Following a low FODMAP and vegan diet

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Emily Clarke - Research Dietitian, 12 August 2022

A vegan diet is one which follows an exclusively plant-based eating pattern. Someone may follow this lifestyle for ethical, religious or personal reasons. A vegan diet relies on plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, breads, cereals, grains, legumes, lentils, soy products, nuts and seeds to meet nutritional needs. This means all animal products (like meat, dairy and eggs) are excluded. Trying to follow a Low FODMAP diet while maintaining vegan practices can feel quite restrictive as many plant foods also contain FODMAPs. 

If you are just starting out, it is important to work closely with a Monash FODMAP trained Dietitian to ensure you are eating a variety of nutritious foods. Following either diet has been linked to increased risks of nutritional deficiencies, [1] so it is especially important to identify these and aim to consume foods that will fill any gaps. Below are some key nutrients to focus on with your dietitian. 

Calcium

A nutrient that can be deficient in either vegan or Low FODMAP diets is calcium. This mineral is vital across all stages of life, as it supports bone and muscle health, in addition to assisting nerve function and healthy blood clotting. [2] The main dietary source of calcium is typically dairy products, however, intake in these diets is reduced or avoided. Fortunately, many plant-based dairy alternatives exist and can be a great source of Calcium. It is important when choosing which product to buy, to check there is added Calcium. Aim for at least 100mg calcium per 100mL of milk.[3]This will be listed near the bottom of the Nutrition Information Panel on the back of the packaging. 

Protein:

Protein is an essential nutrient supporting healthy muscle mass and immune function.
The plant based foods that are typically relied on for protein are also generally quite high in FODMAPs. Individual requirements for protein will vary depending on age, height, weight, physical activity levels, and other health factors. Again, it is best to work alongside a trained Dietitian to identify your individual requirements and ways to best ensure your needs are met. Low FODMAP sources of vegan protein are tofu, tempeh, quinoa, certain nuts and seeds. Check the Monash FODMAP Diet app for the serve sizes. 

B12

Another important nutrient that can be more difficult to meet the needs of is vitamin B12. This vitamin is required for healthy blood and neurological functions. Some Low FODMAP and vegan sources include Soba (buckwheat) noodles, nutritional yeast, yeast spreads, and fortified milks and cereals. To know if a food product is fortified with vitamin B12, check the Nutrition Information Panel on the back of the packaging. 

Iron

Iron deficiency is common among both Vegan and Low FODMAP diet individuals. One of the reasons is that plant-based iron (also known as non-haem iron) is less efficiently absorbed than animal-based iron (haem iron). Iron is used by the body to transport oxygen via our bloodstream. Ensuring nutritional iron needs are met is important and best achieved by working with a Monash FODMAP trained Dietitian. Low FODMAP and vegan sources of iron include nuts and seeds, fortified cereals, tofu, tempeh, and some grains like quinoa. Low FODMAP serve sizes are listed in the app. Consuming fruits rich in vitamin C (e.g. orange, mandarin, kiwifruit) also helps with the absorption of iron.  

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: 

An important nutrient that cannot be made by the body and therefore must be consumed through dietary sources alone, is Omega 3 Fatty Acid. This is vital for protective benefits against coronary heart disease and potential eye problems. Vegan and low FODMAP food sources include flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, legumes, canola oils and margarines, linseed oils. 

Zinc:

The final nutrient to touch on with your Dietitian is Zinc. This mineral is vital for healthy growth and immune support. Dietary sources to consume while following vegan and Low FODMAP might include nuts and seeds, canned chickpeas and lentils, spreads such as tahini and yeast spreads, and fortified cereals.  



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Are you concerned about your nutrient consumption or have been trying to tackle IBS and the low FODMAP diet alone? You can find a list of Monash FODMAP trained dietitians on our dietitians directory in the app or on our website who can support your nutritional needs: https://www.monashfodmap.com/online-training/fodmap-dietitians-directory/


References: 

  1. Medawar E, Huhn S, Villringer A,and Witte A. The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review. Transl Psychiatry. 2019; 9: 226. doi: 10.1038/s41398-019-0552-0

  2. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand -National Health and Medical Research Council.  https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients. Published 2017. Accessed August 9, 2022 

  3. The Five Food Groups - Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives ( mostly reduced fat- Eat for Health.  )https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/five-food-groups/milk-yoghurt-cheese-andor-their-alternatives-mostly-reduced-fat published 2015. Accessed August 9, 2022

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