A low FODMAP diet may be recommended to you by a doctor if you have certain digestive conditions or symptoms. But what foods can you eat on a low FODMAP diet? While things like dairy, wheat, and certain vegetables may be off the menu, you can still eat meat, certain fruits and vegetables, and grains like rice. Read on to see a full list of low FODMAP diet foods to eat and foods to avoid. Plus, you’ll learn more about how to start a low FODMAP diet.
What’s a Low FODMAP Diet?
Okay, so what’s a low FODMAP diet? What does FODMAP even stand for? If you’re asking yourself these questions, you’re not alone. I also had no idea what this diet was after I heard it mentioned at Cleveland Clinic. But it’s really not that complicated!
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. Wait a minute… huh?! These big words are basically a group of sugars that can cause digestion problems in some people. Specifically, people may experience cramping, diarrhea, constipation, gas, or bloating after eating foods with these sugars.
So, a low FODMAP diet is simply one that eliminates foods that contain high amounts of the sugars mentioned above. According to a 2014 study, a low FODMAP diet improved IBS symptoms in 68-76% of participants.
But the low FODMAP diet is meant to be a temporary restrictive diet. Why? Well, because of the restrictive nature of the diet, it can become unhealthy. The idea is to temporarily eliminate high-FODMAP foods to figure out what specific foods bother you. Experts recommend that you always consult your doctor before starting the low FODMAP diet for better digestion.
Who Would Benefit From Eating Low FODMAP Diet Foods?
Low FODMAP diet foods are intended to help people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or small intestine bacterial overgrowth. The diet may also benefit those with Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or gallbladder issues.
But I first heard about this diet from one of the neurologists who specializes in POTS at Cleveland Clinic. This neurologist recommended the diet to some of his patients (I even met a few!) because POTS patients often experience digestive issues. One patient I met said he was able to improve his GI symptoms by following this diet and eliminating troublesome foods.
But besides these conditions, anyone who experiences long-term digestive troubles may want to consider eating low FODMAP diet foods. These digestive problems might include symptoms like bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Following a low FODMAP diet to find foods that further irritate your digestion may help reduce these GI symptoms.
Low FODMAP Diet Foods To Eat
While a low FODMAP diet is very restrictive, there are still foods you can eat. Learn what foods on a low FODMAP diet you can add to your grocery list below.
- Grains: Quinoa, rice, oats, buckwheat, gluten-free breads and cereals, porridge
- Dairy/alternatives: Dairy alternatives, such as almond milk, oat milk, and rice milk. Also, lactose-free milk, greek yogurt, fruit sorbet, and hard cheeses (like cheddar or feta)
- Vegetables: Carrots, celery, lettuce, pumpkin, eggplant, zucchini, potato, spinach, tomato, green beans, beets, red pepper
- Fruit: Berries, pineapple, banana, grapes, melon, lemon, lime, grapefruit, oranges
- Sweeteners: White or brown sugar, maple syrup
- Other: Peas, almonds, walnuts, meat, eggs
What Not To Eat On a Low FODMAP Diet
The purpose of a low FODMAP diet is to eliminate foods that could be causing digestive distress. So, there are certain foods and food groups that don’t make the cut on our low FODMAP diet foods list. Check them out!
- Grains: Wheat flour-based products like bread and crackers, baked goods, rye, barley, couscous, pasta, biscuits
- Dairy/alternatives: Cow’s milk products, including ice cream, cream, and fresh cheeses
- Vegetables: Garlic, onion, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, mushrooms, artichoke, leek, peppers
- Fruit: Watermelon, apples, mango, cherries, pear, avocado, peach, plum
- Sweeteners: agave, honey, malitol, xylitol, sorbitol, fructose
- Other: Cashews, beans, chickpeas, lentils, pistachios
(Source: Bellini, M., Rossi, A. Is a low FODMAP diet dangerous?. Tech Coloproctol 22, 569–571 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10151-018-1835-9)
How to Start A Low FODMAP Diet
So how do you start a low FODMAP diet? Experts suggest that following this diet is done best when guided by a registered nutritionist or dietician. At the very least, you’ll want the guidance of your doctor. Because this diet is so restrictive, it can become unhealthy in the long term. That’s why having a professional guide you through each phase of the diet can set you up for the best chances of success.
One review article published in 2017 offered two approaches for beginning a low FODMAP diet. The first method, called the top-down approach, involves completely eliminating most FODMAP foods and then reintroducing them as tolerated. The second method is called the bottom-up approach. In this approach, people restrict only some foods with high amounts of FODMAPS. They then maintain this restriction to their tolerance level, eliminating more high-FODMAP foods as needed.
A 2018 study suggests that a restrictive low FODMAP diet (like the top-down approach) should only be followed for a maximum of 8 weeks. Typical durations last somewhere between 4-8 weeks. After that, people should transition to an “adaptive” low FODMAP diet.
During this adaptive diet (also called a re-challenge phase), people slowly reintroduce FODMAP foods. This allows people to pinpoint which foods cause a relapse in symptoms. They can also find out which foods aren’t troublesome and can be added back into their diet safely. But perhaps as equally important, reintroducing tolerable foods ensures people get the nutrition they need in their diet.
All in all, while following a low FODMAP diet has been shown to be effective in reducing digestive symptoms, it should be followed under the guidance of a medical professional. If you’re struggling with your digestion, incorporating low FODMAP diet foods for a month or two may help. I’ve never tried the diet personally, but I imagine that it’s challenging. But the symptom relief and knowledge learned along the way just may make it worth it!
Has anyone tried the low FODMAP diet? Did it help? Was it difficult and not worth it? What foods on a low FODMAP diet were easiest or hardest to give up? Let me know your experiences with it in the comments!
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