Enjoying legumes on a low FODMAP diet can be a challenge, but the good news is that it is still possible to include them!
Firstly, let’s look at what exactly FODMAPs are…
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols – these are all different types of carbohydrates that are either poorly absorbed or digested. When these are poorly absorbed, increased water may be drawn into the gut, which can result in diarrhoea for some people. For others, the carbohydrates travel to the large intestine where they are fermented by bacteria, which then produces gas. This gas can lead to additional symptoms of IBS including bloating, constipation, flatulence, pain and nausea.
Many legumes are high FODMAP, with the galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS) found in legumes being one of the FODMAPs that even people without IBS don’t tolerate well.
So why should we bother eating legumes?
When starting a low FODMAP diet, fibre is one of the first nutrients that can start to drop. Legumes are a rich source of prebiotic fibres, which are the fibres that provide fuel for the healthy bacteria in your gut. A lack of these types of fibre may result in a change in your gut bacteria – not necessarily for the better!
But how on earth do you include legumes in your diet when following a low FODMAP diet and still keep your symptoms in check? Especially when the bloating and wind that develops as a result of the legumes fermenting in your gut can be uncomfortable and downright embarrassing.
Many legumes are high FODMAP, but cutting them out can lead to unfavourable changes in gut bacteria.
Check out the below tips on including legumes whilst following a low FODMAP diet!
- Look at how they’ve been prepared. Canned legumes are much better tolerated than dried legumes, due to having a lower FODMAP content. Canned lentils are safe at 1/2 cup, whilst butter beans and chickpeas are low FODMAP at 1/4 cup. Keep in mind that if you choose dried over canned, it is likely the same portion won’t be tolerated if you are sensitive to GOS.
- Start small: if you know you don’t tolerate legumes well, start small and infrequently and build up over time. Have you ever noticed that people who regularly eat legumes seem to tolerate them better? This is due to the gut getting better at digesting the prebiotic-rich fibres with regular consumption. Maybe try 1-2 tablespoons of one of the options mentioned below and work up from there every few days.
- Remember that portions add up: whilst having 1/4 cup canned chickpeas is likely to be ok, if other GOS rich foods are added in, you may be more likely to experience symptoms. Instead, bulk out your meal with whole grains that are low in FODMAPs, for example brown rice, quinoa or millet.
Canned legumes are tolerated much better than dried legumes, but remember to watch your portion sizes
So now you know what to look out for, how can you still include legumes as a regular part of your diet, even when sticking to low FODMAP options?
- Using canned legumes in the quantities above is a quick and versatile option and work when added straight into a salad or to add texture to a sauce or casserole if cooking. Why not try adding into spaghetti sauce, or including in a spinach salad with some feta and orange slices. Just remember to drain and rinse canned legumes prior to use.
- Sprouted mung beans: find these in the fridge in the vegetable section in your local shops. The perfect addition to up the nutrient density of your salads, and mung beans are low FODMAP at 2/3 cup! Try incorporating into your chicken and quinoa salad for some crunch, or top your favourite baked vegetable dish.
- Dried red and green lentils: dried lentils require a little more prep and will take some time to cook prior to being ready to eat. Keep these to 1/4 cup serve of cooked lentils – they’re are a fabulous addition to curries and soups! Try mixing coconut milk, zucchini and chicken along with red lentils to make a delicious creamy curry and serve with brown rice.
So however you incorporate legumes, you can still enjoy them as part of a balanced low FODMAP diet.
You can still use dried legumes, just be sure to allow a little extra time to prepare.
For support with FODMAPs, contact your doctor or see an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
Chloe is a Sydney based dietitian who works closely with individuals and companies, develops recipes and writes about nutrition to help individuals and the wider population to optimise their health through elite nutrition. Chloe particularly specialises in the areas of food intolerance, sports nutrition and nutrition for arthritis and autoimmune conditions.
She developed and runs the online course The FODMAP Challenge, and provides individual nutrition services for both face to face and online consultations, and co-owns nutrition consultancy business, Health & Performance Collective.