Healthy Eating

PBC is a chronic autoimmune liver disease that can progress slowly over time.  Like other chronic diseases, it is important for those with PBC to maintain their overall health to help control disease progression and reduce their risk of complications from other chronic diseases.

Overall health maintenance includes a healthy diet and practicing good eating habits.

A healthy diet is a helpful tool in reducing the risk of developing PBC-associated complications such as osteoporosis, fatty liver, portal hypertension, and heart disease.

When you are diagnosed with PBC, it’s natural to have questions about what food to eat. PBC experts recommend that patients follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly. As each person with PBC is different, there is no single diet that suits everyone. Here are some ideas to help you to determine the best healthy diet for you.

Getting started

Plan ahead

Make a master meal list, plan 7 days of meals and make a grocery list for the week. To keep things simple, make use of leftovers for lunch and plan similar meals for breakfast.

Set goals

Choose one goal at a time to develop a habit around that behaviour. Keep goals SMART: Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Realistic – and Timely.

Keep track of what you are eating

Use a food diary or online tool to log everything you eat for one week. Challenge yourself to set new goals for the following week.

Use the information below to pick 1 or 2 things you can do today to help you plan for healthier meals. Once you feel comfortable with the new changes, come back to this page and choose another healthy eating tip to work on.

Follow Canada’s food guide

Take some time to review Canada’s food guide for meal ideas, grocery tips, and healthy eating habits:

Focus on what you can do!

  • Limit red meat to twice a week or less, and trim fat off all meat before cooking.
  • Snack on nuts in a trail mix with some dried fruits to help meet both your protein and fiber goals.
  • Drink water, milk, and milk alternatives instead of sugary drinks like pop, juice, and specialty coffees.
  • Keep your goals in mind when making your food choices.

Read the label

  1. Serving size: choose the portion that makes     sense for how much you are likely to eat.
  2. Calories: note the amount of energy (calories) your portion provides.
  3. Fat, Fiber, Protein. Sugar, Sodium: aim for low sodium (less than10% of daily value) and low sugar.
  4. Vitamins
  5. Daily Value (DV): 5% or less is too little, 15% or more of DV is a lot.

PBC Dietary needs


Eating enough protein when you have PBC is very important to build and maintain muscle mass and strength, and to maintain immune function.

Tip – A quick tip to helping you meet your protein goal is to make sure you eat a source of protein at every meal and most snacks.


Fiber helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and good bowel health, control blood sugars, and helps in maintaining a healthy body weight. Fiber also feeds good bacteria in our bowels – which plays a role in reducing inflammation and disease prevention.

Tip – Include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and legumes in your diet to help make sure you get enough fiber every day.


Dietary fat plays an important role in helping to absorb certain types of vitamins like Vitamin D, E, A, and K, which is very important in later-stage PBC. Dietary fat also plays a role in hormone production and is important for brain function. Unsaturated fats have more nutritional benefit than saturated fats.

Tip – we get healthy, unsaturated fats from oils that are pourable at room temperature.

Calcium and vitamin D

People with PBC are at higher risk of developing low bone mass and osteoporosis.  By eating calcium-rich foods like dairy products, fortified milk alternatives, and canned fish with bones, you can help to keep your bones strong. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from your diet into your blood stream. Most patients with PBC benefit from taking a vitamin D supplement. Talk to your doctor or dietitian for specific supplement advice.

Recommended food sources:

Nutrient Food Source
Protein Milk, yogurt,cheese, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, meal supplements, and protein powders

Whole grain cereals & bread, large flake oatmeal or bran flakes.

Whole wheat or brown pasta & rice

Skins of fruits and vegetables.

Legumes like beans & chickpeas.

Healthy Fats Include fish 2x per week.  Include nuts & seeds, like ground flax in oatmeal, or hemp seeds sprinkled on salads to increase intake of unsaturated fats. Use plant-based oils for cooking, like olive, canola, or avocado oil.
Calcium Dairy milk and fortified plant-based milks, yogurt, cheese, calcium-set tofu; canned fish with bones like salmon or sardines; cooked green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and cabbage. Small amounts are also found in legumes, nuts and seeds.
Vitamin D

We get some vitamin D from dairy products and eggs; however, it can be difficult to meet our needs from diet alone. A vitamin PrD supplement is usually a helpful ally in preventing and treating vitamin D deficiencies.


 Practice healthy eating to live your best life!

PBC Dietary restrictions


Individuals with all forms of liver disease, including PBC, are at risk of developing a condition called portal hypertension – this refers to high blood pressure specifically in the vein that supplies blood flow to the liver. Excess sodium intake contributes to high blood pressure.

Tip – Limit the “3 Ps”:

  • Prepackaged
  • Processed
  • Pickled

Limit packaged, processed, and pickled foods as these foods are usually very high in salt. Also limit the number of meals you eat at restaurants or fast-food establishments.

Do not add salt to boiled foods, rice, and potatoes. Put the saltshaker away. Flavor your foods with spices, herbs, and flavored oils.


Excess sugar intake can cause your liver to store that excess in the form of fat and can lead to liver damage.

Limit your intake of foods that are high in added sugar like baked goods, sweets, jams, jellies, honey and syrups, pop, and juice.

Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks like pop, energy drinks, and fruit juice, and limit what you add to hot drinks like coffee and tea.

Limit intake of desserts and other sweets. Choose plain, or lightly sweetened yogurt, sweetened with fresh or frozen fruits, nuts, and seeds.

Limit your intake of jams and jellies as spreads and choose nut butters instead. Avoid foods with high fructose corn syrup

A registered dietitian can give more specific advice and help you plan meals to achieve your goals. Until then, use this basic meal planning information for guidance. When in doubt, consult with your PBC specialist. For PBC with cirrhosis please refer to the Cirrhosis Nutrition Guide.