Ep.8 Improving a vegetarian diet when you have IBS
11 Jul, 2023

Episode Intro

Are you finding it hard to be vegetarian when you've got IBS? It can be really challenging to change your diet at any time, but it's especially hard when most of your major protein containing foods are the mega bloat IBS foods. So this is exactly what I'm going to cover in this episode of the inside knowledge. You'll learn which kind of vegetarian protein foods are less likely to make you bloat, how to actually calculate how much protein you need. I'm going to talk about how to manage the low FODMAP diet as a vegetarian. You'll also hear how to download my fake meat vegetarian review at the end.

Podcast transcript

You’ll learn which kind of vegetarian protein foods are less likely to make you bloat, how to actually calculate how much protein you need. I’m going to talk about how to manage the low FODMAP diet as a vegetarian and what’s the deal with protein powders? Do you need them? You’ll also hear how to download my fake meat vegetarian review at the end.

Welcome to episode 8 of the Inside Knowledge for people with IBS.

Today I’m gonna give you a little overview of protein and specifically talk about vegetarian protein. I’ll also mention vegan proteins as well, specifically, but I will include in here as well some references to eggs and dairy, so you’ve got the full lowdown on non meat containing protein foods.

What is protein?

Proteins are a chain of lots of small units called amino acids, and these are all linked together. There’s about 20 different amino acids which we find in our foods and are used in the body.

Some of them are essential that we have to get from food. And some of them our body can create in order to make things like our skin, our bones, our nails, hair.

But also, protein is involved in digestive enzyme production, in hormone production, and also can help to regulate energy.

So, it is a really important part of our diet.

We find protein in animal products, of course, things like meat and fish, dairy and eggs, plant based sources, including things like quinoa, tofu, beans, pulses, nuts, and seeds.

Plant based protein

Plant based sources of protein tend not to have all the amino acids present. So those essential amino acids that we need to get from food.

Meat and fish and dairy often have all the essential amino acids, and these is what’s known as a complete protein.  It’s a higher quality of protein in terms of the amount of protein per grams of the food.

Plant based sources will contain some of these. Which is another reason why we really need to focus on diet diversity. Trying to eat a broad range of different products and vegetables and fruits and everything to make sure that you are hitting all of those different protein requirements.

Because if you’re not, it’s easy to miss out on some of those key essential amino acids that can only be derived from food.

How to calculate your protein requirements

But how do you know how much of this protein to eat and whether you are getting enough?

Well, there are some calculations that you can use based on the size of your body, and I’m going to share with you a little bit of nuance into that as well.

The normal maintenance dose for protein is based on 0. 8 grams of protein per day for every kilo of body weight that you have.

If you’re more active and you’re really working out a lot at the gym, some protein requirement research has shown that having 1.5 grams of protein for every kilo of body weight is an ideal amount.

How much protein do I need?

This calculation can be quite excessive when you have a bigger body, and I will go through a few examples to show you what I mean.

For example. 

If you’re 60kg, which is 9 stone 6, which, for those in the US listening, is around 132lbs, you would need to eat somewhere between 48 grams, that would be your maintenance dose. Or going up to about 90 grams of protein per day if you are extremely active. Or if you are working on a kind of heavy protein, light carb and trying to lose weight.

If you’re around 11 stone, which is 70 kilos, which might be around 154 pounds, you would need somewhere between 56 grams of protein per day and 100 grams of protein per day.

This is probably doable if you’re eating meat, but is extremely challenging on a vegetarian diet.

Why do we need protein?

And so what we’ll just want to make sure that we’re looking at is how to hit your minimum maintenance dose, because for me, that is the baseline.

That is the essential. It’s a maintenance dose to stop your muscle wastage, to make sure that you’ve got enough energy and enough key amino acids to help stay healthy hair, healthy nails, healthy skin and just feeling good. So we want to make sure you’re hitting that bottom range as a minimum.

The top range, I think, is probably something for a discussion with someone who really understands a bit more about your particular health goals, your situation, etc.

Now, if you’re in a bigger body that has a larger amount of body fat, this calculation, especially using the top range, could lead you to be eating an unrealistic amount of protein per day when you’re looking at the upper range.

Deducting fat from your body weight


The calculation is based on your lean body mass. So you need to take a little bit of a reduction down. To make sure that you are not eating, you know, 200 grams of protein.

Because it’s just not sustainable. It’s extremely expensive. And you would just be eating protein all day long.

So what we want to do is just try to make an estimate based on your fat free mass. If you don’t know how much body fat you’ve got you could just take off around 20 to 30 maybe 40 percent of this figure in order to hit your target.

So let me give you some examples here as well. So imagine that you’re around 96 kilos. This equates to 15 stone roughly, which is around 212 pounds.

In this calculation, you would need between 76 grams and 144 grams of protein per day, which you can imagine is a huge amount of protein.

But if we reduce that by a percentage of fat and just base it on your lean body mass, then we can calculate, so say you’re taking off 30 percent of your body weight, you go from 76 grams to 53. grams.

Protein requirements for larger bodies

I guess my main point is that we need to think about a minimum intake of protein of around 50 grams per day.

And more if you are in a bigger body. Okay, so the bigger size you are, you’re going to need a bigger amount of protein, but there’s a limit to that at some point.

The basis of this calculation is from your fat free mass, which includes your muscles, your organs, your bones, like everything else that’s not fat in your body.

That’s a more accurate way to do this calculation otherwise, people in a bigger body can end up with a really unrealistic amount of protein just using this calculation.

I think that’s where it sometimes gets a bit misunderstood when you see these calculations on the internet and you end up eating much more protein than you actually would need.

Eggs are a good protein source for vegetarians

I’ll come on to a few vegan sources of protein in a moment. But I just wanted to mention a few things around dairy and also eggs.

Eggs are generally not going to bloat you although for some people with IBS.

It really depends on your triggers. (Some people are sensitive to sulfur compounds in our food and particularly if you find you’ve got got really sulfury smelling gas. Eggs could be a bit of a trigger for that.)

But if you are sensitive to FODMAPS, which is the fermentable carbohydrates, like the fibers in vegetables, then eggs is probably going to be okay for you.

Eggs contain somewhere between four to six grams of protein. You can eat two to three eggs in one sitting, absolutely fine.

I know there was some concern about not eating too many eggs in a week because of cholesterol levels.

If you’re on a vegetarian diet and you’re eating a broadly low fat, healthy, plant based diet, I would say don’t worry about eating eggs. You’re not going to have a massively high cholesterol intake.

Dairy as a vegetarian protein source

With, yogurt and other cheese dairy products, we also need to think about what can be fermenting.

The lactose can be particularly problematic for quite a lot of people. Lactose is part of the FODMAP diet, so it’s restricted in terms of portion.

Not a dairy free diet, it just means that you need to eat a bit less of it.

Now when you’re relying on cheese and yogurt for your protein levels. If you’re following the low FODMAP diet, you won’t be able to eat enough of these to get your protein requirements met.

What I mean by that is if you’re eating yogurt, for example, you can have somewhere around 20, possibly 30 grams, depending on the type of yogurt. Before it hits that fermentation level where it can cause bloating and gas and trigger your symptoms.

So you can have a small portion of yogurt, but it’s not going to be enough to get your protein. And this is what the challenge is all the time with the vegetarian IBS diets.

Now that is not to say that you shouldn’t eat any dairy, because if you are vegetarian you’re happy to eat dairy, then it’s completely fine.

Partly because it’s going to be a good source of calcium. But also we need to think about how you can add protein to every meal. How you can try to bulk it up bit by bit.

So having a small amount of cheese, and normally around 40 grams of cheese is fine. Before you start hitting that rate where you might get lactose intolerance problems. And it’s still going to give you some protein, so it’s still worth including.

Plus, if you like cheese, that’s a bonus!

Know your IBS triggers

So if you’re eating animal products, you can include eggs. You can include small amounts of yogurt, you can include small amounts of cheese. But all of this I’m saying with the context that you understand what your IBS triggers are.

Even if you find eating a large amount of lactose heavy food can set off your symptoms, you might be okay with a small amount.

I’m going to do a future episode on dairy and gluten because I find it is full of misconceptions for IBS. We’re just today focusing on protein and vegetarian sources of protein. What I want to make clear is that you often can include small amounts of these kinds of foods that in large amounts may trigger your symptoms but small amounts would be generally okay.

Vegan protein foods for an IBS diet

Let’s move on to some vegan sources. Firstly I’m going to talk about beans. So lots of different types of beans. And again portion size is really key here because often when we’re talking about beans and pulses. We really think about excessive gas, bloating. That kind of thing in terms of IBS. Because even in people who don’t have IBS, it can make people a little bit gassy.

That is down to the rapid fermentation of the starches by your gut bacteria in your large intestine. The main FODMAPs that are included with beans would be Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and Fructan.

Now these are found varying degrees in most beans and pulses. The problem is again, similar to the cheese, is that a low FODMAP portion is quite a small percentage of what you would need to eat in order to get the right amount of protein.

Low FODMAP portions of beans

So let me give you a few examples.

Firstly, with black beans, they are quite high in GOS and Fructan. So that’s two FODMAPs that could be causing problems. A low FODMAP portion is around 40g of the beans.

And if you were to eat 100g, which is a quarter of a can, then you’re getting around 7. 5g of protein. Now per meal, that is not particularly much. 7g of protein in one meal. And it’s only 100g, which is a quarter of a can.

So if you’re only eating a little bit of a tin, That’s probably not going to fill you up enough and it’s definitely not going to be enough protein for one particular meal. If you eat that consistently and that’s your main source of protein.

So the protein per FODMAP portion, because it’s only 40 grams, not 100 grams, is actually down to 3g.

How to manage your vegetarian IBS diet

Now I’ve laid all of this out in my download. So you can download a list of my vegetarian low FODMAP foods,

It goes through a lot of fake meats, which I’m going to come on to in a minute, but also beans and pulses, and I’ve laid out what the FODMAPs are, what the low FODMAP portion is, how much protein you get per 100 grams, and then how much you get per FODMAP portion. Get the low FODMAP vegetarian protein guide here.

So that was an example for black beans.

Secondly, another one I wanted to mention is cannellini beans.

So these have got similar FODMAPs. But a low FODMAP portion is actually 76 grams. So you can have almost double what you can with black beans without getting the intolerance issues like bloating and gas.

So you could be eating around 5.5 grams of protein, roughly, per FODMAP portion.

Whereas other things like red lentils, you can’t hardly get any protein out of them because the FODMAP portion is relatively small.

I hope this is clear the way I’m explaining it. It really works better when I’ve got a visual in front of me.

So download the guide and see if you can work it out.

Clarity on the low FODMAP diet – please ask

And if you’ve got any questions, then please email me. You can contact me via my website and I will happily explain it.

I want you to be clear again that you can have small portions of these and we should be looking to include as many different protein sources as you can throughout the day.

FODMAP stacking

Now the thing with FODMAPs is generally that we don’t want to have too many of the same FODMAP in the same meal. And that is because if you have two or three low to moderate portions of a certain food, then it can certainly turn into a high FODMAP meal pretty quickly. And then that could lead to the triggering of your symptoms.

 I really keep coming back to this as well, because it’s important. If you find that a certain FODMAP is going to be a trigger for you, then you can make sure you eat all the others. The purpose of doing the FODMAP diet properly is that you go through a clear reintroduction process.

You don’t avoid all FODMAPs forever because that is going to leave you with quite a restrictive diet.


Tofu and Tempeh in the vegetarian IBS diet

Alongside beans, one of my favorite vegetarian and vegan, low FODMAP meal or protein portions is tofu and tempeh.

Tofu is made from soya beans and there are two types. You can get a firm drained tofu. Sometimes you’ll find it ready cut up marinated in a packet, sometimes it’s just in a calcium solution.

Now this is lower FODMAP and you can have up to about 170 grams per meal and that’s going to give you around 13 grams of protein per 100 grams. So you could easily get 20 grams of protein in a meal just from eating a lot of tofu.

The silken tofu which is really mushy and squishy is much higher in FODMAPs and much more likely to cause you issues.

Tempeh is fermented tofu. It’s got a certain taste and not everyone is keen on it. So I, you know, say give it a go and try it and if you like it then go for it. It’s really good, non fermentable foods that can add protein to your diet.

And you can get vegetarian and vegan versions, products of that.

Seeds and nuts for vegan IBS diets

I want to talk about nuts and seeds as well. So seeds are generally all low FODMAP. Generally really easily tolerated for people, and a great way to start bulking up your protein. Add them to your porridge, grind them up.

I add them to mine every day to add some fiber and protein.

And also things like just snacking on seeds. Add them to your salads. Roast them so they’re a little bit more crispy. Add them to a tray of roasted vegetables. Make things protein rich at every opportunity if you’re on a vegan diet because they’re generally well tolerated seeds.

With nuts, it’s a question of looking up which nuts are potentially higher fermentable than others. The ones to look out for is cashews, pistachios, and high amounts of almonds as well. But in small amounts almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, these are more easily tolerateds for people who are trying to remove gas producing foods.

Fake meats in a vegetarian diet

If you’re looking in the shops for things to eat, to boost your protein levels, then things like veggie sausages and fake meats can be a really good source of concentrated protein.

Some people do worry that they are too processed and that they’re not natural. I would say, you need to work out what feels comfortable for you.

But I do recommend these to my clients who are following a vegetarian diet. Because it’s very difficult to get the right levels of protein, just from beans, tofu, nuts and seeds anyway. Let alone if you are trying to reduce down fermentable starches in order to try and minimize IBS symptoms.

So I do recommend including some fake meat products if you are open to them.

Check the protein source for fake meat

Some of the protein is made from pea protein, which is a high FODMAP food. Or they could be made including onions and garlic powder. So not all of them would be suitable for you, but again, it really depends on what you react to and whether they are a trigger for you.

When you’re looking at the packets, just check that they have actually got high protein in them. Sometimes, vegetarian sausages are made from reconstituted vegetables.

This just will not have enough protein to be your main source of protein for that meal. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them, like, by all means, enjoy them, but just, if that’s your main source day in, day out, it’s not going to hit your protein targets.

So make sure that it is made from something that is actually giving you protein. Often it is from soya, mycoprotein, which is Quorn is the brand. Or sometimes they’re pea or wheat, like a gluten protein.

Again, sometimes they’re high FODMAP, and if FODMAP’s are a trigger for you, just be careful.

Look whether the main protein is made from beans or pulses. And if it’s just there in a small amount, it’s probably going to be okay.

But if it’s in a large amount, it could be a trigger. And if you’re in the UK, download my guide which will give you a lowdown of some certain products, whether they’re high or low FODMAP, and how much protein they include.

And there’s also an overview of beans and pulses there. Even if you’re not in the UK, you might want to download it.

That’s where I’m going to leave it for today.

Before I go……

Thank you for listening to this episode. I will be back next week with another episode. And remember, you can join me on Instagram every Thursday for a Q& A session about this topic.

Each week you can join me live to ask your questions and find out a little bit more detail so do tune in for that.

You can always watch them on replay if you need to.

Want some help with your IBS vegetarian diet?

If you’re interested in working with me and finding out a bit more about how to tailor your diet. How to get a bit more specific about your particular triggers, get in touch. (info@goodnessme-nutrition.com

The Group Gut Reset for IBS-C

I’m also going to be running a group course. I think I’m going to do a separate podcast episode about that.

Just to explain, it’s a group online programme. It will be cheaper than working with me one to one, which may appeal to some of you, but it also will include some really fantastic group coaching.

So some things where we can have more discussion, bit more interaction and feed off each other, which I know some people will really appreciate as well.

You can book that, it’s open for booking now, but starts in September and it will be a rolling enrolment.




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