Your Guide to Low FODMAP Diet and Recipes
No more pain in the gut! The doc says you or a loved one has a gut disorder? Here's how to eat your way to better health.
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Low FODMAP Fish Chowder by Fodmap Everyday
According to Monash University in Australia, 15% of people across the world are affected by IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a chronic disease that’s … well, a pain in the gut.
This statistic means one in seven of us has experienced recurrent abdominal pain associated with gastrointestinal issues. These may include gas build-up and flatulence, bloating, constipation, cramping, diarrhea, and other uncomfortable unpleasantness such as bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) that can even affect the small intestine. On top of that, 3 million Americans suffer from IBD, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Although there’s no cure for these diseases, the good news is that sufferers can eat their way to better health. The solution starts with identifying their trigger foods following a temporary diet called low FODMAP.
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What is FODMAP?
Scientifically, FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. All of these are short-chain polysaccharides (carbohydrates) that are fermented by gut bacteria … which is just a polite way of saying food that, in some folks, causes a whole lot of gastrointestinal upset. A low FODMAP diet is one that avoids these foods.
What should you not eat on the FODMAP diet?
Wheat, rye, and barley, which contain fructans (large molecules of fructose — fruit sugar — that is found in many plants, not just fruit); also coconut flour
Dairy products containing lactose, including milk, ice cream, and yogurt, and soft cheeses like cottage, cream, and ricotta
Legumes and pulses (beans and lentils), which tend to be high in galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS, non-digestible complex carbohydrates)
Vegetables with fructans and mannitol (a type of carbohydrate), like artichokes, asparagus, beets, butternut squash, cauliflower, celery, chicory, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, shallots, snow peas or peas of any kind, and sweet potatoes
Fruit with high concentrations of sorbitol (a sugar alcohol that’s also in some artificial sweeteners) and fructose, such as apricots, apples, blackberries, cherries, dried fruit, figs, fruit juices, mangoes, peaches, pears, plums, and watermelon
Sugars and sweeteners that include fructose, like honey, agave nectar, or high fructose corn syrup
Sugar-free products that are polyols, such as erythritol, sorbitol, and xylitol, and any of the –ols
Cashews and pistachios, which have more GOS and fructans than other nuts
Certain fiber-boosting ingredients like inulin and chicory
What can you eat on a FODMAP diet?
It may seem intimidating to cut out so many items, but not to worry — there are plenty of low FODMAP foods that you can still enjoy. Go to town on:
Plain cooked meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, and soy-based products like tofu or tempeh
Wheat-free, rye-free, barley-free, and gluten-free grain foods like corn (in small quantities), millet, oats, quinoa, rice, spelt, and tapioca
Almond milk, rice milk, and soy milk
Butter, hard cheeses, brie, cheddar, and feta cheese
Lactose- or dairy-free ice creams that don’t use the above sweeteners
Sparing use of natural sweeteners like granulated sugar, maple syrup, molasses, rice syrup, stevia, and dark chocolate, and the artificial sweeteners aspartame, saccharin, and sucrose
Vegetables including bean sprouts, bok choy, bell peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts (in low to moderate amounts), cabbage, carrots, chives, choy sum, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, kale, lettuce, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, and zucchini
Fruits including avocados (in moderate amounts), semi-ripe bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, grapes, kiwi, limes, oranges, papaya, pineapple, rhubarb, and strawberries
Nuts including macadamias, peanuts, pepitas, and walnuts
Oils, including avocado oil, canola oil, coconut oil, and olive oil
A dietitian weighs in: One size does not fit all
A common misconception is that a low FODMAP diet is a long-term solution. However, the truth is that it’s a temporary, diagnostic elimination diet. This is great news, as Casey McCoy, MPH, RDN points out. “It's completely unrealistic to eliminate all high FODMAP foods forever — there are so many foods on that list!”
Rather, the goal is to identify foods that have negative effects on one’s personal gut biome. McCoy explains, “Everyone's body is different, so IBS treatments are individualized. Someone with IBS might be fine with dairy but not be able to eat legumes — someone else might have a big problem with dairy but onions are fine. That's why it's not one size fits all.
“But because IBS is a functional gut disorder — which means it doesn't involve any physical changes to the gut like strictures or damage — it’s also diagnosed usually by a process of elimination,” McCoy elaborates. “Usually, doctors will test for other conditions, such as celiac, Crohn’s, lactose intolerance, etc., and if all those come up negative then you would get a diagnosis of IBS. When patients with IBS are sent to me, their providers have usually already discussed low FODMAP interventions. Ultimately, the person will have a list of trigger foods and safe foods, which can really help with peace of mind when eating, as anxiety around food can be a trigger on its own for gastrointestinal distress.”
Who should try the FODMAP diet
Basically, people who exhibit symptoms or have been diagnosed with IBS or IBD may find a low FODMAP eating plan beneficial, and research indicates relief for up to 86% of those who try it.
Typically, this experiment should be undertaken under the advisement of a medical professional and with a registered dietitian, since “an RD can help identify which components of the diet may be triggering and work with you to find alternatives without prescribing anything restrictive,” McCoy says. “We would also likely recommend keeping a food journal along with tracking symptom severity and onset to learn more about patterns.” This can be a life-changer for those who suffer from digestive disorders.
Who should not try the FODMAP diet
On the other hand, McCoy advises, “Because of how restrictive it is, low FODMAP diets are not recommended for folks with eating disorders, even though GI issues are common for this group.”
Therefore, it’s important for patients to be transparent with their medical doctors “so that they have a good sense of their patient’s relationship with food before they recommend more restriction,” McCoy cautions. Instead, McCoy’s suggestion is to consider a Gentle FODMAP plan to eliminate only the top ten trigger foods, and to work with a registered dietitian to create a custom plan.
How to start a low FODMAP diet
There are two phases of FODMAP diets: elimination and reintroduction. The first part of the process takes at least two and no more than six weeks. In McCoy’s experience, patients should start to see improvement by two weeks. “If they don’t, they should stop. It means their symptoms are not related to high FODMAP foods.”
The second phase is a slow, single-ingredient reintroduction. “I like to start with foods that are staples in their diet like wheat or dairy, starting small, and going up slowly,” McCoy says. “Usually, I do this one week at a time. For example, on Day 1, start with a small slice of bread. Wait a day, try again. Wait another day and try it in larger quantities. This can help the patient see if they have a threshold before symptoms arise or if it's a ‘safe’ food.”
This time-consuming step is important to do in silos for clearer-cut determination if a food item is a gut offender for the individual or not. After that, you’ll know what you can and cannot eat in the long term and be able to get back to enjoying food without fear.
Low FODMAP recipes
As you work with a health care practitioner and dietitian on your own low FODMAP diet plan, here are some of the best low FODMAP recipes to cook to help you feel better sooner.
Low FODMAP breakfast recipes
Starting the most important meal of the day on track is a great way to set the tone for following low FODMAP guidelines. Here are some ideas to get you started.
If you’re a fan of savory breakfasts, you’re in luck. This healthy and filling frittata does not include high-FODMAP ingredients like onions and mushrooms that you need to avoid, but loads up on gut-friendly spinach, eggs, and Parmesan.
Start the first day of your new diet with a sizzle! This easy recipe is indulgent, hearty, and rich, making you easily forget that you’re on any kind of restriction at all.
Did you think you’d have to give up baked goods to go FODMAP-friendly? An easy cheat is to go gluten-free and Paleo! This tasty recipe uses almond flour and arrowroot flour instead of all-purpose flour, with a little xanthum gum to hold them together, plus maple syrup and coconut oil.
Bet you didn’t see this one coming! Using gluten-free flour puts this recipe on the safe foods list. You can swap other berry jams for strawberry in the filling, too, but just make sure it’s real sugar and not a low-calorie swap in the ingredients.
Low FODMAP main dish recipes
Believe it or not, you still have a lot of options for fantastic, filling entrees, even when following the restrictive guidelines of this elimination diet. These recipes make it easy to stick to it!
One of the best things about this recipe is that it already traditionally calls for gluten-free noodles, so there’s no feeling of sacrifice in the dish. Instead of garlic, which isn’t allowed on a FODMAP diet, it calls for garlic chives (substitute regular chives if they’re not available). You’ll want to track down a gluten-free oyster sauce so you don’t have to miss out on that flavor-packing ingredient.
You don’t need a lot of fuss or frou-frou to make chicken great if you get good quality meat, pay attention to the skin, and let simple seasonings take the lead.
We have the whole gluten-free movement to thank for recipes like this, where almond flour steps in for breadcrumbs without missing a beat. Just check your ketchup for garlic and enjoy with a FODMAP-friendly-sized portion of white (not sweet!) potatoes and veggies.
Celery is actually considered high-FODMAP in quantity, but low in this portion size. You can omit if you like, since it’s really the tomatoes, spinach, bacon, and cheeses that star. Best of all, red wine is low FODMAP when it’s only a glass, so go ahead and have one from the bottle you’ll open for this entrée.
When you choose a recipe like this one, that means fewer ingredients to check for FODMAP restrictions. This simple but fancy recipe offers plenty of punch using only a handful of bold, concentrated flavors. It’s low-carb, low-calorie, and gluten-free, too.
Deep, savory flavors make this salmon stand out and just might become your go-to East-meets-West recipe. Feel free to use the green tops of scallions, but discard the white bulbs, which are the part of the vegetable that contains fructans.
Low FODMAP salads and soups
What’s better than a soup and salad meal to make you feel instantly like you’re doing your body good? These recipes go from intuition to truth, with low FODMAP components that will help your belly feel full and healthy.
Rejoice! A classic wedge salad is actually delightfully low in FODMAPs, and a perfect side for a nice hunk of FODMAP-friendly grilled steak or chicken. Aged cheeses, including blue, are low in sugar and lactose, and the homemade dressing is based on lactose-free sour cream and yogurt … the good news keeps on coming with this side!
A delightful medley of tastes and textures, this summery salad is easily adaptable into a main dish with the simple addition of a protein. Not only is this salad negligible in FODMAPs, it’s also chock-full of heart-healthy ingredients.
Soothe that suffering belly with this healthy, rich soup that packs plenty of anti-inflammatory power into every spoonful. You can opt for lactose-free Greek yogurt to finish it off, or skip it if you don’t care for that added zip.
Did you think that rich, creamy soups were out of rotation in your elimination diet? This recipe is set to prove you wrong with the simple switches of lactose-free cream instead of regular whipping cream, and the green part of the leek instead of the white (but be sure to finely chop it, as it can be fibrous).
Explore more healthy cooking options
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