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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 their symptoms if they are FODMAP-related.

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 FODMAPs  at 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.
  • Tempeh and tofu are made from soybeans. While whole soybeans aren't suitable, these products are lower in FODMAPs due to the way they are processed.
  • 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.

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!

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.

Aside from protein, many of the other trendy foods that vegans are eating today have not been analyzed for their FODMAP content, including nutritional yeast, ground flax/linseed, hemp products, pea protein products, and so on. Some of these are likely to be high in FODMAPs. Vegan products based on plant-based oils, such as margarines, spread, and mayonnaise-type products are likely to be low in FODMAPs. All oils are low-FODMAP, including coconut, flax, soybean, nut oils, and seed oils. See my post on "FODMAP status unknown" foods for more information.