low fodmap vegetarian meal

Plant-Based Eating & the FODMAP Diet

CDHF

Written by: CDHF

Updated: March 22nd, 2023

Persistent digestive issues can be a source of discomfort, stress, embarrassment and confusion for the average person. These issues could be even more confounding if you are trying to eat a relatively healthy vegetarian diet yet still experience disruptive gastro-intestinal symptoms. If bloating, gas and abdominal pain are a regular part of your vegetarian lifestyle, you may want to consider trying a low FODMAP diet to eliminate or greatly reduce potential sources of fermentable carbohydrates which have more recently been proven to be a major cause of these issues.

What is the FODMAP diet?

Before diving into the dos and don’ts of this way of eating, we should start with the obvious question: what exactly is a FODMAP? The FODMAP diet was developed in the early 2000s by Dr. Sue Sheperd and Dr. Peter Gibson to address and improve symptoms in patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (Parrish, 2012). On the FODMAP diet, you first adhere to a 2-to-6-week elimination phase designed to greatly reduce the consumption of foods which contain high and moderate levels of fermentable oligo, di, and monosaccharides and polyols (Lang, 2022). To clarify; a lot of gut troubles among the global population seem to arise by eating foods containing high levels of oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (sugar alcohols), the most common of which include lactose, fructose, fructans and sorbitol. These are short chain non-digestible carbs which ferment in the gut and cause bloating, gas, pain and general digestive upset for people with functional gastrointestinal disorders, especially irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Even if you do not have irritable bowel syndrome, the FODMAP diet has been shown to improve symptoms in 75% of patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders (Parrish, 2012). So, if you are suffering with unpleasant digestive problems without a clear cause, there is a strong case that this diet may help alleviate your symptoms.

Can a low-FODMAP Diet Work for a Vegetarian?

If you are following a vegetarian diet (I will use the term vegetarian in reference to the ovo-lacto vegetarian diet, which eschews red meat, poultry and fish but includes dairy products and eggs), there are a few reasons why the FODMAP diet may initially seem like it would be too difficult to follow.

Several common vegetarian protein sources are high-FODMAP foods. On a low FODMAP diet, it would be necessary to greatly reduce or completely avoid the consumption of most kinds of beans, soft tofu and soy milk made from whole beans, many grains (especially wheat products) and dairy products high in lactose. Vegetarians would need to become familiar with which fruits and vegetables contain high or low levels of FODMAPs. Some common fruits and vegetables that would need to be eliminated, at least initially from the diet, include apples, pears, peaches, cherries, mangoes, watermelon, dried fruit, garlic, onions, mushrooms, cauliflower and snow peas (Monash University, 2019). During the elimination phase, fruit intake would also need to be limited to 1-2 servings per day, and vegetables to 1 ½ to 3 servings per day (University of Virginia Nutrition, 2016).

Where dining out is concerned, many foods that are staples of vegetarian meals, both at home and in restaurants, are not part of a low-FODMAP lifestyle. Pastries, pasta and common bread varieties made from wheat, rye and barley, avocado, cashews, garlic, onions, hummus, falafel, ice cream, high-fructose corn syrup and honey would all need to be avoided (Monash University, 2019). It is possible that having so many common foods eliminated from the diet at once could become overly complicated and make it less fun to go out to eat and socialize as normal for a low-FODMAP vegetarian. Rest assured, there are still many options with the use of a little creativity and planning, which we will take a look at later.

Five Nutrients of Concern for the Low-FODMAP Vegetarian

While there are plenty of food options that are both vegetarian and low-FODMAP, certain nutrients are of particular concern for someone following both dietary restrictions. Protein, iron, calcium, vitamin B-12 and zinc intake should all be a focus for anyone looking to lower their FODMAP intake on a vegetarian diet. A mini breakdown of each follows, to make sure you know where to get them with ease!

Protein is the building block for most of the tissues in your body. It also makes up important enzymes for ongoing chemical reactions and hemoglobin, which transports the oxygen in your blood (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health-b, 2021). Ovo-lacto vegetarians on a low-FODMAP diet may need to watch their protein intake as most beans, legumes, grains, and regular cow’s milk are eliminated, which are all good sources of protein. Not to worry, you can still get your protein needs met by consuming foods such as steel-cut oats, tempeh, edamame, eggs, nuts like walnuts, pecans, and peanuts/peanut butter (Schwartz, 2019).

Iron is an essential mineral that has many functions in the body. It aids in proper red blood cell  formation by helping form hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells which helps the cells effectively distribute oxygen throughout the body (American Red Cross, 2021). The main sources of dietary iron which are high FODMAP vegetarian foods to be avoided are beans and legumes. Instead, you can opt for dark leafy vegetables such as collard greens, spinach & bok choy, edamame or firm tofu (Petre, 2022).

Calcium is commonly known for its role in forming and maintaining healthy bones and teeth, but it also contributes to proper blood clotting and nerve function, helps regulate our heart’s rhythm and other muscle contractions (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health-a, 2020). On a low-FODMAP vegetarian diet, you may miss out on calcium from standard cow’s milk, yoghurt and ice cream, certain beans and nuts, but there is still plenty found in sesame seeds and tahini, calcium-set firm tofu, kale, oranges and low-lactose dairy products such as brie, feta, hard cheeses and lactose-free milk (Stelluti, 2022).

Vitamin B-12 is essential for the health and function of nerve cells. It contributes to the production of DNA and RNA, works with vitamin B-9 (folate/folic acid) to help produce red blood cells and improves the efficacy of iron in the body (Mount Sinai, 2023). Vitamin B-12 is mainly found in animal foods, but a vegetarian on a low-FODMAP diet would not be consuming meat and would also miss out on the B-12 found in regular cow’s milk. Luckily, vitamin B-12 is also available from eggs, fortified nutritional yeast, non-wheat cereals and non-dairy milks, nori seaweed, as well as lactose-free milk and dairy products (Silver, 2020).

Zinc supports our immune systems. It aids in wound healing, cell division, keeps inflammation at bay and supports healthy skin (Mikstas, 2022). Zinc is abundant in shellfish like oysters, crab and lobster, red meat (beef and pork), chickpeas and other legumes. These options are not suitable for a vegetarian on a low-FODMAP diet, but vegetarian-friendly zinc-rich options include pumpkin, sunflower and hemp seeds, tempeh, steel-cut oats and wild rice (Stelluti, 2022).

A Day of Vegetarian Low-FODMAP Meal

Now that we have identified and discussed key nutrients to be mindful of when planning a low-FODMAP vegetarian diet, here is an example of one day of balanced meals and snacks appropriate for this diet, which includes foods which provide one or more of the nutrients of concern.

Breakfast – Greek Omelette with Sourdough Toast and Rice Milk

Morning Snack- Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Berries

bowl of strawberries and oatmeal

Lunch – Veggie Grain Bowl

Afternoon Snack

Dinner

Evening Snack

Check out this delicious vegetarian low FODMAP recipe!

Conclusion

While adopting a low-FODMAP diet may seem daunting at first, especially for those with another dietary restriction, hopefully this breakdown has been helpful in providing some key information and nutrition considerations to help your transition to pain-free eating be less of a  headache!


About George Brown’s Culinary Management Nutrition Program

Students from the Culinary Management Nutrition Program at George Brown College Chef School participated in an academic writing content to create a FODMAP article or video for CDHF. The course, Nutrition Issues, is taught by nutrition professor, Dr. Linda Gillis. Students highlighted the nutrients of concern when a vegetarian is attempting the FODMAP diet. Leah Tamblyn was the winner for the article submission and Naureen Bai Nawaz was the winner for the video submission. George Brown College provides students with real world applications and opportunities for learning.


References

American Red Cross. (2021, November 11). The Importance of Iron in Your Body. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.redcrossblood.org/local-homepage/news/article/iron- in-blood.html

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health-a. (2020, October 19). Calcium. The Nutrition Source. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/calcium/

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health-b. (2021, November 12). Protein. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/

Lang, A. B. (2022, January 12). A beginner’s guide to the low fodmap diet. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/low-fodmap-diet

Leech, J. (2022, October 12). 10 health benefits of spirulina. Healthline. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-spirulina

Mikstas, C. (2022, December 20). Foods high in zinc. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/foods-high-in-zinc

Monash University. (2019). High and low fodmap foods. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.monashfodmap.com/about-fodmap-and-ibs/high-and-low-fodmap-foods/

Mount Sinai. (2023). Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin). Mount Sinai Health System. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/vitamin-b12- cobalamin

Nielsen, D. (2022, June 20). Low fodmap diet not working? Here’s why. Desiree Nielsen. https://desireerd.com/low-fodmap-diet-not-working-heres-why/

Parrish, C. (Ed.). (2012). A fodmap diet update: Craze or credible? Practical Gastroenterology, 112, 37–46. https://med.virginia.edu/ginutrition/wp-

content/uploads/sites/199/2014/06/Parrish_Dec_12.pdf

Petre, A. (2022, July 5). Vegetarian foods that are loaded with iron. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/iron-rich-plant-foods

Rhys-Jones, D. (2021, August 18). Low fodmap meal plan. Monash Fodmap. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/low-fodmap-meal-planning/

Schwartz, E. (2019, June 28). Vegetarian on a low fodmap diet. Lofo Pantry. https://www.lofopantry.com/vegetarian-on-a-low-fodmap-diet/

Scott, A. (2023, February 5). 10 low Fodmap Foods that need portion control (the foods might surprise you!). A Little Bit Yummy. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://alittlebityummy.com/blog/10-low-fodmap-foods-that-need-portion-control-the-foods-might-surprise-you/

Silver, N. (2020, July 1). Vitamin B12 Foods for Vegetarians. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-b12-foods-for-vegetarians

Stelluti, A. (2022, June 23). Plant-based low fodmap diet. Gastrointestinal Society. https://badgut.org/information-centre/health-nutrition/plant-based-low-fodmap-diet/

Taylor, L. (2014, November 25). Eating vegan on a low fodmap diet. A blog by Monash FODMAP | The experts in IBS – Monash Fodmap. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/eating-vegan-on-low-fodmap-diet/#:~:text=As%20FODMAPs%20are%20found%20exclusively,and%20get%20enough%20protein

University of Virginia Nutrition. (2016, December). Low fodmap diet. University of Virginia School of Medicine. https://med.virginia.edu/ginutrition/wp- content/uploads/sites/199/2018/05/Low_FODMAP_Diet_12.16.pdf

5 nutrients you might be missing on the low fodmap diet. FODMAP Friendly 5 Nutrients You Might Be Missing On The Low FODMAP Diet Comments. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://fodmapfriendly.com/blogpost/5-nutrients-you-might-be-missing-on-the-low-fodmap-diet/

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