One question we get asked frequently at The FODMAP Challenge is – can you have protein powder on a low FODMAP diet? In short, yes, some protein powders are low FODMAP. The key is finding the right one for you, that you’re able to tolerate.
What is protein?
Protein forms an important part of a heathy diet. It is an essential nutrient made up of amino acids and plays a key role in building and repairing muscle, among other important functions. Dietary sources of protein include lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, yoghurt, cheese, seeds, nuts, legumes and soy products. Protein powder supplements are another popular source of protein that many are choosing, particularly in recent years.
How much protein do we actually need?
This is different for everyone. Certain individuals have higher requirements such as athletes, growing children/adolescents, pregnant women, the elderly, and those who are recovering from illness/injury.
For your average adult, the guidelines recommend 15-25% of our total energy intake be from protein, or between 0.75-1.1g/kg/day to meet nutritional requirements. Most of us will quite easily meet our protein requirements through a balanced diet, especially here in Australia.
Why are protein supplements so popular?
Many people may think protein powders are an essential gym accessory, or a vital ingredient for achieving ‘them gains’. What many people don’t realise, or choose to ignore, is that getting protein from food sources is almost always more beneficial. This is because of all the additional nutrients found in the food. Protein from food is also usually better absorbed.
In saying that, protein shakes can be a convenient option, especially for those on the run. So, if you choose to have protein powders and have IBS, it is important you select a low FODMAP protein powder.
Whey Protein Powder
Whey protein is the most popular of the plethora of protein powders available. Like with cheese, whey protein powders should contain virtually no lactose as most is removed during processing.
When choosing a whey-protein powder, we suggest Whey Protein Isolate (WPI). This is because it has undergone extra filtering, removing majority of the lactose. Most WPI contain <1% lactose, so it should be tolerated by most individuals on a low-FODMAP diet. Only choose Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) if it states it is lactose-free.
Concentrate versus Isolate
Milk contains two types of protein; casein and whey. Whey is the liquid protein part of milk that is produced as a by-product when making cheese. Sooo…if whey comes from milk then surely you can’t have it on a low-FODMAP diet? Not necessarily!
Like with cheese, whey protein powders should contain virtually no lactose. If you choose a whey-protein powder, the best bet is going for Whey Protein Isolate (WPI). WPI has undergone extra filtering, removing majority of the lactose. Most WPI contain less than 1% lactose, so it should be tolerated by most individuals on a low FODMAP diet. Only choose Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) if it is marketed as lactose-free.
Some good WPI proteins to try:
- Bulk Nutrients WPI powder
- Bulk Nutrients natural WPI powder. Slightly more expensive than the standard, but flavoured varieties use stevia (natural sweetener) instead of sucralose (artificial sweetener) which may appeal more to some.
- International Protein Naturals WPI
- VPA 100% Pure WPI
- PhD Pharma Pure lactose-free WPI
- EHP Labs Isopept Zero
Vegan Low FODMAP protein powers
Rice protein powder
Rice protein powder is low FODMAP and is suitable for those on a vegan diet. Some suitable options include:
- Bulk Nutrients Rice Protein Isolate
- Body Science Organic Vegan protein – blend of pea protein isolate and brown rice protein.
- International Protein Naturals rice protein
Pea protein powder
Whilst peas are high FODMAP food, pea protein powder has been tested as low FODMAP at a 2 Tbsp (40g) serve. It is suitable for those on a vegan diet. Some suitable options include:
Hemp protein powder
Hemp protein is made from hemp seeds which has been tested as low FODMAP at a 2 Tbsp (20g) serve. The moderate FODMAP content of hemp seeds is a 50g serve. Whilst hemp protein powder itself has not been tested, it should be fine at a 20g serve. Due to its strong flavour, hemp protein is more ideal for smoothies. Some suitable hemp protein powders are suitable are:
- Bulks Nutrients Hemp Protein
- The Source Bulk Foods Hemp Protein Organic
- Hemp Foods Australia Organic Hemp Protein
Is soy protein powder low FODMAP?
Whilst soybeans are high FODMAP, soy protein powders MAY be ok due to the processing undertaken, however, it may be best to avoid these.
As with any low FODMAP diet, everyone is different and some will tolerate some proteins better than others. Here are some final tips to help you choose:
Most online stores, and in store for that matter, will sell sample sachets of powder for you to try before you buy. Shop around and try some before you commit to buying
Always check the label, especially for flavoured variants
Some key ingredients to be cautious of are artificial sweeteners ending in ‘ol’ e.g malitol, xylitol etc. Soy (often soy lecithin) is often added, if in trace amounts it should be ok but if its high up in the ingredients list then avoid the product. Others to beware of include inulin, coconut, and almond meal (usually in vegan protein).
Struggling to identify your triggers? Sign up to The FODMAP Challenge to get meal plans, recipe ideas, and regular, expert support to to help you take control of your gut health, improve your symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and better your quality of life.
*Please note these recommendations were correct at time of print. Ingredients change all the time, so remember to read the label.
By Amanda Gaukroger and Rachael Matthews