If you have been perusing the grocery (or online) aisles searching for a low-FODMAP protein powder and found it a frustrating experience, you are not alone! With countless sources of protein, added sweeteners, and miscellaneous suspicious ingredients, it is not an easy task. Let’s take a look a what ingredients are acceptable and which ones you should avoid (for now) so you can choose a low-FODMAP protein powder with confidence.
Do You Need a Protein Powder?
First of all, let’s answer an important question. Do you need protein powder when on a low FODMAP diet? The truth is that most people can meet their protein needs by eating a variety of nutritious foods – even when following a low FODMAP diet. Unlike what many people think, this is also true for vegetarians and vegans!
On the other hand, some people may benefit from adding a protein powder. For example, athletes in training, underweight people who struggle to keep their weight up, or people who restrict certain foods for other health reasons. A protein powder can help them meet their protein and calorie needs. It can be used to make a nutritious shake for an on-the-go breakfast or snack (see my Café Mocha Smoothie Recipe).
How to Choose a Low FODMAP Protein Powder
To begin with, you should prioritize food first, and think of protein powder as a supplement you can use in addition to a variety of nutritious foods. In fact, you may want to consult with a registered dietitian (like myself) when you decide to start a low-FODMAP diet. He/she will be able to assess whether you are consuming enough protein (and calories) and recommend a protein powder if needed.
Secondly, if you find you need one, here are some key things to consider when choosing a low-FODMAP protein powder. These include the source of the protein, the presence of any sweetener, and the presence of other (potentially) high-FODMAP ingredients.
These sources of protein powder are considered low FODMAP:
- Egg protein
- Rice protein
- Sprouted brown rice protein
- Whey protein isolate
- Whey protein concentrate or Hydrolyzed Whey Protein – only if at least 98-99% lactose-free.
- Pea protein: selected brands (see the Monash FODMAP App).
On the other hand, the FODMAP content of some popular protein powders is unknown, and it is best to avoid them during the elimination phase. After you have figured out your FODMAP triggers, you can experiment and see how you tolerate them. These include:
- Soy protein/soy protein concentrate
- Soy protein isolate (technically an isolate has been completely separated from the fiber portion, but that depends on manufacturing methods)
- Hemp protein
Table sugar, maple syrup, and stevia are low-FODMAP sweeteners. However, you should avoid any protein powder containing these high-FODMAP sweeteners:
- Polyols (Xylitol, Sorbitol, Mannitol, Maltitol, Erythritol, Lactitol, Isomalt)
Other artificial sweeteners are probably ok but there are other reasons to not recommend them. Recent research has suggested they may promote dysbiosis and inflammation in the gut.
Finally, the FODMAP status of monk fruit is unknown, so, for now, it is best to avoid powders containing this ingredient.
Many protein powder manufacturers add other (high-FODMAP) ingredients in an effort to boost either the flavor or the fiber. Although small amounts of cocoa, carob, or açai powder in a protein powder are okay, avoid products containing the following high-FODMAP ingredients:
- Chicory root or extract
- Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS)
- Isomaltooligosaccharides or IMO fiber
- Powders made from moderate/high-FODMAP fruits and vegetables (apple, cherry, pear, mango, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, brussels sprouts, beets, and artichoke)
- Natural flavors – these can contain high-FODMAP ingredients such as honey, apple, mango, pear, watermelon, agave, dates, etc. They are ok when listed as being present in amounts of less than 2%.
Other ingredients that may appear in protein powder products whose FODMAP content is unknown (and it is, therefore, best to avoid them) are:
- Alfalfa grass
- Baobab fruit
- Sprouted adzuki
- Sprouted Amaranth
- Sprouted garbanzo bean
- Sprouted lentil
Some protein powders may also contain digestive enzymes or probiotics. Although these are not FODMAPs, they are variables that may affect IBS symptoms, making it difficult to find out what your triggers are when you are going through the low FODMAP diet process.
Finally, the Monash FODMAP App has started listing several certified protein powders that will take the guesswork out of the search. You won’t need to worry about perusing the ingredient list, as they have been tested and certified as low FODMAP at the portion size shown.
To sum it all up, not everyone needs a protein powder to meet their protein and calorie needs. If you do, there are several low-FODMAP protein powders available. Paying attention to the source, added sweeteners, and other ingredients, you can find one that best fits your needs.
Want to learn more?
Read more Low FODMAP Tips