What to eat when you think you can’t eat anything: The ABCs of Low FODMAP foods

What to Eat When You Think You Can’t Eat Anything: The ABCs of Low FODMAP foods

For more than 25 years, thanks to IBS, I’ve been living in a world of “can’ts”: Can’t eat certain foods, can’t leave the house during flare-ups, can’t do certain types of exercise, can’t travel long distances, the list seems to go on and on.

But, as part of a gratitude-building exercise, today I’d like to celebrate the things I generally “can” do…starting with my own personal list of “safe” foods (these are the foods that don’t produce IBS symptoms for me).

Keep in mind, my list may not work for everyone, since we’re all different, but I’ve included low-FODMAP foods, which are recommended for those of us who suffer from IBS. And after keeping a food journal for about six months, I’ve learned that there are plenty of foods I can still eat.

My favorite low-FODMAP foods

Here’s my list of my favorite low-FODMAP foods, in alphabetical order:

Almonds: One ounce contains 3.5 grams of fiber. They’re a great source of magnesium and iron, nutrients that many of us are lacking. When my stomach is screaming and I can’t eat anything else, almonds are my all-time go-to.

Bananas: These are brilliant for bloat. Researchers say it’s a good source of prebiotic fiber, which feeds the “good” bacteria in your gut and improves digestion.

Coconut: This tropical treat is filled with lauric acid, which soothes inflammation, fights bad bacteria, and converts into energy easier than other fats.

Dark chocolate:Your belly’s good gut bugs can feast on just one square (3/4 of an ounce) a day, and its anti-inflammatory compounds can help you lose belly bloat. Bonus: dark chocolate also dilates blood vessels to lower blood pressure!

Edamame: Aside from being loaded with gut-friendly fiber, these soybeans are rich in energy-boosting B-vitamins and hunger-busting protein. I love to munch on lightly salted edamame after an evening yoga workout – the sodium can help replace electrolytes that are lost during exercise.

Figs: Perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth, figs are a great way to add more fiber to your diet. I love to chop up dried figs and add them to oatmeal and yogurt.

Gluten-free bread: I am gluten-sensitive, but I refuse to give up bread. Gluten-free whole grains, like brown rice or quinoa, are some of my favorite key ingredients that I look for.

Honeydew melon: Many fruits contain the sugar fructose, which can cause issues for IBS sufferers. Fructose is especially high in apples and pears, so I generally avoid these fruits and reach for honeydew melon, which is lower in fructose and wonderful for satisfying my sweet tooth.

Jam/Jelly: If you enjoy jams or jellies made from fruit, look for those that don’t have excess fructose and don’t have added fructose. I prefer strawberry and blueberry jam; most should be safe, but be careful of grape jam, which is a high FODMAP food.

Kefir: I like to think of kefir as an extra thick, protein-rich smoothie, and blueberry kefir is my personal favorite. Beyond the fact that it makes me feel full, the probiotics in kefir make it an IBS powerhouse.

Leafy greens: Leafy green contains indigestible fiber, which adds bulk to stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive system. Warning: Since taking too much fiber too soon can quickly cause bloating, try to work your way up slowly if you’re not in the habit of eating a lot of leafy greens.

Milk alternatives: Dairy is off-limits for many IBS sufferers, although lactose-free dairy (found in cream cheese, half and half, hard cheeses like cheddar, parmesan, and Swiss, and soft cheeses like brie, feta, and mozzarella can be tolerated by many of us. If you’re avoiding dairy altogether, though, almond, coconut, rice, and soy milk are all great options. My personal favorite? Almond milk. Yum!

Nuts: Walnuts, macadamia, peanuts, pecan, and pine nuts are high in nutrients and low in FODMAPs. If you’re following a low FODMAP diet, you may want to avoid cashews and pistachios, though. When it comes to IBS, all nuts are not “safe” foods.

Oatmeal: Rich in gut-friendly fiber, oatmeal is one of the most filling breakfasts you can enjoy. The more natural, the better – I try to stay away from the sugar-filled instant varieties.

Popcorn: This IBS-friendly snack is full of cancer-fighting compounds called polyphenols and is packed with fiber (about 3.5 grams per 3 cups). Tip: avoid the microwaveable varieties, which can be drenched in butter, oil and salt.

Quinoa: This delicious, filling food enjoys elevated status as a complete protein. It’s one of the few plants that can actually replace meat entirely.

Rice: Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, offers soluble fiber, and tends to be one of the most tolerable whole grains for IBS (cornmeal, quinoa, and oatmeal are a few others).

Sushi: It may seem counterintuitive to eat raw fish when you’ve got IBS, but choosing raw or lightly cooked fish over other forms of protein can give your belly an edge.

Turkey: If you eat meat, lean turkey, along with chicken, tuna, and wild-caught fish, are great choices. These meats are rich sources of protein, low in fat, and pretty powerful in the nutrition department.

Vinegar: It seems like everyone is boasting about the benefits of apple cider vinegar, and it turns out it may help relieve IBS symptoms, too: It’s a natural anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory digestive aid, and it’s one of the best (and cheapest!) digestive aids available.

Water chestnuts: The crisp, crunchy texture of water chestnuts is a hallmark of Asian cuisine. They make a filling addition to many dishes, keeping you full longer while supplying your meals with vitamins and minerals.

Yogurt: Most Greek yogurts contain more protein and less sugar than non-Greek types.
Tip: Look for the words “live active cultures” on the label to help boost your probiotic intake, and choose brands that contain less than 20 grams of sugar than 20 grams of sugar per serving.

Zucchini: Low in calories and loaded with anti-inflammatory properties, zucchini is a favorite among those who want to lose weight. It also has a low score on the glycemic index, making it a great choice for people who have both IBS and diabetes.

What about you? What are some of your favorite “safe” foods?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (11)
  • Becky Oleson moderator author
    8 months ago

    Interesting, markercecilia56. Many of our community members have issues with gluten. I’m envious you’re able to tolerate these things!
    Becky, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net Team Member

  • markercecilia56
    8 months ago

    What I eat when I think I can’t eat, I’m living on sourdough bread and sugar free preserves, also on crackers and cheese

  • Becky Oleson moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi kaylaartist! Sorry you can’t eat edamame. Definitely agree with avoiding them if you’ve had issues with this food in the past. What about eggs? Just trying to think of another food you might enjoy that starts with “E”. 🙂

    I am sorry to hear you weren’t properly diagnosed until your 50s…I can’t imagine how much turmoil you must have been in all those years, wondering what was wrong. So glad the Linzess is working for you, though! Thank goodness!!

    Thanks for taking the time to provide feedback. Please keep us posted on how everything is going for you.

    Becky, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team member

  • kaylaartist
    9 months ago

    Edamame?? OMG! they are the WORST for me. But that’s cuz I also have an intolerance to soy. I have to check all ingredients and do you know how many items add soy lecithin?? And that’s cuz the feds pay soybean farmers to produce produce produce. I have had IBS my whole life, as well as lactose and soy intolerance (family). It has been so distressing. I am 63 and I did not get properly diagnosed til I was over 50!!! I have had to play my own foodie to know what I can and cannot eat. I have been taking Linzess for over 3 years now and it is a blessing. Before I realized it was soy, when everyone jumped on the edamame bandwagon as a ‘wonder’ food (and I hate when that happens because that’s just not scientifically true)I tried a few. I had extremely bad symptoms for 3 days!

  • rach22morrow
    9 months ago

    I just started the fodmap diet yesterday!! I also started a food diary and installed an app to help keep me in check. I pray this helps! I’ve lived with this all my life, and now that my kids are getting older and wanting to do more things, I don’t want to miss out anymore!

  • Becky Oleson moderator author
    9 months ago

    I don’t want you to miss out on things either, rach22morrow! How’s it been going with the low FODMAP diet? Are you feeling any differences? I hope all positive changes.

    Becky, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team member

  • jaeger91
    9 months ago

    Good luck, rach22morrow. I hope it helps. Please keep us posted on your progress.

  • runnergirl
    9 months ago

    I’ve been following the FODMAP diet for a year now. It has helped. And yes I have had to curtail it to fit my intolerances. For example I absolutely can not have quinoa or figs. I’m jealous you get to eat those things! 🙂 I suffer from both IBS-D and IBS-C. My question is about apple cider vinegar. Do you know, is there less fructose because it’s a vinegar? I usually stay away from anything apple related.

  • DorisE
    9 months ago

    Hi Beckie. I tried the FODMAP diet for two weeks and unfortunately did not work for-me.
    I have read that ibs d can coexist with other bowel diseases …. even colitis. After so many years I hesitate to eat anything, but especially nuts and popcorn. So much help on Internet, but one site says eat yogurt, another site says it doesnt reach bowels, etc. etc. Its so confusing, but am glad you have found some interesting foods you can tolerate. The turkey or chicken is my main meat, but just try to get fresh fish-in Northern Ontario! Thanks for the suggestions.

  • Becky Oleson moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi DorisE! I’m sorry to hear the low FODMAP diet didn’t work for you. It’s been a game-changer for me! It doesn’t completely resolve my IBS symptoms, but it has certainly improved them. Was it the effects of the nuts that caused you to stop with the low FODMAP diet? I agree, too, that the food suggestions can be conflicting from site to site. I’ve learned to take most of what I learn, then tailor it to suit my own situation. Fresh fish sound de-lish! I’m so glad you’ve joined the community, and I look forward to reading more of your comments! -Becky, IrritableBowelSyndrome.net team member

  • DorisE
    9 months ago

    …sorry Becky, I was a bit quick in my response comment. I have ibs d, thats why no nuts or roughage… even after all these years I really havent found any diet that I can follow which doesnt lead to pain, runs, bloating. I am going to retry a few items on your list..as maybe I will be able to eat them now, worth a try. Thanks for this,,, I felt a failure when the FODMAP didnt work for me but had no help interpreting my reactions as my dictor wasnt interested. Actually, no, ni fresh fish here unless you go fishing…its all brought into the grocery stores either frozen or has been out of the ocean for a long time, lol

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