A vegetarian diet typically omits all animal meats from the diet. This diet can still be nutritionally adequate when foods are selected with care and consideration to ensure dietary needs are met. In fact, a vegetarian diet has been shown by research to offer many health benefits, particularly when plant food intake is increased.
This can become increasingly hard, however, when someone following a vegetarian diet has also been prescribed a low FODMAP diet. This is because many vegetarian protein sources contain FODMAPs. For this reason, dietitians suggest paying particular attention to the following at-risk nutrients if you’re following a low FODMAP vegetarian diet.
Tip: Include a source of protein at each main meal and snack.
Protein is important for building and repairing body tissues including muscle, hormone production and immune function. Protein also helps to keep us feeling full and aids in maintaining a healthy weight. Low FODMAP protein sources include eggs, lactose-free dairy, soy milk, soy yoghurt, firm tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds, tinned legumes (< ½ cup), wholegrain or wholemeal breads/cereals/pastas, and plant-based low-FODMAP protein powder. By including a variety of these proteins throughout the day, you are more likely to get the full spectrum of essential amino acids that protein-containing foods provide.
Tip: Mind your phytates.
Zinc helps with the growth and repair of body cells, immune system function, and wound healing. Phytates found in wholegrains, legumes, and soybeans may reduce the absorption of this mineral. What are phytates? They are antioxidant compounds that, although not inherently bad, can bind to certain nutrients including zinc, and slow their absorption. Phytates are generally not a major issue in the diet and actually provide anti-inflammatory effects, but for someone following an already restricted diet (as in the case of a low FODMAP vegetarian diet) it is important to flag them. The key here is to consume plenty of zinc sources throughout your weekly menu. Additionally, note that it is best to consume tea and coffee away from zinc (i.e. between meals and not with meals), as this may also inhibit zinc absorption.
Low FODMAP sources of zinc: lactose-free diary, eggs, tinned legumes (< ½ cup to remain low FODMAP), tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds, brown rice, wholegrain/wholemeal breads/pastas/cereals, sprouted legumes, miso.
Tip: Pair your iron sources with a dose of vitamin C to boost absorption.
Iron is an extremely important nutrient. It helps to circulate oxygen in our blood and provides us with energy. There are 2 types of iron: haem iron found in animal products, and non-haem iron found more in plant-based foods. Non-haem iron is less readily absorbed by the body, so for this reason, we need to include plenty of it to get adequate amounts. Additionally, vitamin C found in fruits and vegetables can boost the absorption of iron; eat fruits and/or veggies at each main meal! As with zinc, phytates may impair iron absorption, hence why it is so important to consume adequate quantities from a variety of sources.
Vegetarian sources of iron include eggs, tinned legumes (< ½ cup to remain low FODMAP), tofu, dark green and leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds (particularly flax, chia and pumpkin seeds), wholegrain/wholemeal breads/cereals/pastas, fortified cereals such as gluten-free Weet-Bix.
Tip: Include lactose-free dairy or calcium-fortified soy products daily. This nutrient should not be neglected. It is essential for not only maintaining bone and teeth strength, but also nerve and muscle function, as well as blood clotting.
Other low FODMAP sources of calcium include tofu set in calcium salts, tempeh, almonds, brazil nuts, tahini, broccoli, and leafy green vegetables. If you prefer milk alternatives such as almond milk, check the label to ensure they contain at least 120mg/100ml of calcium, and avoid options that contain inulin or chicory root whilst on a low FODMAP diet.
5. Vitamin B12
Tip: Monitor B12 levels through routine blood tests with your doctor.
Vitamin B12 is predominantly found in animal products such as meats. Include low FODMAP sources of vitamin B12 daily: lactose-free dairy, eggs, fortified soy milk, and fortified vegetarian ‘meats’. Vitamin B12 aids in blood cell formation and nervous system functioning, so consistently low levels may warrant supplementation.