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.
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.
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?