When people talk about a vegan low-FODMAP diet, or really any low-FODMAP diet, the dialogue tends to revolve around which foods are off-limits. This can lead to the erroneous and flawed belief that avoiding high-FODMAP foods means permanently excluding many nutrient-dense and delicious ones and enduring a lifetime of misery, deprivation, and nutritional deficiencies. But how closely does that assumption align with reality?
Eliminating broad swaths of food groups simply because they contain some quantity of certain types of short-chain carbohydrates (known as FODMAPs) isn't a wise approach. Doing that not only is misguided, but it's also unnecessary. For most people with IBS, dietary triggers are confined to just a few foods within particular food categories, and often to just certain amounts of those foods. What does that mean in terms of the practical application of a low-FODMAP diet for IBS?
The low-FODMAP diet basically has three phases:
During phases 2 and 3, you can explore which foods you tolerate best and in which quantity. You may discover that even foods notoriously high in FODMAPs may be well tolerated in limited portions or when cooked certain ways. For example, although onion and garlic are both triggers for me (and for a large majority of other people with IBS), I can tolerate them in minute amounts in a dish -- as long as they're low on the ingredient list and are very well cooked, and there are minimal other high-FODMAP foods in the dish. (I'm unable to tolerate raw onion or garlic in almost any amount.)
Legumes tend to be another very problematic food for a lot of people with IBS (me included). However, when portion size is limited to just 1 tablespoon of beans, I find that I can tolerate even those highest in FODMAPs (such as kidney beans). Some people have told me that raw apple is a trigger for them but applesauce is well tolerated, or that peaches or apricots are problematic but peach or apricot jam isn't.
People are often surprised to learn that even though legumes (peas, beans, and lentils) are a high-FODMAP food category, certain legumes in certain portion sizes fall into the low-FODMAP range (such as 1/2 cup of canned lentils or 1/4 cup of canned chickpeas, drained and well rinsed). Soybeans are another legume that's high in FODMAPs, but firm tofu (which is made from soybeans) is fine. Avocado is another high-FODMAP food, but 1/8 an avocado is considered low-FODMAP. Mushrooms in general are high in FODMAPs, but oyster mushrooms and canned mushrooms (preparation methods matter!) are not. Mung beans are high in FODMAPs, but mung bean sprouts are safe.
Check the tables on this website and in my book Low-FODMAP and Vegan to find out which foods in which serving sizes have been rated high- or low-FODMAP by Monash University. That said, be prudent. Don't allow other people or other websites to demonize broad categories of foods because they mistakenly think these foods must be completely or permanently excluded by everyone following a low-FODMAP diet.
So what's the lesson here? Despite what the high-FODMAP food tables tell you, IBS is a very individual condition and not every high-FODMAP food (or even every low-FODMAP food) affects everyone with IBS the same way. Preparation method and portion size are key, along with staying vigilant of the quantity of other high-FODMAP foods you're consuming at the same time. You might actually be able to tolerate a far greater variety of higher-FODMAP foods than you realize as long as you keep your overall FODMAP intake at a meal in check.
These are the important takeaways that can help you expand your dietary options while keeping your symptoms under control:
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