Veganism is rapidly gaining traction worldwide as a sustainable way of life. It involves abstaining from animal products like meat, milk, eggs, and honey while instead opting for plant-based foods.
But its growing popularity doesn’t only stem from its health and environmental benefits. It also serves people with sensitive digestive systems who factor in low FODMAPs to maximize their health and well-being.
FODMAPS (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols) are carbohydrates found in food, especially plants. They don’t digest completely, meaning the small intestine doesn’t absorb them. Instead, the gut bacteria ferment FODMAPs, causing gas production and diarrhea.
While veganism does eliminate many food groups that contain FODMAPs, careful planning ensures the desirable vegan foods are low in FODMAP. Avoiding certain fruits and vegetables, including onion, garlic, apples, and avocado, and using dairy-free alternatives like almond and coconut milk is vital to gut health.
Fortunately, many vegan-friendly, low FODMAP options ensure your diet meets vegan needs while catering to individual sensitivity.
This article will go through low FODMAP vegan protein options while giving you some recipes and tips.
Low FODMAP Vegan Protein Sources
Lentils are a fantastic source of plant-based proteins. With low FODMAP levels, the lentil is a highly versatile vegetable that you can cook in various dishes. Whip up a lentil-based vegan curry, a hearty vegan chili, or a rich and nutritious soup for a filling dinner.
Tofu and Tempeh
Tofu and tempeh are two other excellent sources of low FODMAP vegan protein. Both are low in FODMAP, readily absorbed by the body, and have a subtly sweet taste.
Tofu is versatile and makes an excellent vegan stir-fry, omelet, or sausage. Tempeh is a popular meat replacement to be marinated, grilled, or stir-fried.
Seeds, such as sunflower and flaxseeds, are excellent sources of low FODMAP vegan protein. Add to salads, smoothies, yogurts, and even vegan desserts. Hemp, pumpkin, sesame, and chia seeds boost protein and provide a rich source of essential fatty acids.
Nuts are another great source of low FODMAP vegan protein. Almonds, macadamias, and cashews are exceptionally healthy and make delicious vegan milk, nut butter, and cheese. Add them to salads, oatmeal, and smoothie bowls for a nutritious, protein-packed boost.
Another great source of low FODMAP vegetables is leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, bok choy, Swiss chard, and lettuce, and root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and turnips.
Some low-FODMAP snacks, such as popcorn, potatoes, rice cakes, and fruits like bananas, grapefruits, kiwis, and blueberries, are great alternatives to other high-FODMAP foods.
Recipes for Low FODMAP and Vegan Dishes
Veganism and following a low FODMAP diet seem like opposites at first. Both diets have restrictions that may make it more difficult to create delicious, filling dishes that adhere to your dietary needs.
Creating vegan and low-FODMAP dishes isn’t tricky. With a bit of creativity and awareness of flavor combinations, plenty of delicious meals are available. Let’s take a look.
For savory dishes, consider a quinoa Buddha bowl. This dish features quinoa, steamed carrots and zucchini, diced tomatoes, and baby spinach. Toppings may vary but consist of fresh herbs like parsley, basil, and mint. A simple olive oil or tahini-based dressing is a great addition. Try spices like cinnamon and cumin to give bowls a more complex flavor.
Creamy Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup
Making a vegan and FODMAP-compliant dish doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor. Soups are a great dish that has tasty combinations with minimal effort. Creamy cauliflower and sweet potato soup is a great option. This dish roasts onions, cauliflower, garlic, and sweet potato in olive oil. Once roasted, combine them with vegetable broth and puree them in a blender. Add coconut milk to the mixture, simmer, and top with fresh herbs to complete the dish.
Upside-Down Banana Cake
People looking for a sweet snack love a vegan and FODMAP-friendly upside-down banana cake. Make this dish vegan-friendly by combining mashed banana, maple syrup, olive oil, and almond flour to form a soft batter in a cake pan. Then, pour the batter into the pan and top with fresh banana slices. Bake in the oven for about an hour and have a delicious, sweet, healthy snack.
Common challenges of combining these diets
Awareness of the importance of dietary fiber is a must for vegans. Look for Low-FODMAP sources of fiber, like quinoa, buckwheat, bulgur, and wild rice. Beans, higher FODMAP vegetables, and fruit should be limited. Instead, vegans need to find alternative sources of nutrition, such as leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
There’s also the danger of unintentionally being deficient in vitamins and minerals if the vegan FODMAP diet is not balanced correctly. Vitamins B12, found naturally in animal products, is in vegan-friendly foods such as legumes, fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, and fortified plant milk. Zinc is in legumes, nuts, tofu, and legume flour, while calcium is rich in rhubarb, collard greens, kale, and broccoli.
Are there any health conditions that a Vegan and FODMAP diet may significantly impact?
A vegan and low FODMAP diet has benefits for specific health conditions. Medical practitioners in the UK are increasingly prescribing this dietary approach in addition to treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. Research suggests that a vegan and FODMAP diet helps to reduce unpleasant symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating in IBS patients by eliminating the wind-producing and energy-producing carbohydrates in the diet.
Celiac disease is a health condition that a vegan and low FODMAP diet may positively impact. This autoimmune disorder, triggered by gluten consumption, is debilitating to gut health. Gluten is common in many processed grains, especially wheat. Because a vegan and low FODMAP diet eliminate these grains, it is a beneficial dietary approach for individuals with celiac disease. Additionally, a vegan and FODMAP diet eliminates animal products and most dairy products, which are high in lactose and worsen the painful symptoms of celiac disease.
Certain mental health conditions benefit from a vegan and FODMAP diet. For example, research revealed that a high intake of processed carbohydrates leads to increased levels of depression and anxiety. Replacing these processed carbohydrates with whole foods showed significantly improved mental health.
To take it a step further, a vegan and low FODMAP diet encourage the consumption of whole plant-based foods, which are generally much higher in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins, and free of refined carbohydrates.
A vegan and low FODMAP diet may also benefit those suffering from chronic gastrointestinal problems, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This diet is high in nutrients, plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and free of animal products, which are difficult to digest and cause inflammation. Additionally, restricting the FODMAP carbohydrates helps reduce symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating.
It is important to note that, for optimal benefit, individuals should tailor a vegan and low FODMAP diet to their needs. A dietitian or doctor helps develop a tailored meal plan and provides advice on supplementing nutrient deficiencies that may arise from the dietary restrictions of a vegan and low FODMAP diet. In this way, vegans, vegetarians, and those on the low FODMAP diet can enjoy a varied and balanced diet that positively impacts their long-term health.
If your goal is weight loss, you can also ask your nutritionist about using this low-FODMAP vegan diet.
Foods to avoid on a Vegan and FODMAP diet
The above diagram gives you an idea of which vegan products to avoid.
Avoid high FODMAP grains such as couscous, wheat, and rye. Substitute alternatives such as buckwheat, quinoa, and oatmeal.
Another food to avoid is certain vegetables and fruits, such as onion, garlic, asparagus, mushrooms, stone fruits, and apples. These items commonly cause digestive issues for those with a sensitive gut. It is best to avoid or purchase canned and cooked vegetables to reduce the FODMAP content.
Steer clear of canned foods (except canned vegetables), packaged food, and processed food on a vegan and low FODMAP diet as much as possible. These items are typically high in sodium, preservatives, and added sugars, which cause digestive distress and interfere with the vegan lifestyle.
Cows milk is not vegan-friendly and is a high-FODMAP food. Alternatives like coconut milk, most nuts, and a variety of plant-based milk are low in FODMAPs. They are ideal replacements for dairy products for vegans.
Avoid beans like the common kidney bean due to their high FODMAP content.
It is possible to combine a vegan lifestyle with a low-FODMAP diet. Understanding the nutritional information of the diets means you stay vegan-friendly without sacrificing gut health. Avoiding certain foods and considering delicious alternatives helps keep you healthy and feeling good.
Anna is a 33-year-old registered dietitian based in Orlando. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from the University of Pennsylvania. In her free time, Anna enjoys staying active through Crossfit and indulging her sweet tooth by baking. She is dedicated to helping her clients achieve their health and wellness goals through evidence-based nutrition advice and has spent the past 4 years writing for online publications on nutrition and fitness.