Want To Help Your Gallbladder? Here Are The Best And Worst Foods To Eat

At least 25 million Americans have gallstones, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Every year, half a million people get their gallbladder removed. Although you can’t prevent gallbladder disease, you can lower your chances through diet, says clinical counselor Dr. F. Taylor Wootton III.

To keep the small, sensitive organ below your liver, make some conscious diet choices. While some diet “flushes” are advertised as healthy, they may not work. Drinking the right water may save you from surgery later. Check out these best and worst foods for gallbladder health.

Brussels Sprouts Offer More Than Enough Vitamins

Brussels sprouts are wrapped in a plastic bag from a supermarket.
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Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images

Vitamin C is necessary for gallbladder health. Without it, bile will become too cholesterol-heavy, resulting in more stones. During one study of over 13,000 adults, researchers found that people with low vitamin C intake were more likely to get gallbladder disease. This is where brussels sprouts come in.

One cup of brussels sprouts provides 124% of your daily recommended vitamin C. It also supplies plenty of fiber, which can also support gallbladder health over time. Plus, they’re just delicious. Why not eat more brussels sprouts?

Eat Less Fried Food

A man clutches his side due to gallstone pain.

According to HealthLink British Columbia, your risk of gallbladder disease rises if you eat too much fat. Hence, many experts (including Canada’s Food Guide) advise against eating fried foods. When foods are fried, their amount of trans fat increases, which makes them worse than non-fried foods.

In one study, participants who ate fried food four times a week had a 37% higher risk of becoming overweight than those who ate it less than two times a week. Since gallbladder disease can spike from eating unhealthy fats, avoid fried foods.

Steer Clear Of Sugary Beverages

A woman drinks soda in a cafeteria.

Sugary beverages–even artificially sweetened ones–are a danger to your gallbladder. In 2016, Swedish scientists observed 7,000 participants over 13 years. Those who drank two sugary drinks a day had twice the risk of gallbladder cancer.

As a carbohydrate, sugar can seriously heighten the chances of gallbladder disease, according to the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. Rethink the way you drink; remember that juices and diet sodas are still high in sweeteners, artificial or otherwise. You’ll have a much lower risk of gallstones and disease.

Replace White Bread With Wheat Bread

Two slices of white bread are in a ziplock bag against a blue background.
Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Digital Light Source/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Dr. F. Taylor Wootton III, a member of the American Gastroenterological Association, says that high cholesterol is a risk factor for gallstones. The greatest culprits of high cholesterol are white grains: refined bread, rice, and pasta. They offer all carbs with no nutritional benefit.

Plus, white flour has less fiber than whole grains. In Public Health Nutrition, a study found that a high-fiber diet lowers a person’s risk of gallbladder disease. Meanwhile, simple sugars–such as those found in white bread–heighten your risk.

Lemon “Flushes” Don’t Work

A full lemon and water fall into a glass.

A trend of gallstone “flushes” has proposed a natural remedy for removing gallstones. According to one recipe, lemon juice mixed with Epsom salts can help gallstones “pass” through your body. Yes, lemon has enough vitamin C to help the gallbladder; but these “flushes” don’t have enough scientific backing.

In 2005, researchers conducted a test on lemon and olive oil flushes. They concluded that gallstones are not removed this way. In the Alternative Medicine Review, researchers added that passing gallstones are very rare. While lemons can help, they don’t cure gallbladder problems.

Tea Doesn’t Help, But It Doesn’t Hurt, Either

Two friends talk over tea.

Although some health websites promote peppermint tea as a remedy for gallstones, research doesn’t back up this claim. In 2003, researchers analyzed the impact of caffeinated drinks on the gallbladder. While coffee decreased the risk of disease, green tea has no effect.

Twelve years later, another study in Molecular and Clinical Oncology noted the same results. After reviewing 47 studies, researchers concluded that tea does not influence the risk of gallbladder cancer. In short, it doesn’t hurt your gallbladder, but it doesn’t help, either.

Down Some Mineral Water

A man holds out a bottle of mineral water.

Drinking water rehydrates bile in the gallbladder, which prevents the formation of stones. However, some mineral waters support the gallbladder more, specifically bicarbonate-alkaline water. In the 2012 European Journal of Nutrition, researchers said that mineral water helps the gallbladder empty. When the gallbladder empties frequently, bile doesn’t stagnate or crystallize into stones.

Earlier research in Minerva Medica said that mineral water reduces the volume of the gallbladder. Researchers suggest that bicarbonate-alkaline water can lower the risk of biliary lithiasis, which is a disease of the gallbladder.

Lay Off On The Chili Pepper

A spoon holds red chili pepper flakes.
Flickr/Alessandro Giangiulio
Flickr/Alessandro Giangiulio

Spicy foods can worsen parts of the body that are already inflamed, and chili peppers are no exception. In 2011, research in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention found a strong correlation between chili peppers and gallbladder cancer. An early study in 2002 reported the same correlation.

However, some experts believe that it isn’t the spice that harms the gallbladder, but spicy snacks. Sabrena Noria, an assistant professor of surgery at Ohio State University, says that spicy snacks are usually high in fact and cholesterol–both of which hurt your gallbladder.

Yes, Your Morning Cup Of Coffee Helps!

A man drinks a latte while sitting by the lake.

Recent research has suggested that coffee can combat gallstones. In 2019, Danish scientists discovered that drinking six cups of coffee per day reduces your chances of gallstones by 23%. For the average person who drinks two cups a day, your risk goes down by 3%.

In 2013, Nigerian researchers indicated that coffee might protect the gallbladder. A morning cup of joe releases chemicals that stimulate both the gallbladder and intestinal activity. That keeps the gallbladder running smoothly, preventing buildup that could develop into painful stones.

Pop Some Peanuts

One open peanut sits among a pile.

Some may think that peanuts harm the gallbladder due to their high amount of fat. However, peanuts contain “healthy fats,” which help your body in the long run. During a Harvard study, participants who ate five ounces of peanuts weekly had a 30% lower risk of gallstones. That’s around 28 peanuts over five days.

Further research in Nutrition & Food Science saw the same result with peanut butter. Participants who ate one tablespoon of peanut butter per day had a far smaller risk of gallstones than those who didn’t.

Two Eggs Are Too Many

A chef pours eggs onto a stove to cook.
Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images
Pradeep Gaur/Mint via Getty Images

In 2015, research in the Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition listed eggs as an unhealthy food for the gallbladder. Why? One yolk contains 200 mg of cholesterol, which is well known to harm the gallbladder. For perspective, the FDA recommends less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.

While recent studies on eggs and gallstones are sparse, research from 1972 found a strong correlation in animal studies. Animals on an egg yolk diet received gallstones faster than those who weren’t. If you’re worried about cholesterol, eat egg whites instead of the yolk.

Peel More Oranges

Peeled oranges sit on a wooden cutting board.
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A medium-sized orange supplies 85% of your daily recommended vitamin C, which is crucial for your gallbladder. In 2009, a German study in BMC Gastroenterology found that regularly eating vitamin C cuts your risk of gallstones in half.

In 2000, earlier research analyzed over 13,000 participants. They also learned that vitamin C protects the body against gallbladder stones. One of the authors, Dr. Joel A. Simon, encouraged eating more vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables. So pick up some oranges during your next trip to the store!

Say “No” To Fatty Meats

A chef flips bacon on the grill.
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NYCWFF
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Those who have gallbladder complications or infections need to avoid foods with high fat. Since the gallbladder converts fats into bile, eating extra fat places a lot of strain on the organ. Unhealthy gallbladder meat includes sausages, beef burgers, processed meat, and corned beef, according to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals.

Cleveland Clinic reports that you shouldn’t eat over 60 grams of fat per day. To keep your meals gallbladder-happy, remove the visible fat from beef and the skin from chicken before cooking.

Drizzle More Olive Oil

A person pours olive oil into a teaspoon to drizzle over vegetables.
Whitney Hayward/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Whitney Hayward/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

In 2019, researchers reported that a moderate olive oil intake–just two tablespoons per day–lowers a person’s chance of gallstones. Olive oil contains a natural substance called lecithin, which prevents cholesterol from solidifying in the gallbladder. In short, olive oil stops the stones from forming.

The healthy fats in olive oil could help, too. In 2004, research in the Annals of Internal Medicine mentioned that unsaturated fats reduce the risk of gallstones by 18%. Olive oil supplies monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which may help your gallbladder over time.

Rejoice With Radishes

A pile of radishes are on sale at a supermarket.
Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images
Artyom GeodakyanTASS via Getty Images

The gallbladder stores bile, a fluid that helps the body digest fats. In terms of gallbladder health, any food that aids bile will support the organ. According to the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, radishes help this organ release its bile. The result is better digestion and gallbladder health.

Registered nurse Jordan Knowlton adds that radishes contain many vitamins vital to gallbladder health. These include vitamins C, A, E, and B6, all of which may dissolve gallstones. You can’t go wrong eating more of this vegetable!

For Your Gallbladder, Avoid Low-Fat Yogurt

A woman eats yogurt in a pool.
François DUCASSE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
François DUCASSE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Is yogurt healthy? Yes, but too much of it can irritate your gallbladder. “Yogurt with active cultures can irritate the stomach, so it’s best to avoid dairy for gallbladder health,” says naturopathic doctor Tara Nayak. However, you don’t have to avoid yogurt completely.

According to Kaiser Permanente, low-fat yogurts can fit into a healthy gallbladder diet. Choose nonfat or low-fat variety with less than five grams of fat, they say. As with any food, limit your portion sizes, and your gallbladder will thank you.

Replace Full-Fat Milk With Low-Fat Milk

A person pours milk into a glass.

In 2017, research in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews said that less fat reduces your risk of gallstones. Since bile in the gallbladder breaks down fat, too much of it can overwhelm the organ. To easily reduce fat, Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology recommends choosing low-fat milk.

According to Siegelbaum, the best dairy for your gallbladder includes low-fat milk or skim milk. Avoid whole milk and cream regularly. Remember, the risk of gallbladder disease is higher for those who are overweight.

Want Red Meat? Think Twice About It

Raw red meat is for sale.
Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Gallstones are made of cholesterol. Although bile already contains cholesterol, consuming too much will encourage stones to develop, says Cleveland Clinic. Unfortunately, fatty red meat is well-known for raising cholesterol. Summit Medical Group recommends limiting red meat for your gallbladder health.

Oddly enough, white meat has the same impact on cholesterol as red meat, according to a 2019 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. But this only happens when the saturated fats levels are equal, and red meat usually has much more saturated fat.

Hard Cheeses Give You A Hard Time

Workers carve cheese wheels.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Just as a gallbladder-healthy diet includes low-fat milk, it also encourages low-fat cheeses, says Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology. Hard cheeses have more fat than soft cheeses. The National Health Services advises against hard cheeses if you want to support your gallbladder.

Registered dietitian and nutritionist Sara Haas recommends feta, mozzarella, and goat cheeses for healthy low-fat options. For the occasional hard cheese, use Parmesan or cheddar, as these provide flavor even with a small amount. As with all healthy diets, moderation is key.

Buckwheat, Better Than Soy And Whole Wheat Combined

A shopper holds a plastic bag of buckwheat in a supermarket.
Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images
Yuri SmityukTASS via Getty Images

Buckwheat is a whole grain that provides more protein, fiber, and vitamins than other grains. In The Journal of Nutrition, researchers stated that buckwheat suppresses gallstones more effectively than soy. By lowering cholesterol and enhancing bile acid, buckwheat helps gallbladder health.

In 2006, another study in Nutrition came to the same conclusion. Buckwheat flour reduced the number of gallstones in rats. You can thank the fiber, vitamins, and nutrients in buckwheat that support gallbladder health. You can even buy buckwheat protein powders and milk for some more protein.