Healthy Living

Cystic Fibrosis: 10 Must-Have Foods

Cystic Fibrosis: 10 Must-Have Foods

Cystic Fibrosis: 10 Must-Have Foods


People who have cystic fibrosis usually also have trouble with building and maintaining muscle mass. By increasing the amount of protein consumed and regular exercising, it's easier to preserve and build muscle mass. It takes a lot of energy for people with CF to fight infections and breathe.

Digestive problems with fat and protein can mean that there are less nutrients being passed through the body. The most common cause of loss of muscle mass are a lack of protein and fat. Other causes include hormonal changes, oral corticosteroids, and chronic inflammation.

It is crucial for people with CF to preserve as much muscle mass as possible because it helps lung and muscle function, lower the number and duration of hospital stays, increases quality of life and survival rates, and leads to less bone loss.

While there are no official recommendations on how much protein individuals should get, experts agree that those with CF should try to get at least 1.5 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight for each day and more when symptoms are worse.

For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, you should:

  1. Determine your weight in kilograms by dividing your weight in pounds (100) by 2.2 to get 45 kilograms;
  2. Multiply your weight in kilograms (45) by 1.5 to find out how much protein you should be getting in grams to get 30.

The exact amount of protein you need will depend on the state of your current health, your dietitian’s recommendations, the impairment of your protein digestion, and the efficiency level of any enzymes you may be taking for digestion.


If you have CF, you need additional calories. Although you may be taking enzymes, you still probably are able to use the majority of the energy that you consume because your enzymes will not be able to break down every single bit that you eat and you will probably have trouble absorbing nutrients.

It takes a lot of calories to fight infections and cough on a regular basis. By maintaining or increasing your weight to a healthy level, you can be best equipped to fight infections and keep your body and lungs strong.

The following facts highlight some of the nutritional needs of increasing calories:

  • Women who have CF generally need to consume about 2,500 calories each day to maintain their weight and about 3,000 calories each day to gain weight.
  • Men who have CF generally need about 3,000 calories each day to maintain their weight and about 3,700 calories each day to gain weight.
  • Individuals with CF need to take enzymes and consume enough fat in order to benefit from fat-soluble vitamins.
  • Individuals with CF might need to increase the dosage of their enzymes if they experience greasy, bulky stools.
  • If a woman with CF is trying to get pregnant or is pregnant, she should take a prenatal vitamin in addition to an additional 300 calories or more once pregnant.


Because people with CF have a difficult time absorbing fat, they often also have a hard time absorbing vitamins that are fat-soluble, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins require fat to be absorbed in order for them to be absorbed and are all essential for optimal nutrition and healthy growth.

People with CF also require water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins C and B-complex (biotin, folic acid, and pantothenic acid). Water-soluble vitamins are easily absorbed by water and then washed out when people sweat or urinate. Because water-soluble vitamins are washed out so easily, people with CF need to find ways to get the proper amounts daily.

In addition to eating plenty of calories and protein, you dietician or physician may recommend you take a vitamin supplement. Not all vitamin supplements are equal, so you should check with your care team before taking any.


People with CF may have a difficult time achieving a state of good lung health through nutrition by maintaining a balance of oxidants (toxic chemicals that kill invaders and may damage cells) and antioxidants (chemicals that control oxidants and protect the lungs from damage).

Those with CF are exposed to oxidants more often than those without. High levels of inflammation in the airways can lead to an extra production of oxidants that could cause damage to the lungs. Lung infections, such as the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa, may also lead to more oxidants.

If the digestive system is functioning normally, a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and vitamin supplements (as recommended by your dietician) can boost the number of antioxidants that your body produces.


Minerals, such as calcium, iron, sodium, and zinc, play important roles in maintaining your health. People who have CF may be losing more minerals than they are using and are often quite deficient in essential minerals.

Calcium: Calcium is essential for building strong bones and teeth, keeping nerves and muscles working correctly, and in helping your blood clot. When you are deficient in calcium from your diet or vitamins, your body will try to take the calcium it needs from your bones. When your bones lose too much calcium, they are at a greater risk of getting broken during regular activities or coughing.

Iron: Iron is essential for carrying oxygen to the cells inside your body from your lungs. When you don't have enough iron in your blood cells, you can become anemic, leaving you feeling cold, dizzy, tired, and irritable.

Sodium Chloride (Salt): Salt is crucial for helping your body maintain its balance of fluids. By maintain your body's fluid balance, water is kept where it needs to be. Salt can also help muscles contract. People with CF have a difficult time maintaining salt levels because they tend to sweat more often than people without CF. This lack of adequate salt can lead to headaches, nausea, muscle cramps, weakness, stomach pain, and lack of appetite.

Zinc: Zinc is essential for several important functions of the body, including growth, and appetite. Zinc also helps your body find infections, heal wounds, and release vitamin A from your liver into your blood. People with CF need extra zinc to avoid complications with pulmonary function and bone disease.

Top 10 Foods for People with CF

The following foods are recommended by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for individuals with CF, but should not be consumed without first consulting with your physician or dietitian.