Oatmeal is a popular breakfast option for many people, but for those following a low FODMAP diet, it can be confusing to know whether or not oatmeal is safe to eat (without an unwanted “aftermath”).
The good news is that oatmeal is generally considered a low FODMAP food. However, there are some factors to consider when choosing and preparing oatmeal.
In this article, we’ll dive into how much and what type oatmeal is considered to be low in FODMAPs. We’ll also discus the various ways you can safely incorporate oatmeal into a low FODMAP diet.
Table of Contents
What’s the low FODMAP diet? (A quick review)
If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or other gastrointestinal (GI) issues, and you’ve made it to this article, you’ve likely come across the term “FODMAPs.”
This crazy acronym stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols – a group of short-chain carbohydrates that can trigger digestive discomfort in the form of bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel habits in some IBS sufferers.
This approach involves temporarily limiting your intake of high-FODMAP foods for a specific period of time, and then gradually, strategically (with guidance and supervision from a registered dietitian) reintroducing FODMAPs in a way that allows you to identify personal triggers.
(Read more about the low FODMAP diet here!)
But for now, keep in mind this diet is not meant to be followed indefinitely. The purpose of the low FODMAP diet is to serve as a 6-8 week elimination diet which may provide valuable insights into your GI symptoms and food intolerances.
FODMAP content in oatmeal
Oats contain FODMAPs, specifically fructans – in relatively small quantities (1/2 cup cooked).
- Fructans are a type of oligosaccharide, and some folks with IBS may have trouble digesting them – especially in larger quantities.
For people with SIBO, undigested FODMAPs (like fructans) may ferment with microbes in your intestines, leading to IBS-like symptoms such as gas, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, and/or diarrhea.
If you have IBS-D, undigested or poorly digested fructans can enter your colon, which causes water to then get pulled into your colon (by osmosis) – leading to symptoms of diarrhea, bloating, and cramping.
One of the main things to keep in mind is the type of oats you choose. For example:
- Rolled oats and steel-cut oats are generally recommended by Monash University as low FODMAP options, while instant or quick oats may contain higher levels of FODMAPs.
- Certified gluten free oats may also be lower in FODMAPs, since you don’t have to worry about cross-contamination with wheat (a type of high FODMAP grain).
How much oatmeal is low FODMAP?
While oatmeal contains FODMAPs, research suggests that a small portion (up to ~1/2 cup cooked/overnight soaked oats at one time) may be tolerable for some individuals following a low FODMAP diet. (The key is to be mindful of the serving size and opt for oatmeal varieties with lower FODMAP content.)
Several studies have investigated the FODMAP content of oats and their impact on individuals with IBS. These studies generally suggest that a quarter-cup (23g) serving of rolled oats is considered low in FODMAPs and is generally well-tolerated. (3)
It’s also important to pay attention to the serving size, as larger servings of oats can contain higher amounts of FODMAPs. Gradually testing your tolerance to larger servings can help determine your personal threshold.
Health benefits of oatmeal
Apart from its FODMAP content, oatmeal offers numerous health benefits, making it a nutritious addition to any diet.
High in fiber for digestion
Oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber, which supports healthy digestion and promotes regular bowel movements.
(As a friendy reminder, healthy bowel movements should resemble a “3” or a “4” on the Bristol Stool Chart!)
The soluble fiber and phytochemicals (a special type of antioxidants) in oatmeal are associated with improved heart health by helping to reduce cholesterol levels. (4)
Satiating and sustenant
Oatmeal’s high fiber content can help you feel fullere, more satiated and energized – for longer.
(This can aid in efforts to eat more intuitively and to maintain healthy portion control at meals.)
Oatmeal is naturally packed with micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants), contributing to overall well-being.
Did you know oatmeal is naturally high in special prebiotics? These are the foods that help support and optimize the growth of beneficial probiotic microbes in the gut, for healthy digestion. (4)
(Check out a comprehesive prebiotic foods and herbs list PDF, here!)
How to enjoy oatmeal on the low FODMAP diet
If you’ve determined that you can tolerate oatmeal, there are various ways to enjoy it while adhering to your low FODMAP diet.
When preparing oatmeal, it’s important to keep in mind that some high FODMAP ingredients like milk, honey, agave nectar, and certain types of fruits and nuts can increase the FODMAP content of your meal.
Choose low FODMAP sweeteners
Traditional high FODMAP sweeteners like honey and agave nectar can potentially exacerbate IBS symptoms.
Instead, opt for low FODMAP sweeteners such as pure maple syrup or brown sugar to add a touch of sweetness to your oatmeal.
Select low FODMAP fruits for toppings
Fresh or dried fruits can be a great addition to your oatmeal.
However, not all fruits are low in FODMAPs. Stick to low FODMAP fruits like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or dried cranberries (unsweetened, or sweetened with cane sugar) to enhance the flavor of your oatmeal without triggering digestive discomfort.
Opt for low FODMAP nuts/seeds
Nuts and seeds are generally tolerated by most people with IBS – but keep in mind, some are higher in FODMAPs than others!
Opt for low FODMAP nuts such as walnuts or pecans versus cashews or pistachios.
As for almonds and hazelnuts: these are low FODMAP in small quantities of 10 total or less, at one time.
Use low FODMAP milk alternatives
When preparing oatmeal, consider using a low FODMAP milk alternative as your base, instead of regular milk.
Lactose-free milk may also be tolerated a low FODMAP milk option for those who are lactose intolerant but still want a creamy texture – as long as you don’t have a dairy sensitivity.
- If you’re unsure, feel free to read more about lactose intolerance versus dairy sensitivity here – or you may also enjoy this round-up of the best milks/milk substitutes for IBS sufferers, from a holistic nutrition standpoint.
Additionally, plant-based milks like almond milk, macadamia milk, quinoa milk, or rice milk are all low FODMAP choices that can provide a pleasant nutty flavor.
Spice it up!
Enhance the taste of your low FODMAP oatmeal with various spices that are safe for the low FODMAP diet.
Cinnamon is a popular choice; it adds warmth and a touch of sweetness without causing digestive distress.
Other safe options include a pinch of nutmeg, cardamom, or vanilla extract.
Stay mindful of portion sizes
While oatmeal is considered low FODMAP in small servings, be mindful of portion sizes. Consuming too much oatmeal in one sitting can lead to increased FODMAP intake, potentially triggering IBS symptoms.
Stick to the recommended serving size and observe how your body responds.
Experiment with oatmeal varieties
If you find that one type of oatmeal causes discomfort, try experimenting with different oatmeal varieties.
Some people may tolerate rolled oats better than steel-cut oats, or vice versa.
Listen to your body’s cues and adjust your choices accordingly!
Low FODMAP oat recipes to try
- Basic overnight oats
- Single-serving baked oatmeal
- Strawberry protein bars
- 5-ingredient vegan banana bread
- Crispy oatmeal cookies with oil
- Pumpkin pie oatmeal
- Peanut butter baked oatmeal
Keeping a food-symptom diary
While the low FODMAP diet is proven to help many folks with IBS to find relief, it’s important to remember that one size never fits all.
So while the low FODMAP diet may serve as a nice “backbone”, you’re likley going to find that you can tolerate some foods that are high FODMAP – and you may also find that some low FODMAP foods can still trigger your unwanted GI symptoms.
(This concept is referred to as bio-individuality!)
For individuals with IBS, SIBO or other gastrointestinal issues, keeping a detailed food symptom diary (like this IBS Food Diary) can be an invaluable tool in better understanding your unique food triggers and managing your symptoms more effectively.
A food symptom diary is a simple and effective way to track the intake of different foods, including oatmeal, and to note any IBS symptoms that may arise in response to specific dietary choices.
For each meal and snack, write a detailed description of what you ate, including all ingredients and portion sizes. Be specific about the type of oatmeal you consumed, such as rolled oats or steel-cut oats, and note any toppings or added ingredients.
After eating, pay close attention to your body and any symptoms that may occur within a few hours or up to 24 hours later. Common IBS symptoms to watch for include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. Rate the severity of each symptom on a scale from 1 to 10 to better understand their intensity.
(Read more about why and how to keep an IBS food diary here!)
Oatmeal and IBS: Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Can I eat oatmeal if I have IBS?
While oatmeal contains FODMAPs, some individuals with IBS may tolerate small servings of oatmeal. It’s essential to monitor your symptoms and stick to the recommended portion size.
Are all oatmeal varieties low in FODMAPs?
Different oatmeal varieties can have varying FODMAP levels. Rolled oats in small portions are generally considered low in FODMAPs.
What are some low FODMAP oatmeal toppings?
Low FODMAP fruit toppings for oatmeal can include:
- 1/2 banana
- Canned pumpkin
You can also top your oatmeal with low FODMAP nuts, seeds, or coconut toppings such as:
- Almonds or hazelnuts (up to 10)
- Almond butter or hazelnut butter (up to 1 TBSP)
- Walnuts or walnut butter
- Natural peanut butter
- Sunflower seeds or sunflower seed butter
- Pumpkins seeds or pumpkin seed butter
- Ground flax seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Shredded coconut
- Pecans or pecan butter
Can I sweeten my oatmeal on a low FODMAP diet?
Yes, you can sweeten your oatmeal with low FODMAP sweeteners such as maple syrup or brown sugar, in moderation.
Is the low FODMAP diet suitable for long-term use?
The low FODMAP diet is not meant to be followed indefinitely. It is a diagnostic tool to identify trigger foods and create a personalized eating plan.
Can oatmeal cause diarrhea?
Technically it’s possible for any food to cause diarrhea – even “healthy” and low FODMAP foods like oatmeal.
If you’re finding that oatmeal seems to be causing you diarrhea, it may be worth consulting your treatment team about investigating the possibility of the following:
- Celiac disease (particularly if the oatmeal is not gluten free, in this case)
- Other forms of inflammatory bowel disease (i.e. diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, and/or colitis)
- A food sensitivity to oats
- A sucrose intolerance
- Food poisoning
You may also want to make sure you aren’t reacting to something else that you added to your oatmeal (i.e. milk, high FODMAP toppings, other food sensitivities, etc.). This is where a food-symptom journal can be very useful!
(Get the full low-down on oatmeal, oat milk and diarrhea here!)
Is oat milk low FODMAP?
Up to 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) of oat milk is considered low FODMAP, according to Monash University.
That being said, not all oat milk is made the same way, and not everybody with IBS/SIBO reacts negatively to oat milk.
When in doubt, consult a FODMAP-informed dietitian and keep a detailed food-symptom journal to gain more clarity on what you can tolerate!
If you found this article helpful, and you’d like to learn more, feel free to check out the following resources:
- 15 Tasty & Healthy Low FODMAP Breakfast Recipes (Round-Up)
- Ultimate Guide to Finding & Choosing a Low FODMAP Cereal
- The Best Low FODMAP Granola Options for IBS
- 15 Simple & Delicious Dietitian-Approved Low FODMAP Lunch Ideas
- 50+ Tasty Low FODMAP Snacks for IBS
- Expert Guidance on Finding & Choosing a Low FODMAP Bread
- Is Maple Syrup Low FODMAP? (Expert Guidance on Maple Syrup and IBS)
- 7 Reasons Oatmeal and Oat Milk Can Cause Diarrhea
- Is It Okay to Eat Oatmeal at Night? Foods for a Restful Sleep
- How Long Can Oatmeal Sit Out: A Comprehensive Guide
- What is Blended Oatmeal?
- When Is the Best Time to Eat Oatmeal (According to Dietitian)
- Can You Eat Expired Oatmeal? (Storage Suggestions)
- Benefits of Overnight Oats vs Cooked
- Oatmeal Pros and Cons – Dietitian Reviews
So, is oatmeal low FODMAP? Generally yes – but you need to be mindful of portions, since oatmeal does contain some FODMAPs in the form of fructans.
What you’re putting in your oatmeal can also change the FODMAP content of your meal. (Be mindful of sweeteners, milk/milk substitutes, fruit, nuts, seeds and spices which could potentially contain FODMAPs!)
By choosing the right type of oats, paying attention to serving sizes, and using low FODMAP ingredients, you can enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal without triggering digestive symptoms.
With mindful choices and proper planning, you can include oatmeal in your low FODMAP journey while reaping its many health benefits.
And last but not least, remember to keep a food-symptom journal and consult a FODMAP-informed dietitian for the best possible outcomes!