Guide for Vegetarians and vegans on the low-FODMAP diet
Eating vegetarian may be a religious lifestyle or other choice, and people who follow a vegetarian diet can indeed eat flavorful and exciting foods. It’s important to ensure that any vegetarian diet provides all the nutrients required daily for good health. A vegetarian meal is not simply a plate of meat and three vegetables with the meat taken off. Such a meal would be lacking in protein, vitamin B12, and other essential nutrients such as iron and zinc.
A carefully constructed plant-based diet can be healthy, but it does require some extra planning. Vegetarians, and particularly vegans, need to be careful about getting enough protein and other nutrients, so should include a wide range of nutritious foods and supplements to provide essential nutrients, some of which, like vitamin B12, occur only in animal foods.
Vegetarians and vegans can eat well on a low-FODMAP diet, but it requires careful planning. A variety of plant-based proteins contain FODMAPs (such as whole wheat, barley, legumes, and certain nuts and soy foods). Vegetarians and vegans who do not tolerate these FODMAPs may be at risk of not meeting their daily protein needs. If you are vegetarian, you may eat eggs and dairy foods (lactose-free or low-lactose if necessary).
Low FODMAP Vegetables for Vegans
Select from the low-FODMAP vegetables Below:
- dark-green leafy vegetables – spinach, chard, bok choy, choy sum
- orange-yellow vegetables – carrots, sweet potato, squash (restrict butternut)
- starchy vegetables – potato, sweet potato, parsnip
- others – beans, lettuce, zucchini, bell pepper, rutabaga, turnips, cucumber, eggplant.
Low FODMAP Fruits for Vegans
- Lemons / limes
Protein on Veggie Low FodMap
In a vegetarian diet, legumes (e.g., chickpeas, various dried beans, lentils, lupins and soybeans) are often major sources of protein. While on the low-FODMAP diet, particularly in the first step, these foods are restricted.
If you are vegan and intolerant to legumes and soy-based foods, you may find it difficult to meet your daily protein needs. Nuts and seeds, cereal products based on high-protein grains and cereals, and protein-enriched milk alternatives will be your best protein sources. Make a conscious effort to eat them in sufficient quantities.
Otherwise, you can be sure of meeting your protein needs by consuming nuts and seeds, suitable soy products such as tofu and tempeh, cereal products based on high-protein, low-FODMAP grains and cereals, and protein-enriched milk alternatives. Provided you do not need to be gluten-free, you can also incorporate seitan (a vegan meat substitute made of vital wheat gluten) into your diet. Because it is made entirely of protein, it does not contain the problematic FODMAP carbohydrates.
Alternative low-FODMAP vegetarian sources of protein are listed below and may be sufficiently varied for you in the first step.
Protein-rich vegetarian foods and beverages
- lactose-free milk products
- lactose-free milk-based products such as hard cheeses
- nuts – macadamia, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts
- Seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower
- nut and/or seed spreads
- soy milks made from soybean extract or soy protein
- tofu, miso and tempeh
- protein-enriched rice, oat or quinoa milks
- whole grains, e.g., brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa
- Some canned legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas
- Quinoa and rice
Vegan PROTEIN Tips
- Eat nuts (except pistachios and cashews) and seeds daily, nibbling them as a snack or enjoying nut or seed spreads such as peanut butter and tahini.
- Choose low-FODMAP milk substitutes such as protein-enriched rice, oat, and quinoa milks.
- Choose foods such as pasta, breakfast cereals, and breads made from whole grain, high-protein ingredients such as quinoa and chia.
- If you do not follow a gluten-free diet, try seitan (vital wheat gluten). Because it is made up exclusively of protein, it does not contain any FODMAPs.
- You may be able to tolerate well-rinsed canned lentils or chickpeas (up to ¼ cup) better than dried beans, due to their lower FODMAP content.
- If you cannot tolerate legumes, include the better tolerated soy products such as soy milk made from soybean extract, textured vegetable protein, and tofu.
- If you eat dairy, include milk and yogurt (lactose-free if necessary) and cheese.
- If you eat eggs, eat at least two servings per week.
In the second step, you can continue to enjoy the high-protein foods listed above and also try to include small amounts of legumes and lentils in your diet (because of their nutritional importance), up to your symptom threshold. Lentils contain fewer FODMAPs than legume beans and chickpeas; a half cup of cooked, drained lentils contains fewer amounts of GOS and fructans compared with other legumes. You might find that you can manage your symptoms by being stricter in cutting out other FODMAP food sources so that you can “fit” these nutritious foods within your threshold.
Vegetarians should also ensure they have an adequate intake of iron and zinc. Good vegetarian sources of iron and zinc include eggs, quinoa, brown rice, leafy green vegetables and nuts. Iron from plant sources is called non-heme iron, and is not absorbed as well by the body. Try to have a food containing vitamin C with your non-heme-iron foods to optimize iron absorption. A special note for vegans on a low-FODMAP diet:
- It is recommended to consult a registered dietitian if you wish to follow a vegan low-FODMAP diet. Without professional advice, it may be difficult to ensure you have an adequate intake of vitamin B12 and protein, and to maintain your energy levels.
- Vegans should consult with their doctors to discuss B12 supplements/injections, as B12 is only present in animal-derived foods (lacto-ovo vegetarians can get vitamin B12 from eggs and dairy products).
LEGUMES AND SOY PRODUCTS
In a vegetarian or vegan diet, GOS and fructans are often consumed in large quantities as a key source of protein. These may include chickpeas, beans (adzuki, black, butter, cannellini, fava, great northern, kidney, lima, lupini, navy, pinto, and mung), edamame (soybeans), and lentils.
Certain soy foods, including tofu, tempeh, and miso, are low-FODMAP because of how they are processed. In addition, soy milk, yogurt, and cheese are usually well tolerated when made from soybean extract, rather than the whole soybean. We suggest that you include soy products in your diet for their nutritional importance, and monitor your tolerance to them. In other words, you need to determine your own threshold of tolerance. If you can tolerate these, you can include soy and other legumes.
If you are an ovo-lacto vegetarian and intolerant to legumes and soy-based foods, you will be able to avoid them without compromising your protein intake by consuming adequate amounts of milk- and egg-based foods.
Meat to Veggie Fodmap Swaps
Try these basic MEAT to Veggie swaps:
- For meat or seafood: firm or extra firm tofu (pressed, if desired, for at least 15 minutes between paper towels and plates with extra weight on top); cubed or crumbled tempeh (steamed, if desired, for 10 to 20 minutes); homemade or store-bought onion-free, garlic-free seitan (note: contains gluten); Quorn™ chik’n tenders or grounds (note: contains gluten; unsuitable for vegans)
- For eggs: 1 tablespoon psyllium husk, ground flaxseeds, or chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons water; commercial egg replacer; mashed banana (in some baked goods)
- For milk: soy milk made from soybean extract; unsweetened almond milk; rice milk; coconut milk
- For butter: soy-free vegan “butter” or vegetable shortening; vegetable oil including coconut oil; nut butters or mashed banana (in baking)
- For cheese: pureed squash or sweet potato (for creaminess); crushed nuts or seeds and their butters (for taste, texture, and protein); dairy-free, soy-free vegan cheese
- For yogurt: soy yogurt made from soybean extract; almond yogurt; coconut yogurt
- For gelatin: vegan gelatin; agar or carrageenan seaweed
VEGETARIANS AND VEGANS LOW FODMAP with IBS
IBS can affect anyone, including vegetarians and vegans. And the low-FODMAP diet can be complicated for those who avoid meat and other animal products since beans are one of the most popular forms of nonanimal protein. Most beans are forbidden during the strict phase of the low-FODMAP diet, but there are other ways for vegetarians and vegans to get the protein they need.
If you’re a pescetarian, fish will provide you with protein, and if you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you can get protein from eggs and low-lactose milk products. Vegans, however, face more of a challenge.
If you’re vegan, stick to small amounts of legumes, like canned lentils and chickpeas. Just be sure to limit yourself to the serving size, recommended by your dietitian or the Monash App, and spread your legume consumption over the day in order to keep your overall FODMAP load low. (And make sure the rest of your meal is strictly low-FODMAP, too.)