcium, zinc and Vitamin B12.

1) Iron

Iron is found in EVERY cell in our body.  Not only does iron help to carry oxygen around the body to our muscles and organs, it also works hard for our immune system.

People with IBD may be at greater risk of  low levels of iron (iron deficiency) as active IBD may be causing blood loss from the gut.  We also know that poor appetite is common in IBD and for some, iron-rich foods may not be that tempting.

What foods contain iron?

Some sources are better than others…

Excellent sources of iron (haem iron):

Haem iron is absorbed up to 10 times more easily than non-haem iron

  • Meat – beef, lamb, pork, veal
  • Offal – Liver, kidney, liverwurst, pate

Medium sources of iron (haem iron):

  • Poultry – chicken, turkey
  • Fish and shellfish

Good sources of iron (non-haem iron):

  • Egg
  • Green leafy vegetables such as silverbeet, spinach and broccoli
  • Nuts
  • Dried beans, lentils and baked beans
  • Wholemeal flour and cereals (such as wholegrain bread, brown rice)
  • Dried peaches, apricots and prunes


2) Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from non-haem iron foods.

What foods contain Vitamin C?

  • citrus fruits and juices
  • strawberries, kiwi fruit, paw paw & melons
  • green leafy vegetables
  • tomatoes, broccoli and capsicum

3) Fibre 

Fibre is the indigestible plant matter in our food, which mainly comes from fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grain products. Fibre is food source for the natural bacteria in our large bowel and absorbs

water to help soften stools and make them easier to pass.

Some people with IBD may need to restrict fibre intake, while others will not.  It all depends on an individual’s symptoms and disease state.  One of our specialist dietitians will be able to assist you in working out a diet that is suitable.

4 & 5 ) Calcium & Vitamin D

If someone with IBD has inflammation in the small bowel, calcium and Vitamin D absorption (as well as iron, folate, zinc, and Vit B12) can be reduced.

Additionally, IBD flare ups are often treated with steroid medication such as prednisone.    Such medications interfere with calcium absorption; slow down the rate of new bone formation and increase the rate of bone breakdown.  Understandably, using steroids for an extended period of time can lead to significant bone loss.

Some people with IBD could also be restricting calcium rich foods, such as dairy, if they have food intolerances.

What foods contain calcium?

  • dairy and calcium fortified dairy alternatives
  • calcium fortified cereals
  • tofu made with calcium coagulant (read more here)

What provides Vitamin D?

  • sunlight
  • cod liver oil
  • butter and margarine
  • fish, eggs
  • some milk and milk products

6 ) Vitamin B12

Absorption of Vitamin B12 may be reduced if there is inflammation in the part of the small intestine where Vitamin B12 is absorbed.

What foods contains B12?

  • animal proteins (meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy)
  • Dairy alternatives fortified with B12
  • Meat substitutes fortified with B12
  • Marmite



If you have IBD and are excluding any foods from this list, come and have a chat to one of our dietitians for help with maximising your nutrition and health.


Michelle Holt

Accredited Practicing Dietitian