What to Eat—and What to Avoid—If You Have MS

What to Eat—and What to Avoid—If You Have MS

Restore energy and help ease your multiple sclerosis symptoms with food.

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By Taylor Lupo

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological disease that disrupts the communication between the brain and the rest of the body. MS symptoms, which can range from mild to disabling, can often be managed with physical therapy and medication. And while there is no specific MS eating plan, diets low in fat and high in fiber are generally recommended to help boost energy levels, bladder and bowel function and overall health. Check out the foods you should be loading on your plate and which are better left untouched.    

Learn more about the condition and ways to treat symptoms.

Splurge: Whole Grains

2 / 7 Splurge: Whole Grains

Adequate fiber should be a staple in any healthy diet, but it’s imperative for people with conditions like multiple sclerosis. MS can affect any part of the body, including the bowels. Consuming enough fiber can be a good way to help relieve constipation, one potential side effect of the condition. Fiber is plentiful in whole grains, like oatmeal, brown rice and barley (great in a soup)—4 grams, 2 grams and 15 grams per half-cup serving, respectively. Be sure to fill one-quarter of your plate with 100 percent whole grains.      

Purge: Fried Foods

3 / 7 Purge: Fried Foods

No one should eat an abundance of foods containing bad fats saturated fats and trans fats found in foods like red meat, whole dairy products, fried foods and highly processed foods such as frozen pizza. But people with MS need to be especially careful with saturated fat consumption. There is some evidence that suggests the intake of saturated fat speeds the progression of multiple sclerosis. Most diet plans that have been studied for managing MS recommend avoiding saturated fats. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting saturated fats to less than seven percent of daily caloric intake. Trans fats should be limited to less than one percent of total calories.

Splurge: Fatty Fish

4 / 7 Splurge: Fatty Fish

Our bodies need healthy fats to survive. Unsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna and mackerel, promote the function of many of our body’s systems, including the heart and nervous system. But that’s not all—although research is inconclusive, some literature suggests omega-3s may help ease depression, a condition that affects 50 to 60 percent of people with MS. But too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing. Only about 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories should be from fat, so swap unhealthy saturated fats for better-for-you unsaturated fats.

Purge: Sugary Foods and Drinks

5 / 7 Purge: Sugary Foods and Drinks

Added sugar, found in soda, fruit drinks, candy bars and baked treats, is on the list of foods to avoid with MS. The recommended limit of sugar consumption for anyone is about 100 to 150 calories per day. Sugar adds no nutritional value to your diet and may result in a drastic rise and fall in your blood sugar—a crash that only exacerbates MS-related fatigue. What makes baked goods so bad for people with MS? In addition to sugar, they’re loaded with trans fats and saturated fats like butter, cream and certain vegetable oils. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, opt for a piece of whole fruit.

Splurge: Beans and Legumes

6 / 7 Splurge: Beans and Legumes

Our bodies rely on protein to repair and rebuild cells. There is animal-based protein, which comes from meats, poultry and fish. And then there’s plant-based protein, found in foods like soy, beans and other legumes. These foods pack a double whammy of good nutrition: Not only are beans and legumes low in fat and packed with protein, they’re also rich in fiber. Fiber and protein help keep you fuller longer and allow your body to function properly. Per half-cup serving, black beans contain 7 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein; tofu contains 1 gram of fiber and 10 grams of protein; and lentils pack 8 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein.

Splurge: Produce

7 / 7 Splurge: Produce

Fruits and veggies are loaded with vitamins and minerals and should be the cornerstone of any diet. The USDA recommends that adults consume between 1 and 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day. Fruits and veggies also deliver a healthy dose of good-for-you fiber. Antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies like berries, oranges, spinach and beets may also work to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, making them a great choice for people with MS.