The Best IBS-Friendly Sources of Soluble Fiber

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Soluble Fiber for IBS

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You don't need me to tell you that eating lots of dietary fiber is good for your health. If you have IBS you may have become wary of fiber because you have found in the past that eating high fiber foods has made your symptoms worse. However, maybe the problem wasn't fiber itself, but rather the type of fiber you ate. It is also possible that the high fiber foods that were problematic for you contained certain carbohydrates known as FODMAPs - carbohydrates that can worsen symptoms.

All is not lost! There are plenty of high fiber foods that can be IBS-friendly. In its most recent set of guidelines for IBS treatment, based on a comprehensive research review, the American College of Gastroenterology concludes that soluble fiber can be helpful for IBS. They also conclude that insoluble fiber can make IBS symptoms worse - this may account for any problems you have had in the past with fiber.

The benefits of soluble fiber go beyond IBS. Soluble fiber has been associated with lowering cholesterol, reducing rates of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease, and stabilizing blood sugar levels.

However, not all high soluble foods are IBS-friendly. Many high-fiber foods also contain higher levels of FODMAPs. Therefore, in this slideshow, great care was taken to highlight foods that are high in soluble fiber but low in FODMAPs. Any foods that have an asterisk next to them may need to be consumed in a smaller portions if you know you are reactive to high FODMAP foods.

For your convenience, I have listed the foods in alphabetical order. You will do your digestive and overall health a favor to add these foods to your weekly shopping list.  

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Avocados*

avocados
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If you don't yet like avocados, let me encourage you to try them more than once. I never cared for them until I started to add them to my smoothies - now I crave them! Why should you learn to love avocados? Avocados are a great plant-based source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins and yes, soluble fiber. 

How to enjoy avocados? Add slices to your salads, use them as a spread on sandwiches, or do as I do and add them to smoothies.

How much to eat? 1/8th of a whole avocado is considered to be low in FODMAPs. If you are not sensitive to the FODMAP sorbitol, you may be able to eat larger portions without experiencing digestive symptoms. You can freeze the rest of the avocado in portion sizes that you know you can tolerate.

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Bananas

bananas
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There is so much to love about bananas. They are readily available, portable, and low in FODMAPs. They make a great in-between meal snack. Like avocados they can be added to smoothies, and when they start to get really ripe, can be frozen for future smoothies.

If your IBS is really acting up to the point that you are afraid to eat anything, bananas are a great choice.

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Blueberries

blueberries
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Blueberries can be added to your morning oatmeal, smoothies and salads. Like bananas, they make a great in-between meal snack. Blueberries are also a good choice when you are trying to get a bad attack of IBS to settle down. 

It is important to know that there is a concern about the level of pesticides in conventionally grown blueberries. Therefore, blueberries are one of those food items that you should consider buying only if they are organically grown. Frozen organically grown blueberries are a wonderful option as they are frozen at the time of peak ripeness and therefore contain the highest amount of nutrients.

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Broccoli

broccoli florets
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Broccoli is one of those foods that often shows up on those "best superfoods" lists - and with good reason - as it is filled with lots of wonderful nutrients alongside its soluble fiber.

You may find that your digestive system prefers your broccoli to be cooked as opposed to eating it raw. Steamed broccoli might be a food to keep on your list for days that your tummy needs you to be extra cautious.

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Brussels Sprouts*

Brussels Sprouts
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Many people have chosen to avoid Brussels sprouts for fear that these little nutritious nuggets will make them gassy. Interestingly, the FODMAP researchers have found that in small amounts, Brussels sprouts are low enough in FODMAPs that you should be able to benefit from their soluble fiber without worrying about unwanted symptoms. Try to keep your portion to 2 to 5 sprouts.

Another reason people tend to avoid Brussels sprouts is due to their flavor. These people have clearly never eaten a Brussels sprout that was roasted in olive oil. Try it - believe me, you will not be sorry.

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Carrots

carrots
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As you add more soluble foods to your diet, you will see that you are eating all of the colors of the rainbow! You can feel good knowing that you are enhancing your health when you eat colorful fruits and vegetables, as each color represents a wide variety of phytonutrients, plant compounds with amazing health-enhancing qualities. 

Carrots make a nice "orange" addition to your regular diet. Similar to broccoli, you may find that your body prefers that you eat them cooked. 

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Chickpeas*

chickpeas
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Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are jam-packed with nutrients, including soluble fiber, and are a great source of plant-based protein.  Although most legumes are high in FODMAPs, chickpeas can be enjoyed on a low-FODMAP diet if they are canned, well-rinsed and limited to a 1/4 cup portion.

Chickpeas can be sprinkled on salads, blended into hummus, or roasted for a nutritious, tasty munchie.

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Eggplant

eggplant
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You may only think of eggplant as an ingredient in eggplant parmigiana - not a dish that I would recommend for IBS due to the fact that the eggplant is typically dipped in flour and then deep-fried. Fried foods can be found on almost every IBS trigger food list and with good reason.

A much better option is to chop up and roast your eggplant. I am also a big fan of Mario Batali's version of eggplant parmesan, in which the eggplant is baked and then stacked. It's a delicious way to enjoy all of the gooey-ness of eggplant parm, but without the unhealthy deep-fry fat.

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Green Beans

green beans
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Green beans are an inexpensive, easy way to put some soluble fiber onto your dinner plate. You can steam them, roast them, or eat them raw if you are okay with raw vegetables. Add your favorite spices, or drizzle the beans with a little butter or olive oil for extra flavor.

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Kiwi

sliced kiwi fruit
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True story - the first time I saw a kiwi was when I was served a whole one in a restaurant and had no idea what to do with it. The waiter not only showed me how to slice it open, but proceeded to start eating it!

Kiwis are no longer the exotic fruit that they once were, but are now readily available. Looking for a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth? Slice open a kiwi and dig in!

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Lentils*

bowl of lentils
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Like chickpeas, lentils are a legume that can be enjoyed on a low-FODMAP diet, within limits. You will need to buy canned lentils, rinse them well and limit yourself to a 1/2 cup serving. This will enable you to enjoy the soluble fiber and protein benefits of lentils without worry that they will set up your digestive system.

You can enjoy lentils as a side dish or use them in a warm, nourishing soup.

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Oatmeal

oatmeal
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Oats are a wonderful source of soluble fiber. Certainly a warm bowl of oatmeal can make a soothing breakfast, lunch or snack. The nice thing about oatmeal is that it can be prepared ahead for quick and easy meals when you are on the go. On a bad IBS day, oatmeal may even serve as dinner! 

Add bananas, blueberries, raspberries and/or strawberries to your oatmeal and you will really pump up the volume on your soluble fiber intake.

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Okra

okra
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As a native New Yorker, okra is as exotic to me as kiwi once was. However, it is a great source of soluble fiber and a whole host of other nutrients. You will just have to learn more about okra from someone other than me! 

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Oranges

sliced orange
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Like bananas, oranges are readily available, extremely portable and low in FODMAPs, making them an excellent soluble fiber option - one that you can eat frequently. Just be sure to eat the whole fruit in order to get your fiber in - orange juice typically has most of the fiber squeezed out of it.

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Peanuts

bowl of peanuts
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Looking for something to satisfy those late afternoon or late night munchie cravings? Look no further than peanuts! Portable and delicious, peanuts have a lot of nutrients packed into them. 

Peanut butter is also a great option as long as the type that you buy doesn't have added (hidden!) sugar. Read labels carefully!

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Potato with Skin

cooked red potatoes
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You need to be eating the skin of potatoes in order to get the most out of the soluble fiber that potatoes have to offer. Therefore, french fries don't count!

Potatoes can be baked or roasted with their skins on. Potatoes make another soothing dish to add to your list of foods to eat when your IBS is at its worst.

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Raspberries

raspberries
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Like blueberries, conventionally grown raspberries can contain higher levels of pesticides. Therefore, look for organically grown berries.  As with blueberries, frozen organic raspberries can be found in most supermarkets.

Enjoy your raspberries as a snack, sprinkle them on your oatmeal, or add them to your smoothies.

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Sunflower Seeds

bowls of sunflower seeds
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Like peanuts, sunflower seeds make a great portable snack. You can also sprinkle them on cooked vegetables, mashed potatoes, or salads, for some nice, tasty crunch with the added benefit of soluble fiber.

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Strawberries

bowl of strawberries
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Like blueberries and raspberries, strawberries are low in FODMAPs and therefore are an IBS-friendly fruit. Like their fellow berries, pesticides are a concern - in fact, strawberries show up very high on the "Dirty Dozen" list. Try to buy them organically grown whenever possible.

Strawberries can be enjoyed with every meal, and a bowl of them sliced makes a delicious, nutritious dessert.  Frozen organic strawberries are lovely in smoothies.

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Summer Squash

summer squash
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Summer squash is an excellent, high soluble fiber choice, to add to your meals each week. It can be sauteed, roasted or stuffed. I particularly like chopped summer squash as a base for delicious, tummy-friendly fritattas.

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Sweet Potato*

baked sweet potato
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Sweet potatoes are another way to satisfy your sweet tooth while benefitting from soluble fiber and other amazing nutrients. Just limit yourself to a 1/2 cup serving if you are reactive to the FODMAP mannitol. And be sure to eat the skin!

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Turnips

turnips
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My first year as a gardener, I threw in some turnip seeds as an experimental fall crop. They grew like a charm - but then I was stumped as to what to do with them as turnips were not a food that I grew up eating. 

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Walnuts

walnuts
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Walnuts are one of my most favorite "superfoods". I am sure to always keep my pantry well stocked with these nutritional powerhouses. They are so portable, they satisfy my need for a late afternoon snack, and they taste great crumbled up in salads. Don't worry that they might be fattening, they contain the healthy forms of fat that may actually serve to help you to lose weight. 

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Zucchini

zucchini
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Like its yellow-colored cousin, summer squash, zucchini is a nice low-FODMAP source of soluble fiber. Because zucchini are so easy to grow, recipe developers have bent over backward coming up with a gazillion ways to cook it. Have some fun browsing around to pick recipes that appeal to you and then have even more fun experimenting in your own kitchen!

Sources:

"ALL 48 FRUITS AND VEGETABLES WITH PESTICIDE RESIDUE DATA" Environmental Working Group Website Accessed September 17, 2015.

"Food Sources of Soluble Fibre" Dietitians of Canada Website Accessed September 15, 2015.

Ford, A., et.al. "American College of Gastroenterology Monograph on the Management of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Chronic Idiopathic Constipation" American Journal of Gastroenterology 2014 109:S2-S26.

Gibson, P. & Shepherd, S. "Evidence-based dietary management of functional gastrointestinal symptoms: The FODMAP approach" Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2010 25:252-258.

Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App Accessed September 15, 2015.

"Soluble Fiber" University of Virginia Website Accessed September 15, 2015.

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