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FODMAPs for Vegans

Vegans eat foods from plant sources only. No animal products whatsoever are consumed. Uh-oh, I see trouble ahead from the get-go. In my experience, people with IBS who adopt a plant-based diet can expect to have more trouble with FODMAP-related symptoms.

Is it difficult to get enough protein on a vegan diet without triggering your IBS symptoms?

Is it difficult to get enough protein on a vegan diet without triggering your IBS symptoms?

Many vegan pantry staples are high in FODMAPs. (certain sugars and certain fibers in the diet capable of causing excess gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation for people with IBS). The main problem for vegans is getting enough protein without consuming too many oligosaccharides (fibers found in beans, nuts, and seeds). With the exception of oils, the only foods that are guaranteed to have no FODMAPsat all are animal products: meat, fish, poultry, shellfish, and eggs. These foods have zero carbohydrates and therefore zero FODMAPs. So it is immediately apparent that the vegan has far fewer suitable protein sources to choose from on the elimination phase of the diet.

Protein needs vary from one person to the next, depending on your age, size and state of health.  Most adult women need a minimum of 46 grams of protein, and adult men need a minimum of 56 grams of protein, but individual needs vary. Protein is a top priority, essential nutrient, and you should not skimp on it in order to eat a low-FODMAP diet, even if you have IBS. Take the time to plan and eat enough low-FODMAP protein sources, or modify the elimination phase of the diet as needed. As you go forward to the reintroduction phase of the diet and beyond, you might find you have to reserve a lot of your capacity for FODMAPs to meet your protein needs, while limiting less essential high FODMAP foods as needed to manage symptoms. If there is any question of getting enough protein, or if you need help figuring out how many grams of protein you should be eating, consult a dietitian nutritionist for a nutrition assessment.

What are some good lower-FODMAP vegan protein sources? Here are some ideas:

  • Of the legumes, small portions (1/2 cup) of canned, drained chickpeas and lentils are likely to be the lowest in FODMAPs. Use them on the elimination phase of the diet if you are a vegan.
  • Boiled, drained red lentils, chana dal and urad dal are also low-FODMAP in 1/2 cup portions.
  • Tempeh and firm tofu are made from soybeans. While whole soybeans aren't suitable, these products are lower in FODMAPs due to the way they are processed. Silken tofu, however, is not low-FODMAP.
  • Nuts, small portions (2 tablespoons) are suitable. Avoid pistachios and cashews, though, even in limited portions they don't work on a low-FODMAP diet.
  • Seeds, small portions (2 tablespoons) are suitable for the elimination phase of the diet. They vary quite a bit in their protein content. Chia seeds are a good choice.
  • Grains and grain products such as quinoa, corn, wheat-free breads and cereals make small contributions to your protein intake and are suitable on the elimination phase of the diet.
  • "Pea protein powder" in general has been analyzed by the FODMAP lab and has been given a green light in the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app. I have concerns about whether any old pea protein powder off the shelf will really be low in FODMAPs. I'd suggest waiting on this until specific brands of protein powder are analyzed and certified low FODMAP.

Don't expect alternative milks such as rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk beverage and others to provide protein. They usually have little or no protein in them. Soy milk is a little higher in protein, but most brands are not suitable for a low-FODMAP diet. Visit me at Pinterest for soy milk product ideas.

The USDA Nutrient Database for standard reference is a great tool for learning about the nutrient composition of food. You can look up the number of grams of protein in your favorite foods!