How Much Low-FODMAP Protein Do You Need?
Written by FODMAPLife.com founder Colleen Francioli
Reviewed by Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN
Featured image (turkey and vegetables) by Amy Agur, FODMAP Formula
New to the low-FODMAP diet or have you been making your way through the Elimination Phase? Whatever stage you’re at, knowing your choices for low-FODMAP sources that are high in protein will help you create a balanced plate.
Why is protein in the body important? Proteins perform a wide array of essential life functions throughout the body. They form all the enzymes that spark our metabolic functions and many of the hormones that regulate our body chemistry. We are all constantly rebuilding new tissue. For example, the cells that line our intestinal tract are replaced almost twice per week. That’s why we need a constant supply of amino acids to build the proteins that create our body tissues. A protein deficiency can cause loss of lean muscle mass and a wide range of functional problems.
Protein for Vegetarians and Vegans
Vegetarians and vegans that limit certain foods need to be more aware about combining food. Lacto-ovo vegetarians who consume complete animal-derived proteins such as eggs and low-FODMAP dairy need to be less concerned than the die-hard vegans. In their case, essential amino acids such as lysine, methionine, and tryptophan are often deficient. They’re found in all vegetable proteins but at lower levels than other amino acids. Some low-FODMAP food combining ideas include: tofu (a complete protein) or tempeh (very high in protein and a good source of lysine) with a low-FODMAP grain or leafy greens, millet and sprouted mung beans, quinoa (high in protein) with sunflower seeds, peanuts with rice, peanuts with coconut, rice with ¼ cup canned garbanzo beans (must be drained and rinsed) and buckwheat with leafy greens.
AGE & RDA (recommended dietary allowance) in Grams
- Children 1-3 years ~ 13 grams
- Children, 4-8 years ~ 19 grams
- Males and females, 9-13 years ~ 34 grams
- Males, 14-18 years ~ 52 grams
- Females, 14-18 years ~ 46 grams
- Males, 19 and older ~ 56 grams
- Females, 19 and older ~ 46 grams
- Pregnancy and lactation ~ Women should add an additional 25 grams to their age-group requirement.
Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN says: “One of the things I often see with patients adopting the low FODMAP diet is they worry about weight gain; they feel as though the diet is very starchy and high in carbs. I always remind them of the minimal limitations on protein on the low FODMAP diet, and that the low FODMAP diet can be as balanced–or as imbalanced– as you choose to make it.”
Who Needs More Protein?
If you are a bodybuilder, you’ll need to repair muscles with more protein.
If your low-FODMAP diet consists of less whole foods and more sugar or carbs from gluten-free snacks, you could benefit from swapping some of these out with higher protein alternatives. Doing so could have a beneficial effect on blood sugar and harmful LDL cholesterol levels.
If you’ve had surgery, an injury (including burns), or blood loss, your body will require more protein.
If you’re pregnant, your doctor may suggest to up your protein intake up to 80 or 100 grams per day.
If you’re 50 years or older, more protein may help minimize age-related muscle loss. Older adults are already at risk for high cholesterol or other cardiovascular issues, and getting more protein from lean sources like legumes, fish and, poultry instead of high-fat sources like cheese and red meat may help.
Highest Sources of Low-FODMAP Protein
Below I’ve listed some of the highest sources of low-FODMAP protein. Just remember when out to eat and ordering or picking up something pre-made at the grocery store, make sure your choice in protein was not marinated with or cooked in high-FODMAP ingredients such as onions, onion powder, garlic, garlic powder, honey, agave, large servings of ketchup or BBQ sauce (which most contain high fructose corn syrup – a FODMAP) OR other high-FODMAP ingredients. Also, processed meats such as sausage may contain high-FODMAPs (garlic, onion, apples, wheat) and some lunch meats include honey, wheat or are seasoned with garlic or onions or other high-FODMAPs (see food label example below). “Natural flavors” and “spices” are questionable as we don’t really know what the ingredients contain. Sodium lactate is typically produced from genetically engineered sugar beets or corn, and that’s another questionable ingredient. Sometimes carrageenan or gums are added to lunch meats and can sometimes trigger gastrointestinal distress. A brand like Applegate only contains less than 2% of carrageenan so that may or may not be an issue. IBS is very individualized so only you will know your true triggers for symptoms.
You’ll find some of the following sources of protein contain essential vitamins for nutrient metabolism such as B1, B3, B6 and B12. Learn more about other essential vitamins and minerals for nutrient metabolism here: Have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Vitamin D and Other Vitamins and Minerals.
Beef, Poultry, Pork, Fish, Shellfish
Chicken, skinless – is a great source of selenium, vitamins B3 and B6. The protein found in chicken contains all the amino acids essential for human health. When the skin is removed, a chicken breast is relatively low in saturated fat compared to many protein alternatives. 3 oz = 28 grams of protein. Try my recipe for Slow Cooker Low-FODMAP Chicken Pot Pie Soup.
Steak – is high in iron, and also a rich source of vitamin B12. 3 oz = 26 grams of protein.
Turkey – a good source of iron, as well as vitamins B3 and B6. Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which produces serotonin and plays an important role in strengthening the immune system (over 80% of your immune system exists within your gut!). 3 oz = 25 grams of protein. Try these Spinach Cranberry Turkey Burgers (below) from Lauren Renlund, MPH, RD.
Lamb – lamb is an excellent source of nutritionally complete protein, providing all eight essential amino acids in the right ratios but also contains varying amounts of fat. The amount of fat depends on the level of trimming and the animal’s diet, age, gender, and feed. Contains good sources of Vitamin B12 and iron. 3 oz = 23 grams of protein. Try this recipe for Lamb Skewers with Oregano & Garlic Oil by Glenda Bishop, Registered Nutritionist of A Less Irritable Life.
Pork – pork chops contain all of the B vitamins except folate, but they’re an especially good source of three that contribute to cardiovascular health. They also contain zinc, which helps form the structure of protein and supports the immune system. 3 oz = 22 grams of protein. Try this recipe for Low-FODMAP Pulled Pork by Amy Agur of the FODMAP Formula.
Ham – rich in iron and zinc, with a high contribution of amino acids essential for growth. A good source of B vitamins, especially B1. 3 oz = 14 grams of protein. Try this recipe for Warm Ham and Pineapple Salad with Easy Garlic Croutons (picture below) by Glenda Bishop, Registered Nutritionist of A Less Irritable Life. **The “garlic” croutons are made with low FODMAP bread and garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil.
Eggs – egg yolks are a good source of difficult-to-get-from diet nutrients like nervous-system-supporting choline and Vitamin D—which are particularly important for kids and pregnant women. Despite being high in cholesterol, studies show that eggs don’t generally contribute to higher cholesterol levels in the body—making them an excellent, everyday source of protein. The whites are rich sources of selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper. Egg yolks are the source of cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and lecithin. 1 large egg = 6 grams of protein.
Salmon – high in Omega3; vitamin D, selenium, vitamin B12. There’s a lower risk of contamination if you buy wild-caught Alaskan salmon (mercury, pesticides, and persistent organic pollutants (POPS)). 3 oz = 22 grams of protein. Try my recipe for Low-FODMAP Sweet and Spicy Glazed Salmon & Pomegranate Salad.
Tuna – has very high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce omega-6 fatty acids and cholesterol in the arteries and blood vessels. It’s also rich in potassium, which is known for lowering blood pressure. Lots of heart-healthy benefits! 3 oz = 22 grams of protein. If you’re buying canned tuna, my favorite brand is Safe Catch Low Mercury Tuna. Try my recipe for Low-FODMAP Tuna Casserole (below).
Shrimp – contains great sources of vitamin B12. 3 oz = 20 grams of protein. Try this recipe for Low-FODMAP Shrimp & Grits by Dédé Wilson of FODMAP Everyday (picture below) and check out their NEW low-FODMAP recipe eBook!
Lobster – contains zinc, other minerals, vitamin B12, vitamin E and a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids. 3 oz = 16 grams of protein. Try this delicious Low-FODMAP Lobster Mac n’ Cheese!
Scallops – are rich in vitamin B12 and phosphorus. 3 oz = 14 grams of protein. Try my recipe for Low-FODMAP Seared Scallops in Red Curry Sauce.
Meatless Protein Options
Peanut Butter – According to Prevention Magazine, “a serving of peanut butter has 3 mg of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, 49 mg of bone-building magnesium, 208 mg of muscle-friendly potassium, and 0.17 mg of immunity-boosting vitamin B6.” Peanut butter is also jam-packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. 8 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons. Try my Low-FODMAP No Bake Peanut Butter Protein Bars, so YUM!
When buying peanut butter, look for natural brands that contain low sodium and low sugar (and no added high-FODMAPs such as honey, agave, or added nuts such as high-FODMAP cashews). This article on Eat This, Not That! The 36 Top Peanut Butters—Ranked!, provides an excellent review of some of the best and worst peanut butter available.
Try using peanut butter in this recipe for Low-FODMAP Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Spinach by Zlata Faerman of Life and Thymez (below).
Tempeh – No matter if you abstain from meat or can’t get enough meat, I think tempeh is an excellent protein choice. I find it very filling and really enjoy cooking with it. If you haven’t done so already, give it a try! Tempeh contains vitamins B2 and B3 as well as B6, B9, and B12, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. 31 grams of protein per cup. Try this recipe for Scrambled Tempeh with Capsicums & Spinach by Larah Brook from Journey into The Low-FODMAP Diet (below)
Greek yogurt – is another filling choice for protein. It only contains 4 grams of lactose per 6-ounce container, so small servings are low in FODMAPs (lactose is the “D” in FODMAPs, Disaccharides). Greek yogurt contains great sources of calcium, potassium, protein, zinc, and vitamins B6 and B12. Also, it has twice the protein content of regular yogurts. Around 17 grams of protein in a 6-ounce serving. Try this recipe for Cheesy Yogurt and Herb Chicken by Kate Scarlata, RDN.
Tofu (only choose firm tofu) – contains all eight essential amino acids. It is also an excellent source of iron and calcium. 27 grams of protein per every 2/3 cup serving. Try this recipe for Low-FODMAP Pumpkin Tofu Tacos (above) by Cari Jaye Sokoloff of Posh Belly Kitchen (makes 8-10 servings).
Check out this recipe (pictured below) for Low FODMAP Teriyaki Plant Protein Power Bowl by Joanna Baker APD, AN, RN of Everyday Nutrition.
Edamame is a great source of fiber (contains 8 grams of fiber in every cooked cup), is low in carbs and does not excessively raise blood sugar levels, and is high in healthy polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid. It contains calcium, and vitamin C. A 1-cup serving of cooked edamame contains 535 micrograms of copper or approximately 60 percent of the required daily intake for men and women. The immune system requires copper to perform several functions. 16 grams of protein per cup (shelled).
Chia seeds full of omega-3s and fiber, plus iron. 9.4 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons. Try them in my Low-FODMAP Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding recipe.
Chickpeas – A low-FODMAP serving of canned chickpeas is a 1/4 cup (be sure to drain and rinse first to release the FODMAPs). 3.5 grams of protein per 1/4 cup.
Lentils B vitamins, folate. A low-FODMAP serving of canned lentils is a 1/2 cup (be sure to drain and rinse first to release the FODMAPs). You can also have up to a 1/4 cup of red or green lentils boiled (lentil burgers and lentil soup are high-FODMAP). 9 grams of protein per cup. Try this Easy Lentil Salad with Kale, Cherry Tomatoes, Almonds and Lemon Vinaigrette recipe (below) by Registered Dietitian Nutritionist EA Stewart, AKA, The Spicy RD.
Hemp seeds – Hemp seeds have not been tested and analyzed for FODMAPs just yet, though anecdotally, many people following the low FODMAP diet report tolerating them very well. A 1-ounce serving of the seeds provides 11 grams of protein.
Quinoa – contains vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and folate. 8 grams of protein per cup cooked. Try this recipe for Low-FODMAP Quinoa: Millet & Quinoa with Parsley by Glenda Bishop of A Less Irritable Life (below) or this Low-FODMAP Lemon and Zucchini Quinoa recipe by Zlata Faerman of Life and Thymez.
This protein powder has been certified low-FODMAP by the FODMAP Friendly Food Program:
The following protein powders appear to be FODMAP Friendly due to their low-FODMAP ingredients:
- Jay Robb Unflavored Egg White protein powder
- Nutribiotic Organic Rice Protein, Chocolate
- Jarrow Brown Rice Protein (Vanilla Flavor)
- Solgar Whey To Go® Protein Powder Natural Vanilla Flavor
Ground meats – Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Poultry: Cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer.
Cooking fish – The safe internal temperature for cooked fish is 145°F, or until the fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. When cooking fish, cook it until the center reaches 145°F on an instant-read or meat thermometer.
The most common danger of eating too much of tuna fish is the risk of mercury poisoning. Ahi tuna and bigeye tuna, as well as the following fish, are reported to have high levels of mercury: Tilefish, king mackerel, shark, swordfish, marlin, orange roughy.
This post was reviewed by Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian and nationally-known expert in managing digestive disorders through diet. She is the author of the forthcoming book, “The Bloated Belly Whisperer” (St Martins Press, February 2019), and maintains a clinical practice in New York City.
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