Low-down on the Low FODMAP Diet

Low FODMAP Diet for Beginners: What’s It All About & Who Is It For?

“Low FODMAP Diet for Beginners” was written by dietetic intern & functional nutritionist Krista Wale, B.S. (nutritional sciences & dietetics), and reviewed, edited, & updated by Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT.

It’s possible you’ve heard the term “FODMAPs” –  along with some hype about the low FODMAP diet circulating in the gut health space, especially if you’re suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

But what the heck does FODMAP stand for, and is the low FODMAP diet really all that and a bag of chips for IBS sufferers? (Pun intended.)

In this article you’ll learn what FODMAPs are, which foods are high and low in FODAMPs (plus a sample one-day meal plan), who can benefit from a low FODMAP diet, and the pros and cons of this very specific and unique gut health nutrition protocol.

Disclaimer: this article was written for informational and educational purposes. This article is not meant to replace medical advice or nutrition advice from licensed, qualified healthcare providers. Make sure you’re working with a doctor and registered dietitian if you’re navigating gut issues of any kind!

Updated: April 2, 2024

What does “FODMAP” stand for?

FODMAP is a crazy-sounding acronym which actually stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols”.  These are specific types of constituents in foods that tend to trigger unwanted symptoms in many people with IBS/SIBO.

It may sound confusing and complicated at first, but it doesn’t have to be!  Let’s break it down…

FODMAP 101

To be more specific (beyond the acronym), FODMAPS are poorly absorbed, highly fermentable, short-chain carbohydrates which meet some/all of the following criteria:

Fermentable

  • These constituents all ferment when they come in contact with certain types of microbes in your gut, producing gasses as a bi-product.

Oligosaccharides

type of carbohydrate made up of a few different types of sugars.

    • (“Oligo-” = few)

Disaccharides

  • A carbohydrate made up of two sugars.
    • (“Di-” = two)

Monosaccharides

  • A type of carbohydrate made up of one sugar.
    • (“Mono-” = one)

And…

Polyols

  • Aka, sugar alcohols.  They’re naturally found in certain fruits, veggies and even some types of tree wood.  Sugar alcohols are also commercially extracted and sold as “no-added-sugar” sweeteners.  You’ll find these types of polyols (such as erythritol and xylitol) in a lot of diet food sweet treats.

Recommended reading:  What are Polyols?  Exploring the “P” in FODMAP

FODMAPs and IBS / SIBO

FODMAPs aren’t generally digested well, but for people with a healthy gut, high-FODMAP foods can usually move through their digestive tract without causing discomfort. (In fact, ironically, many types of high FODMAP foods and herbs happen to also be prebiotic foods/herbs!)

However, for those of us struggling with a compromised gut (such as in cases of IBS or SIBO), it’s difficult to properly digest foods that are high in FODMAPs.

FODMAP intolerance symptoms

If you have a FODMAP intolerance, eating high FODMAP foods may trigger or exacerbate FODMAP intolerance symptoms like:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Abdominal pain
  • Distention
  • Changes in bowel regularity (i.e. constipation or diarrhea)

How it works

Undigested or poorly digested FODMAPs from the foods we eat will travel down into the small intestine.  In the intestines, there are sometimes “pathogenic” (bad, unhealthy) microbes (which are generally more likely to live in the digestive tracts of people with IBS/SIBO) which will then feast on these FODMAPs.

When the bad bacteria consume the FODMAPs in high-FODMAP foods, it leads to fermentation and methane/hydrogen gas production, ultimately triggering the types of IBS symptoms mentioned above.

In some cases, when the undigested FODMAP particles reach the colon, this can also cause excess water to get pulled into the colon (by osmosis), which can then result in symptoms of diarrhea in people with diarrhea-predominant IBS (“IBS-D”) or hydrogen-dominant SIBO.

The types of FODMAPs in food

There are 5 categories of FODMAPs found in high-FODMAP foods:

  • Fructose
  • Lactose
  • Fructans
  • Galactooligosaccharides (Gos)
  • Polyols

Fructose

Fructose is a monosaccharide (type of simple sugar) found in certain types of fruits and fruit juices, and certain high FODMAP sweeteners like honey and agave nectar.

  • Not everyone with IBS/SIBO has a fructose intolerance, but it’s still relatively common.
    • If you suspect you do have a fructose intolerance, you may want to consider running a fructose breath test and/or keep track of your food intake and IBS symptom patterns via an IBS food diary!

Lactose

Lactose is a type of disaccharide sugar found in certain dairy foods like milk and ice cream.

Contrary to what most people believe, not all types of dairy contain lactose!  For this reason, many people with a lactose intolerance can usually still enjoy hard cheese and butter/ghee in moderation without any issues.

(Yogurt is hit or miss – it contains lactose but the probiotics in yogurt usually help to pre-digest it for us.)

Recommended reading: 

Fructans

Fructans are constituents found in wheat products such as bread and pasta, as well as in some veggies like garlic and onions.

Many people who believe they have a gluten intolerance actually have a fructan intolerance!

(If you’d like to learn more about this, you can read about the differences between wheat vs gluten here.)

Galactooligosaccharides (G0s)

These are a type of difficult-to-digest carbohydrate most often found in beans and certain types of fruit/veggies.

Polyols

These are found in sugar alcohols like mannitol and sorbitol, and they’re also naturally occurring in some fruits (like apples, pears, peaches and apricots) & certain veggies like mushrooms. (1)

Which foods are high in FODMAPs? (2)

The following list is not exhaustive, but it may help provide you with some clarity as you navigate your IBS food triggers.

This is not a list of foods to avoid but rather a list of foods you can refer back to, while looking for patterns via food-symptom journaling in an IBS food diary.

Fruits

High FODMAP fruits are those which contain high amounts of fructose and/or polyols in relatively small quantities, such as:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Dates
  • Grapes (if more than 6 at a time)
  • Mango
  • Nectarines
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Prunes
  • Watermelon
  • High concentration of fructose from canned fruit, dried fruit, or fruit juice

Veggies

High FODMAP veggies contain significant amounts of fructans and/or polyols:

  • Artichokes (“sunchokes”)
  • Asparagus
  • Beets (if more than 1/2 cup serving)
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Shallots
  • Snow peas (more than 1/2 cup)
  • Sugar snap peas (if 7 or more)

Grains/starches

The following grains and starches are high in fructans, and are not usually well tolerated by many people with IBS/SIBO:

  • Amaranth
  • Products that are made with wheat and/or “all purpose flour” (read the ingredient list to verify):
    • Breads
    • Bagels
    • Cereals
    • Crackers
    • Muffins
    • Pastries
    • Snack foods (Goldfish, CheezIts, etc.)
  • Barley
  • Couscous
  • Farr
  • Rye
  • Semolina

Fats/oils and condiments

  • Almonds (if more than 10)
  • Almond butter (if more than 1 to 2 Tablespoons)
  • Almond flour (if more than 1/2 cup)
  • Avocado
  • Cashews / cashew butter
  • Hazelnuts (if more than 10)
  • Hazelnut butter (if more than 1 to 2 Tablespoons)
  • Pistachios
  • Salad dressings and marinades with high FODMAP ingredients (i.e. Caesar dressing, Italian dressing, BBQ sauces sweetened with honey/high fructose corn syrup, etc.)

Proteins

  • Beans (black, kidney, pinto)
  • Chickpeas (more than 1/2 cup serving)
  • Split peas
  • Soy products (tofu, tempeh, miso, “soy protein isolate”, soy milk)
  • Any types of meat/poultry or pork marinated in a high FODMAP sauce/dressing (i.e. one that contains garlic, onion powder, honey, agave, high fructose corn syrup, etc.)

Related articles:  

Dairy and dairy alternatives

  • Milk (cow, goat, sheep)
  • Buttermilk
  • Regular yogurt
  • Cream
  • Some soft cheeses (depending on portion size)
  • Sour cream
  • Soy milk
  • Oat milk (more than 1/4 cup)

Sweeteners

  • Agave
  • Dates / date sugar / date syrup
  • Fructose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Isomalt
  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol
  • Molasses
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

Sweets/desserts

Any sweet treats made with any of the above high FODMAP sweeteners or wheat/all-purpose flour (cookies, cake, etc.) are considered to be high FODMAP:

  • Cake
  • Cookies
  • Custard
  • Ice cream

What about high FODMAP herbs/spices?

The only high FODMAP herbs worth noting are garlic, garlic powder, and onion powder – or any spices blends that contain those ingredients.

The Low FODMAP Diet Foods List for Beginners

Which foods are low in FODMAPs? (2, 3)

Okay, so now you’ve got a comprehensive list of which foods may be most likely to trigger your IBS symptoms… but what about the ones that are LEAST likely to trigger your IBS?

Enter:  low FODMAP foods!

(As a friendly reminder, this list of low FODMAP foods is general and not customized to meet your individual needs.  However,it may serve as a helpful starting point of reference and “nutritional backbone” to give you some extra clarity and education on your journey.)

Fruits

  • Banana (1 medium)
  • Blueberries (1 cup)
  • Cantaloupe (3/4 cup)
  • Clementines (2 small)
  • Dates, pitted (5 small or 1 Medjool date)
  • Grapefruit (1/4 fresh)
  • Grapes (6 medium)
  • Green plantain (1 medium, fresh or cooked)
  • Guava, ripe – not firm (2 medium)
  • Kiwifruit (2 small)
  • Mandarin, imperial, peeled (1 medium)
  • Naval orange (1 medium)
  • Papaya (1 cup fresh)
  • Passionfruit (2 medium, fresh, peeled)
  • Pineapple (1 cup fresh)
  • Raspberries (1/3 cup fresh)
  • Strawberries (5 medium fresh)
  • Tangerines / tangelos

Veggies

  • Arugula (2 cups fresh)
  • Alfalfa sprouts (2 cups)
  • Bamboo shoots (⅓ cup)
  • Green bell peppers (1/2 cup fresh)
  • Red bell peppers (1/3 cup fresh)
  • Orange bell peppers (1/4 cup fresh)
  • Bok Choy (1 cup, cooked)
  • Broccoli (3/4 cup fresh, heads only)
  • Chinese Cabbage (1 cup fresh)
  • Red Cabbage (3/4 cup fresh)
  • Carrot (1 medium fresh)
  • Chard (1 cup fresh)
  • Chicory (½ cup raw)
  • Collard greens (1 cup fresh)
  • Cucumber (1/2 cup fresh)
  • Eggplant (1 cup, raw)
  • Endive (7 leaves)
  • Hot peppers
  • Kale (1/2 cup fresh)
  • Kohlrabi (1.2 cup)
  • Lettuce (1 cup fresh
  • Okra (7 ½ pods)
  • Parsnip (1 medium)
  • Pumpkin (1/3 cup, cooked)
  • Radishes (4 medium)
  • Rhubarb (1 cup, cooked)
  • Rutabaga (1 cup)
  • Scallions, fresh
  • Silverbeet, leaves and upper stem (1 cup)
  • Spinach (1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach, 2 cups other fresh spinach)
  • Summer squash (1 cup fresh)
  • Sweet Potato (½ cup)
  • Cherry tomatoes (3 per meal)
  • 1/2 medium tomato, fresh
  • Tomato paste (2 tablespoons)
  • Turnips (½  medium, raw)
  • Water Chestnuts (1/2 cup)
  • Watercress, leaves & upper stem (1 cup)
  • White Cabbage (¾ cup)
  • Zucchini (1/3 cup fresh)

Recommended reading: When is Spinach Low FODMAP? (Holistic Guide to Navigating Spinach and IBS)

Grains/starches

  • Arrowroot Flour (⅔ cup)
  • Buckwheat groats (¾ cup, cooked)
  • Buckwheat Flour (⅔ cup)
  • Whole Yellow Cornmeal (1 cup)
  • White English muffin (1 muffin)
  • Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (⅔ cup)
  • Whole Kernel Hominy (½ cup, cooked)
  • Whole Grain Maize ( ⅔ cup)
  • Millet, flour ingredient (⅔ cup, cooked)
  • Millet (1 cup, cooked)
  • Millet Flour (⅔ cup)
  • Organic Oatmeal (½ cup uncooked)
  • Baked Potato, with skin  (½ cup)
  • Red Potato, with skin (½ cup)
  • Quinoa (1 cup, cooked)
  • Sourdough bread
  • Basmati Rice (1 cup, cooked )
  • Brown Rice (1 cup, cooked)
  • Wild Rice (1 cup, cooked)
  • White Rice Flour (⅔ cup)
  • Rice Noodles (1 cup, boiled)
  • Sorghum Flour (⅔ cup)
  • Corn Tortilla (2 tortillas)
  • White Flour Tortilla (1 tortilla)
  • Cassava, fresh (2.65 ounces)
  • Tapioca starch (2/3 cup)

Related articles:

Fats

Oils

Technically, all oils are considered low in FODMAPs since they don’t contain any carbohydrates.

Either way, we encourage you to lean on less processed, healthier oils versus the highly processed omega-6 oils like canola, soybean, or corn/vegetable oil. 😉

  • Almond oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Canola oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Corn oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Olives
  • Olive oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Rice bran oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Walnut oil

Related articles:  

Nuts/seeds and more

  • Almond butter (1 tablespoon)
  • Almonds Butter (10 whole nuts)
  • Brazil Nuts (10 nuts)
  • Cashew Butter (1 teaspoon)
  • Chestnuts (10 nuts)
  • Chia Seeds (2 tablespoons)
  • Dried Coconut (½ cup)
  • Flaxseed Oil (1 tablespoon)
  • Hazelnut Butter (1 tablespoon)
  • Hazelnuts (10 whole nuts)
  • Macadamia Nuts (20 nuts)
  • Black Olives (15 small)
  • Green Olives (15 small)
  • Mayonnaise (unsweetened)
  • Peanut Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Peanuts (32 nuts)
  • Pecan Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Pecans (10 nut halves)
  • Pine Nuts (1 tablespoon)
  • Pumpkin Seeds (2 tablespoons)
  • Sesame Seeds (1 tablespoon)
  • Tigernuts (¼ cup)
  • Walnut Butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Walnuts (10 nut halves)

Related articles: 

Proteins

Non-vegetarian

Protein foods like meats, seafood, poultry, pork, and eggs naturally do not contain any carbohydrates – so they’re considered inherently free of FODMAPs.  However, pay attention to any sauces, dressings or marinades that may contain high FODMAP ingredients.

Non-vegetarian low FODMAP protein food sources include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Beef
  • Bison
  • Chicken
  • Collagen peptides
  • Fish
  • Lamb
  • Pork
  • Shellfish
  • Turkey
  • Venison

Vegetarian

Some but not all beans are low FODMAP, usually in relatively in small quantities.

Vegetarian low FODMAP proteins include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Eggs and egg whites
  • Low FODMAP cheeses
  • Low FODMAP yogurts (dairy only)
  • Low FODMAP milk (dairy only)
  • Low FODMAP protein powders
  • Fermented Black Beans (1 ½ tablespoons)
  • Refried Black Beans (1 ½ tablespoons)
  • Black beans (3 tablespoons, cooked)
  • Black-eyed peas: (2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon, cooked/canned)
  • Butter beans (2 ½ tablespoons)
  • Chickpea Pasta (1 cup, cooked)
  • Chickpeas (1/2 cup, cooked/canned)
  • Edamame (3/4 cup, cooked)
  • Lentil Pasta (1/2 cup, cooked)
  • Lentils (1/2 cup, canned)
  • Green Lentils (1/3 cup, cooked)
  • Red Lentils (1/4 cup, freshly cooked)
  • Mung Beans (3 tablespoons, cooked)
  • Pinto Beans (2 tablespoons, cooked)
  • Refried Pinto Beans (2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons)
  • Pinto Beans (2.5 tablespoons, canned and drained)
  • Sprouted Red Kidney Beans (1 ½ tablespoons, cooked/canned)

Sweets

Any desserts which are made with only low FODMAP ingredients (starches, sweeteners, and fats) can meet criteria for being low FODMAP.

However, it’s important to keep in mind, just because a sweetener meets criteria for being low in FODMAPs doesn’t automatically make it healthy for your gut – some low FODMAP sweeteners can still disrupt other types of gut microbes related to dysbiosis (an underlying contributor of IBS).

Recommended reading:

Low FODMAP diet sample menu

Okay, so now that you have a list of all the foods high and low in FODMAPs, what does a low FODMAP meal plan look like?

Here’s an example of what a full day can look like on a low FODMAP diet:

  • Breakfast:  Scrambled eggs with potatoes and bell peppers sauteed in olive or avocado oil – with salt, pepper, and chives
  • Snack: Banana with 1 to 2 tablespoons walnut butter (check out more low FODMAP snack ideas here)
  • Lunch:  Baked fish with dill, and a side of 1 cup rice, and 1 cup cooked green beans
  • Snack:  Homemade low FODMAP strawberry chia pudding with low FODMAP milk/milk substitute of choice
  • Dinner:  Plain rotisserie chicken with a side of 1/2 cup baked sweet potato and 1/2 cup sauteed low FODMAP veggies, with salt and olive oil
  • Dessert:  A few low FODMAP peanut butter cookies or a slice of low FODMAP pumpkin pie

When can someone benefit from a low FODMAP diet?

If you’re struggling with digestive issues, you and your healthcare team may need to do some detective work in order to find what’s triggering your symptoms.

  • A low FODMAP elimination diet is one way to do this, since up to 75% of IBS sufferers in research studies have reported to feel better on a low FODMAP diet in 6 weeks or less. (4)

On the other hand, more than 1/3 of people with IBS turn out to test positive for SIBO, according to the Journal of gastroenterology. (5).

  • If you have IBS and you find that you feel better on a low FODMAP diet, it may be worth running a SIBO test alongside a doctor and functional dietitian nutritionist, to get more clarity on what’s going on in your gut.

Is a low FODMAP diet enough to resolve IBS/SIBO?

A low FODMAP diet may provide temporary relief by removing troublesome foods that are triggering your symptoms.  However, this diet is not enough as a stand-alone intervention for IBS or SIBO, unfortunately.

  • Elimination of triggering foods intolerances (such as FODMAPs) is only part of phase one of the five-part 5R protocol for gut repair.

Pros and cons of a low FODMAP diet

Since one size doesn’t fit all, you may want to review the potential benefits and risks before embarking on a low FODMAP diet – even if you suffer from IBS/SIBO.

Potential benefits

  • Could help provide digestive relief from unwanted IBS/SIBO symptoms
  • May serve as a great nutritional backbone on a gut-healing journey

Downsides & possible contraindications

It doesn’t work for everyone

The low FODMAP diet requires a lot of work and planning, and not everyone with IBS finds relief on a low FODMAP elimination diet.

Even though it’s considered evidence-based, this diet is still (on some level) a form of guesswork.

Not a cure for IBS/SIBO

Even if this diet helps manage and reduce symptoms, the low FODMAP diet doesn’t address the underlying root-causes of IBS/SIBO – it is only one piece of the puzzle.

  • You’ll need a holistic and multidimensional approach in order to heal your gut.

Not customized

Since everyone’s body is unique, it could still be difficult to pinpoint exactly which foods are YOUR triggers.

FODMAPs are a type of food intolerance, but you could also be dealing with food allergies and/or food sensitivities.

Too restrictive

Many foods include FODMAPs.  This diet (like other types of IBS diets)  is very restrictive, and can get stressful and overwhelming pretty fast.

Don’t go on a low FODMAP diet without working alongside a registered dietitian, and it’s not a good idea don’t go down this path if you have an eating disorder or struggle with disordered eating.

Missing out on key nutrients

High FODMAP foods make up a substantial proportion of a normal healthy diet.  FODMAPs are also a main food source of prebiotics.

It’s easy to develop nutritional deficiencies and difficult to consume enough prebiotics while following a low FODMAP diet.

Not supposed to be long-term

This diet is meant to be followed only for a few months to help you relieve symptoms and “re-inoculate” your gut microbiome while repairing your gut lining.  This is not a long-term solution for IBS.

When you address your gut issues properly, you should eventually be able to start reintroducing and tolerating high FODMAP foods again in your diet.

Learn more!

If you’d like to learn more about FODMAPs, IBS, and/or SIBO, make sure to check out the following resources:

Low FODMAP diet: the bottom line

“FODMAPs” are poorly absorbed, fermentable, short-chain carbohydrate foods that most people with a healthy gut can digest without consequences.

If you have compromised digestion, IBS or SIBO, eating foods high in FODMAPs can likely trigger or exacerbate unwanted symptoms such as gas, bloating, pain and changes in bowel regularity.

Leaning on a low FODMAP diet may provide relief of symptoms, but there are other steps that need to be taken. However, a low FODMAP diet is not the solution to gut issues.

FODMAPs are not the root cause of gut issues and shouldn’t be avoided forever. In fact, FODMAPs foods can and should eventually be a part of a nutritious, balanced diet, even among those with IBS/SIBO.

If you’re struggling with gut issues, it’s crucial that you heal and repair your gut at the root-cause level.

Next steps

If you’re feeling confused or overwhelmed about navigating the low FODMAP diet, make sure to download the complimentary high & low FODMAP foods  list PDF (conveniently organized by category, with serving sizes noted too) so your life can get a little easier!

You can learn more here or click on the image below to snag this free, downloadable, printable low FODMAP diet resource.

high and low FODMAP diet food list for beginners

 

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