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Everything You Need to Know About the Low-FODMAP Diet

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Up to 45 million Americans struggle with irritable bowel syndrome, a painful condition that often causes intense bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and other unpleasant symptoms. Even more people suffer from suspected food intolerances that lead to similar symptoms. While there’s no single cause or cure for gastrointestinal problems, many people who live with them are prescribed a low-FODMAP diet to bring their symptoms under control. This carefully regimented diet aims to retrain the digestive tract to better tolerate trigger foods and rebuild the gut microbiome from the ground up. So, how exactly is that done?

Our everything you need to know guide is here to help you better understand who the low-FODMAP diet is designed for, how it works, and how to maintain a whole-food, plant-based diet as you heal your digestive issues. Forks Over Knives spoke with gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, MD, MSCI, who offered his best advice on confidently taking control of your health with the low-FODMAP diet.

Struggling to cook healthy meals at home?

Fork’s Meal Planner is here to help.

In this article you’ll learn:

What Are FODMAPS?

The acronym FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols,” which are certain types of short-chain carbohydrates that aren’t easily digested.

Most digestion occurs in the small intestine, where food is broken down, nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream, and waste is then pushed into the large intestine. But the small intestine has trouble absorbing nutrients from FODMAPs, because the human body doesn’t produce the enzymes needed to break down these specific types of short-chain carbs; instead, it relies on the trillions of microorganisms that live in our large intestine to do this task. When the small intestine encounters FODMAPs it pulls in extra water to move these foods to the large intestine, which can cause bloating and other GI issues.

Once the food reaches the large intestine, gut bacteria begin to ferment it and get it ready for excretion. While this fermentation is a natural and healthy process, the bacteria can produce excessive amounts of gas when encountering difficult-to-break-down FODMAPs, leading to all the unpleasant symptoms associated with IBS.

Low FODMAP foods High FODMAP foods
  • Almond milk
  • arugula
  • avocado
  • Bell peppers
  • blueberries
  • broccoli
  • Brown rice
  • Egg plant
  • grapes
  • Green beans
  • Cale
  • Maple syrup
  • oats
  • peanuts
  • pine apple
  • quinoa
  • Strawberries
  • squash
  • Sweet potato
  • tempeh
  • tofu
  • tomato
  • walnuts
  • Agave syrup
  • Apple’s
  • asparagus
  • Barley
  • beds
  • Blackberries
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Cherries
  • Chickpeas
  • Faro
  • Garlic
  • Grapefruit
  • kidney beans
  • lenses
  • mangoes
  • mushrooms
  • onion
  • pears
  • peaches
  • wheat

What Is the Low FODMAP Diet?

While people with healthy gut microbiomes are able to digest FODMAPs without issue, those with sensitive digestive systems have a much harder time. The good news is that your gut can be trained to better tolerate the foods it once struggled with, which is where the low-FODMAP diet comes in.

“The [low-FODMAP] diet is generally reserved for people who are having digestive health problems that include food intolerances,” explains Bulsiewicz. “What that means is that when people consume normal foods in a normal serving size, they have unpleasant symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea. the [low-FODMAP] diet is an approach that allows them to improve their symptoms and eventually to reintroduce these foods that they have struggled with.”

The low-FODMAP diet is typically broken down into three main stages:

  • eliminating high-FODMAP foods from your diet to establish a baseline.
  • reintroducing high-FODMAP foods one at a time so you can determine which are triggering unpleasant symptoms.
  • Customization your diet by figuring out the specific portion sizes of high-FODMAP foods that are tolerable and integrating them back into your normal diet in those portions.

“A properly constructed low-FODMAP approach involves restriction, but it’s just a temporary restriction,” says Bulsiewicz. “Then it’s all about reintroduction, which can be quite complicated. Generally, I recommend that people do it with the support of a dietitian or someone who’s an expert on the topic.”

Are High-FODMAP Foods Bad for You?

The short answer is no! High-FODMAP foods are not intrinsically bad or dangerous unless you have a specific allergy or condition, such as celiac disease. High-FODMAP foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are some of the healthiest foods you can eat.

“The vast majority of FODMAPs are actually prebiotic, meaning that they are good for the gut microbiome,” Bulsiewicz explains. “[By] avoiding high-FODMAP foods, you’re depriving yourself of all of the beneficial nutrients that are found in that food, such as polyphenols and phytochemicals and vitamins and minerals. When we categorically remove these foods, it’s potentially problematic because not only are we getting into a restrictive dietary pattern where you are more likely to have a nutritional deficiency, but you are negatively affecting the gut microbiome.”

So while it can be tempting to blame your digestive woes on the foods themselves, it’s better to look at the low-FODMAP diet as a technique to slowly make friends with these foods rather than a way to avoid them. Creating a flourishing gut microbiome that can tolerate a wide range of foods is key to fewer digestive problems in the long run and better health throughout your life.

“When you’re struggling, it’s because the gut microbes are fermenting [FODMAPS] in a way that’s inefficient and producing gas,” says Bulsiewicz. “Your good microbes can be trained to do better.”

Who Should and Shouldn’t Go on a Low-FODMAP Diet?

The low-FODMAP diet is not meant to be a weight-loss technique and should only be used by people struggling with digestive issues related to food intolerances. While weight loss may occur on the diet, Bulsiewicz emphasizes that it’s important to get enough calories and nutrients while on this diet.

“People who have a history of eating disorders should not be doing this, especially not independently,” he recommends. “They should only do it with the approval of someone who’s managing their eating disorder so they can be in a good place before moving forward with it. Also, if a person has a complex medical condition, such as active Crohn’s disease, and they’re losing weight, then it’s not the time to do something like this. You have to get your disease under control first before going on a low-FODMAP diet.”

How Long Should You Be on a Low-FODMAP Diet?

The low-FODMAP diet is meant to be temporary, with the goal of resuming more normal eating patterns as soon as possible. Total time spent on the diet will vary from person to person. Typically, the elimination phase lasts two to six weeks and then high-FODMAP foods are slowly reintroduced based on your symptoms and sensitivities. The entire process should only last a few months, says Bulsiewicz.

“Ultimately, we want a diet of abundance,” says Bulsiewicz. “The most important rule for good health is to eat a wide variety of plants. The advantage of a properly constructed FODMAP approach is that it allows you to, number one, feel better. Number two, understand what the source of your problem is. Then number three, to actually have a strategy to bring that food back on board and tolerate it.”

Bulsiewicz says that you’ll know the low-FODMAP diet has worked once you’re able to enjoy a wide variety of foods free of unpleasant symptoms. Remember, the idea of ​​going on the low-FODMAP diet isn’t to eliminate large categories of food: It’s to slowly retrain your gut microbiome to tolerate the foods that typically trigger it.

“Ease into it and give your body a chance to catch up and adapt to what you’re doing,” Bulsiewicz recommends. “It’s similar to exercise. If you haven’t worked out in a while, you wouldn’t pick up the heaviest weight in the gym. You’d start small and work your way up from there. It’s the same with high-FODMAP foods. As with anything, you’ll get better the more you practice.”

What Else Might Be Causing Gut Health Issues?

There are myriad other reasons for digestive problems besides FODMAP sensitivities. As you work on retraining your gut, it’s likely your physician will also recommend lifestyle changes to help bolster the impact of your dietary changes. Bulsiewicz says there are many aspects of our modern lives that lead to gut issues.

“It’s the lack of sleep, it’s the electronics in the evening before you go to bed, it’s the absence of exercise, it’s the medications, and it’s the large amount of processed foods present in our diet,” he says. “These are all disruptive to the balanced community of microorganisms in our gut.”

Stress can also play a significant role in chronic gut health problems. A 2020 review published in Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences indicates that the relationship between our mental health, gut microbiome, and dietary choices is deeply interconnected. Depression, anxiety, and other psychological conditions can influence the reactivity of gut bacteria and cause flare-ups of digestive issues. When beginning the low-FODMAP diet, be sure to talk with your doctor about how mental health may be playing a role in your intestinal discomfort.

Can You Eat Whole-Food, Plant-Based While on a Low-FODMAP Diet?

The low-FODMAP diet was created with omnivores in mind, which means it can often be more restrictive for people who follow a whole-food, plant-based diet since meat and dairy are already off the table. Bulsiewicz shared some thoughts on how to get enough calories and nutrients as a vegan who’s traversing the low-FODMAP path.

“I think it’s important to include all of the major [plant-based] food groups,” he says. Don’t eliminate an entire group of food. Instead, opt for low-FODMAP options within that groups. “For example, people may often have issues with whole grains, and those issues are usually specific to wheat, barley, and rye. You can opt for a low-FODMAP option like quinoa.”

While we always recommend going directly to your doctor for health care advice, you can check out this full list of FODMAP foods to get a general idea of ​​what you’ll need to eliminate if you’re exploring a low-FODMAP diet. Bulsiewicz also offers an online class in FODMAP intolerance that includes techniques on reintroduction, healthy recipes, and handy kitchen tricks.

“Be patient, because it takes time,” Bulsiewicz recommends. “It’s not meant to be a quick fix. It’s meant to be about your long-term health and allowing you to have a diet that is sustainable and enjoyable.”

Our Favorite Low-FODMAP Recipes

High-FODMAP foods such as beans, wheat, lentils, and fibrous veggies are some of the healthiest foods on the planet, and diets rich in these foods have been linked to lower rates of heart disease, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes. However, should you need to temporarily cut back on these foods to retrain your gut, here are some healthy WFPB recipes you can enjoy on a low-FODMAP diet:

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Healthy Eating

7 Day Healthy Meal Plan (Nov 28-Dec 4)

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posted November 26, 2022 by gina

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy.

A free 7-day, flexible weight loss meal plan including breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas and a shopping list. All recipes include macros and links to WW recipe builder to get your personal points.

7 Day Healthy Meal Plan

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend! I always cherish time spent with my family- I am so thankful for them! If you went off plan this weekend, don’t stress! It is OK to indulge every now and then, just recalibrate and keep going!

With grocery prices soaring, many of us are having to adjust, scale back and/or get more creative with our meals. One of the absolute BEST ways to stay within a budget and maintain healthy eating habits is to MEAL PLAN. You can get more 5-day Budget Friendly Meal Plans by signing up for Relish+ (get a 14-day free trial here!)

Ultimate Skinny Taste Meal Planner

Skinnytaste Ultimate Meal Planner

I’m also excited to share the Skinnytaste Ultimate Meal Planner is now available! The 52 week spiral bound meal planner has weekly meal planning grids you can tear out and put on your fridge if you wish, a 12-week meal plan, 30 (15 new) recipes, and tear-out grocery lists. I love starting my week with gratitude, affirmations and intentions, so I included a space for that as well. I hope you will love this as much as I do!

Skinnytaste Ultimate Meal Planner

Buy the meal planner here:

A note about WW Personal Points:

I no longer provide points since they vary on the new Weight Watchers plans but I do provide links to WW Personal points recipe builder for all recipes. Look for the orange button in the recipe card says my WW personal points. Click on that and it takes you to the Weight Watchers website where you can see the WW points and add it to your day (US only, you must be logged into your account). All cookbook recipes in the cookbook index are also updated!

About The Meal Plan

If you’re new to my meal plans, I’ve been sharing these free, 7-day flexible healthy meal plans (you can see my previous meal plans here) that are meant as a guide, with plenty of wiggle room for you to add more food, coffee, beverages, fruits, snacks, dessert, wine, etc. or swap recipes out for meals you prefer, you can search for recipes by course in the index. Depending on your goals, you should aim for at least 1500 calories* per day. There’s no one size fits all, this will range by your goals, your age, weight, etc.

There’s also a precise, organized grocery list that will make grocery shopping so much easier and much less stressful. Save you money and time. You’ll dine out less often, waste less food and you’ll have everything you need on hand to help keep you on track.

Lastly, if you’re on Facebook join my Skinnytaste Facebook Community where everyone’s sharing photos of recipes they are making, you can join here. I’m loving all the ideas everyone’s sharing! If you wish to get on the email list, you can subscribe here so you never miss a meal plan!

Meal plan:

Breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday, are designed to serve 1 while dinners and all meals on Saturday and Sunday are designed to serve a family of 4. Some recipes make enough leftovers for two nights or lunch the next day. The grocery list is comprehensive and includes everything you need to make all meals on the plan.

MONDAY (11/28)
B: Peanut Butter Protein Oatmeal Cookies*
L: Chicken Salad with Lemon and Dill *in ½ a whole wheat pita and 8 baby carrots
D: 2 cups Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Parmesan and Pecans with Dad’s Creamy Cauliflower Soup

Total Calories: 1,024**

TUESDAY (11/29)
B: LEFTOVER Peanut Butter Protein Oatmeal Cookies
L: LEFTOVER Chicken Salad with Lemon and Dill in ½ a whole wheat pita and 8 baby carrots
D: Madison’s Favorite Beef Tacos with Instant Pot Black Beans
Total Calories: 1,107**

WEDNESDAY (11/30)
B: LEFTOVER Peanut Butter Protein Oatmeal Cookies
L: LEFTOVER Chicken Salad with Lemon and Dill in ½ a whole wheat pita and 8 baby carrots
UK: LEFTOVER Madison’s Favorite Beef Tacos with LEFTOVER Instant Pot Black Beans

Total Calories: 1,107**

THURSDAY (12/1)
B: Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats
L: Protein Egg and Quinoa Salad Jars
GB: Garlic-Ginger Chicken Stir Fry with ½ cup brown rice

Total Calories: 1,190**

FRIDAY (12/2)
B: Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats
L: LEFTOVER Protein Egg and Quinoa Salad Jars
D: Parmesan Herb Baked Salmon with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and String Beans with Garlic and Oil

Total calories: 1151**

SATURDAY (12/3)
B: Sausage, Cheese and Veggie Breakfast Casserole
L: Tuna Poke Salad (recipe x 2)
D: DINNER OUT

Total Calories: 634**

SUNDAY (12/4)
B: LEFTOVER Sausage, Cheese and Veggie Breakfast Casserole
L: Loaded Baked Potato Soup with 2 ounces multigrain baguette
D: Stuffed Butternut Squash with Wild Rice and Sausage and a green salad #
Total calories: 982**

*Prep Mon-Wed breakfast and lunch Sunday night, if desired.
**This is just a guide, women should aim for around 1500 calories per day. Here’s a helpful calculator to estimate
your calorie needs. I’ve left plenty of wiggle room for you to add more food such as coffee, beverages, fruits,
snacks, desserts, wine, etc.

# Green salad includes 12 cups mixed greens, 4 scallions and 1 cup each: tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and chickpeas
with ½ cup light vinaigrette. Set aside ½ the salad, with dressing on the side, for dinner Tuesday.

*Google doc

Print Shopping List

shopping list

produce

  • 3 medium very ripe bananas
  • 2 medium lemons
  • 1 medium (6-ounce) PLUS 1 large (7-ounce) Hass avocados
  • 5 Persian cucumbers (can sub 2 medium English cucumbers, if desired)
  • ½ pound Brussels sprouts (or 4 cup pre-shredded)
  • 1 small PLUS 1 medium head cauliflower
  • ½ pound broccoli florets
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 10 ounces sliced ​​shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 1 small poblano pepper
  • 1 pound green beans
  • 1 large (2-pound) butternut squash
  • 1 pound baby bok choy
  • 2 large head garlic
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1 medium bag of baby carrots
  • 1 (5-ounce) bag/clamshell baby kale
  • 1 (1-pound) bag/clamshell baby arugula
  • 1 (5-ounce) bag/clamshell baby spinach
  • 1 small head Romaine lettuce
  • 1 small bunch of lacinato kale
  • 2 medium bunches of scallions
  • 1 small container/bunch chives
  • 1 small container/bunch of fresh dill
  • 1 small container/bunch of fresh basil
  • 1 small container/bunch fresh thyme (can sub 1 teaspoon dry thyme in Stuffed Butternut Squash, if desired)
  • 1 medium container/bunch fresh Thai basil (can sub ½ cup traditional basil Ginger Chicken Stir Fry, if desired)
  • 1 small bunch of fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 dry pint cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 small white onion
  • 2 small yellow onions

Meat, Poultry and Fish

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1½ pounds thin sliced ​​boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets
  • 1 pound sweet Italian chicken sausage
  • 1 package center cut bacon
  • 2 pounds of 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 (2-pound) skin-on salmon fillet
  • 1 pound sushi grade tuna

grain*

  • 1 pack of quick oats
  • 1 large package crunchy corn taco shells (you need 16)
  • 1 small package whole wheat pitas
  • 1 (8-ounce) multigrain baguette
  • 1 small package unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 small package dry quinoa (or ½ cup pre-cooked)
  • 1 small package dry brown rice (or 2 cups pre-cooked)
  • 1 small package dry wild rice

Condiments and Spices

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Cooking spray
  • Olive oil spray (or get a misto oil mister)
  • Kosher salt (I like Diamond Crystal)
  • Pepper grinder (or fresh peppercorns)
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Vanilla extract
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Pure maple syrup
  • cumin
  • Chili powder
  • paprika
  • Smoked peppers
  • coriander
  • oregano
  • Bay leaves
  • Green Tabasco
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Reduced sodium soy sauce*
  • chili paste
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Light mayonnaise
  • Rice vinegar
  • Rice wine
  • Wasabi paste
  • Furikake (I like Eden Shake)
  • Light vinaigrette dressing (or make your own with ingredients in list)

Dairy & Misc. Refrigerated Items

  • 1 (18-pack) large eggs
  • 1 small box of salted butter or tub of whipped butter
  • 1 package pre-cooked lentils (can buy dry [green or brown] and cook yourself, if desired)
  • 1 large wedge of fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pint skim milk
  • 1 pint 1% reduced fat milk
  • 1 small tub of light sour cream
  • 1 (8-ounce) bag of reduced fat shredded sharp cheese
  • 1 (8-ounce) bag shredded cheddar cheese (can sub 1 cup reduced fat cheddar in Tacos, if desired)
  • 1 (8-ounce) bag of shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 1 small container whipped cream or dairy free whipped cream (optional, for topping overnight oats)

Canned and Jarred

  • 1 small jar pumpkin butter (or ingredients to make your own)
  • 1 small jar of peanut butter
  • 1 (32-ounce) carton low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (32-ounce) carton reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (32-ounce) carton chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

Frozen

  • 1 small package shelled edamame

mix dry goods

  • Cornstarch
  • 1 small package vanilla protein powder (I like Orgain)
  • 1 package sugar free chocolate chips (such as Lily’s)
  • 1 small package chia seeds (if buying from bulk bin, you need 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 small package granulated sugar (or sugar substitute such as Monk Fruit)
  • 1 (1-pound) package of dry black beans
  • 1 small package fruit juice sweetened dried cranberries (if buying from bulk bin, you need ¼ cup)
  • 1 medium package pecan or walnut halves (if buying from bulk bin, you need about ¾ cup)
  • 1 small package dry roasted peanuts (if buying from bulk bin, you need 1/3 cup)

*You can buy gluten free, if desired

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A potato or bean-based diet may help with weight loss

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Share on PinterestCertain types of diets may affect insulin resistance and weight loss results for people with diabetes. Design by MNT; Photography by Jenny Dettrick/Getty Images & Elizabeth Fernandez/Getty Images

  • Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disorder influenced by diet and other lifestyle factors.
  • People with diabetes can work with nutritionists and other specialists to develop meal plans that are diverse and nutritious.
  • One food that nutritionists may ask people with diabetes to initially stay away from or lower their consumption of is carbohydrate-rich foods such as potatoes.
  • Data from a recent study, however, found that low-energy bean and potato-based diets may be effective in helping reduce insulin resistance and promoting weight loss.

Diet is an essential component of health, particularly for people with diabetes or who are more at risk of developing diabetes. Researchers are constantly examining how food choices can impact people in this demographic.

A recent study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food explores how potato and bean diets may help people who are insulin-resistant.

The researchers found that participants consuming a diet rich in beans and potatoes experienced weight loss and reduced insulin resistance.

it is important to note that the study received funding from the Alliance for Potato Research and Education.

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a chronic condition where the body does not respond to insulin normally. Insulin is a critical component that enables the body’s cells to use glucose for energy.

People who are at risk for diabetes and people with type 2 diabetes can follow eating plans that help them manage their diabetes and improve their physical well-being. Each person will have slightly different needs, but organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer some general recommendations.

For example, some people with type 2 diabetes should limit carbohydrates and increase their intake of non-starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables such as beans and potatoes contain carbohydrates, but that doesn’t mean people with diabetes or insulin resistance must eliminate them completely.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Yelena Wheeler, who was not involved in the study, explained to MNT:

“Potatoes and beans are not innately ‘bad foods’ when it comes to glucose management. However, preparations of these foods can determine how beneficial or detrimental these foods can be to one’s glucose management.”

“Additionally, not all potatoes are created equal. Sweet potatoes and yams baked with the skin on can, in fact, be great additions to a well-balanced diet by providing its high fiber content,” she said.

“Fiber content contributes to satiety and blood sugar management. This, in turn, can decrease a person with [type 2 diabetes] dependence on insulin and, therefore, may also improve weight maintenance and even weight loss,” Wheeler explained.

This particular study was a randomized feeding equivalence trial. It included 36 adult participants with insulin resistance.

Researchers compared two diets: one high in potatoes and the other in pulses (beans and peas) and the diets’ impact on blood glucose control. Participants were on one of the two controlled diets for eight weeks with regular follow-ups.

Kristian Morey, registered dietitian, and clinical dietitian with the Nutrition and Diabetes Education program at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, who was also not involved in the study, noted to MNT:

“One interesting detail that they mention in the study was that they cooked and cooled the potatoes prior to serving them to participants. This process can make some of the starch contained in the potato slower to digest than before, and this can improve insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance when consuming such food.”

“It is also important to note that they consumed other foods—such as protein foods—with the potatoes, which can improve glycemic response as well,” she added.

Overall, the researchers found that participants on both diets did not see a significant drop in blood glucose levels. However, both groups experienced weight loss and reduced insulin resistance.

Amy Kimberlain, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Media, who was not involved in the study, told MNT:

“This study helped show that utilizing foods that reduce the energy density of the diet will not only allow for an improved insulinemic response but also help to promote weight loss as well.”

“Additionally, this study helps to continue the conversation that we can improve different risk factors in people by making changes in our diets (eating patterns) but still continue to eat foods that we enjoy.”
— Amy Kimberlain

The study did have several limitations. First, it included a small sample size, so future studies can work on including more participants. Most participants were female, indicating more diverse follow-up may also be needed.

The study was also only eight weeks long, so more long-term studies are required to look at long-term results.

The researchers noted that the differences between participants’ baselines of Body Mass Index (BMI) and fasting insulin levels did ultimately affect the study’s outcomes. There were also some difficulties in study completion due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kimberlain also noted that researchers had tight control over food preparation but that translating this into real-life practice could be more difficult.

“These meals were prepared for the people in a metabolic kitchen, meaning the ability to confirm what people were eating (calories/content/etc.) was there. And while this is a study and they used this to have the ability to confirm intake, to verify and/or see if this is effective in the long-term with people, it’d be important for people to be able to do this on their own (after receiving instruction on how to prepare the examples of meals they received),” she said.

Overall, the study demonstrates that preparation and food choices are essential components of diabetes control. Further research is warranted to confirm how starchy vegetables like beans and potatoes can contribute to healthy diets for people at risk for type 2 diabetes.

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Is Nut Butter Healthy? Here Are the Best Vegan Options

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Nut butter will forever be a staple in our pantries. A spoonful of almond butter is the perfect pick-me-up for when we’re feeling a little peckish, and tahini-stuffed dates are one of our go-to pre-workout snacks. The humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich is something that we will never, ever tire of—especially on days where we don’t feel up to cooking. But, is nut butter healthy? And are all nut butters vegan? We’re here with answers.

Is nut butter vegan?

Most nut butters are free from animal products and therefore, they’re suitable for vegans. In its purest form, nut butter is made by blitzing or grinding nuts into a paste. The ingredients you want to watch for include anything that comes from an animal. Brands are known to use honey, milk powder, whey protein, collagen, or egg whites in nut butters, so remember to skim the ingredients list before you make a purchase.

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Some nut butters are made from just one ingredient, while others may contain salt, sugar, or added oil. These are plant-based, but some vegans may avoid nut butters that contain palm oil due to the controversial ingredient’s ties to deforestation, primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia. The destruction of these biodiverse regions is a threat to many species, including the endangered orangutan, pygmy elephant, and Sumatran rhino. This destruction of forests and peatlands also contributes to global warming, as the practice releases heat-trapping carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Is nut butter healthy?

The specific nutrients vary between nut butters but generally, they contain a number of healthy nutrients, including protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals such as zinc.

Nut and seed butters generally contain heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, which help lower “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. If you’re looking for a healthy nut or seed butter to eat regularly, watch for anything that contains partially hydrogenated oils, which are a trans fat. Trans fats are known to raise LDL levels and decrease high-density lipoprotein—the “good” cholesterol.

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Nut butters are also calorie-dense, so the serving size tends to be small. However, this isn’t one-size-fits all guidance. “While a serving of nut butter is typically two tablespoons, this doesn’t mean that you always have to limit yourself to this amount,” explains Stephanie Wells, MS, RD. “The right amount for you will depend on your age, metabolic rate, and fitness or nutrition goals. If you’re trying to build muscle or have a poor appetite and need a way to get extra calories, eating more than two tablespoons of nut butter could be a great way to meet your needs.”

If you’re watching your sugar and salt intake, you may want to pick an option that’s made from just nuts and seeds. Some nut butters also contain added oils, which help stabilize the final product—meaning that it’s the type that you don’t need to stir.

“While not harmful, the extra oils just aren’t necessary,” says Wells. “And although sweetened nut butters are still great sources of protein and other nutrients, it’s best to limit your overall intake of added sugars.”

What’s the healthiest nut butter?

Opt for one of these six nut butters for snacking, cooking, and more.

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1 Almond butter

Almond butter makes for a great post-workout snack, thanks to its combination of protein (around seven grams per serving), fiber, and healthy fats. It is high in monounsaturated fat, which lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol. It can also help control blood sugar after eating. Almond butter also contains more vitamin E, calcium, and iron than peanut butter. Compared to peanut butter, it’s higher in fiber, lower in saturated fat, and lowest in carbohydrates.

Look for almond butter that’s made from dry roasted almonds and free from added sugar and oil. We like Whole Foods’ 365 Creamy Almond Butter because it’s made from just one ingredient.

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2 Peanut butter

Arguably the most popular nut butter, thanks to PB&J sandwiches, peanut butter is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats and vitamin E which is important for blood, brain, and skin health. It also contains some B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and selenium. At eight grams per serving, peanut butter is a good source of protein. Plus, it tends to be the most affordable option for nut butter.

We love eating it by the spoonful, adding it to smoothies, or using it in recipes, like these peanut butter coconut oat bites. Try Santa Cruz Organic’s Creamy Light Roasted Peanut Butter, which contains roasted peanuts and less than one percent added salt.

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3 Cashew butter

Cashew butter has a thinner texture and fattier flavor compared to other nut butters, making it a popular addition to vegan desserts, like this salted vanilla bean cashew butter fudge. It is lower in protein than almond butter or peanut butter, at six grams per two-tablespoon serving, packed with healthy monounsaturated fats, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. A serving of cashew butter contains 10 percent of your daily value of iron, according to USDA data, as well as trace amounts of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin K.

Seek out a cashew butter that contains few added ingredients. This Creamy Cashew Butter by Georgia Grinders contains only slow-roasted cashews and a little bit of sea salt.

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4 tahini

Made from toasted and hulled sesame seeds, tahini is a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean, and some North African cuisines. This versatile ingredient has a thin, creamy texture and rich, nutty flavor with a bitter finish that lends itself well to dishes such as hummus, baba ganoush, and halva as well as desserts like homemade vegan cookies and dairy-free ice cream.

Tahini is lower in calories than other types of nut butter and is a good source of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and an array of vitamins and minerals. It’s an especially good source of copper, which is essential for iron absorption, as well as phosphorus, selenium, iron, zinc, and calcium. As for benefits, studies have shown that sesame seeds can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.

Choose tahini that’s made from sesame seeds and nothing more, like this single-source paste from Soom.

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5 Sunflower seed butter

Perfect for people with nut allergies, sunflower seed butter also happens to be among the healthiest options as far as nut butter is concerned. Sunflower seeds have a slightly bitter taste, so salt and sugar are often added to balance out the flavor.

Nutrition-wise, sunflower seed butter is calorie-dense, containing mostly monounsaturated fats with small amounts of polyunsaturated fats. At 5.6 grams of protein per two-tablespoon serving, it contains less protein compared to other types of nut butter. It contains more copper, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and vitamin E than peanut butter.

If you’re being mindful of caloric intake, then look for a sunflower seed butter that contains no added sugar, like SunButter’s No Added Sugar variety.

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6 Walnut butter

Among nut butter, walnut butter is not high in protein, nor is it particularly high in heart-healthy fats or trace minerals—though, it does contain small amounts of iron, calcium, and potassium. Walnut butter’s strength lies in its omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content. Omega-3 from plants is called alpha-linoleic acid, which has been linked to a lower risk of dying from heart disease. Walnuts also contain polyphenols, which are known to help lower inflammation.

Many commercial walnut butters contain more than one variety of nut, like Artisana Organics Raw Walnut Butter with Cashews. But, you can also make your own 100-percent walnut butter by adding one to two cups of walnuts to the bowl of a food processor, then grinding them until a smooth paste is formed, about one minute. For a smoother, sweeter, and nuttier walnut butter, arrange raw walnuts on a baking sheet and roast them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for eight minutes. Allow it to cool before adding to the food processor, and add salt and sugar to taste.

For more on health and nutrition, read:

VegNews.KatSmithBio

Kat Smith is a Queens, NY-based freelance writer and editor who loves cooking and discovering local vegan hidden gems.

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