Enjoying legumes on a low FODMAP diet

by Chloe McLeod

Enjoying legumes on a low FODMAP diet can be a challenge, but the good news is that it is possible! But firstly, what are FODMAPs?

FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols, which are all different types of carbohydrates. These types of carbohydrate are poorly absorbed or digested for some. When these are poorly absorbed, increased water may be drawn into the gut, which results 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 people even without IBS don’t tolerate well.

The key reason to include legumes is fibre. When starting a low FODMAP diet, fibre intake is one of the first things that can start to drop. Legumes are a rich source of prebiotic fibres. These fibres are the ones that provide fuel for the healthy bacteria in your gut, with avoidance showing there may end up being a change in your gut bacteria, and 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.

Check out my tips for 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 infrequent 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.

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

  • Canned legumes are one of the easiest ways to incorporate legumes into your diet, as they’ve already been cooked! Used in the quantities above, they’re so versatile and will work added straight into a salad or 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 these 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 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, remember you can still enjoy them as part of a balanced low FODMAP diet. Take a look at our recipe for low FODMAP Lentil Nut Burgers.

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.

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