Many different grains poured into separate piles next to each other on a table

Healthy, Low Fodmap Grains to Include in your Diet

Are you struggling to find healthy, low fodmap grains that you can eat on the low fodmap diet?

At first glance, the low fodmap diet may seem somewhat confusing. There may not seem to be a rhyme or reason as to why some foods are deemed “high fodmap” and others are considered “low fodmap”.

Beyond that, there are many foods that belong to both groups. It can be hard to remember which foods belong to which group. 

Following the low fodmap diet can be overwhelming and it can be hard to know what is safe to eat. What grains are low fodmap? What about low fodmap fruits? Low fodmap vegetables? 

For the purpose of this post, we will be focusing on low fodmap grains. Some examples low fodmap grains are quinoa, rice, corn and millet. For more low fodmap grains ideas, as well as which high fodmap grains to avoid, read on.

Three round loaves of fresh baked bread dusted with flour

What are Fodmaps?

If you know a thing or two about fodmaps, then you know that they are sugars, chains of sugars and sugar alcohols. The word fodmap stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polylols.

These big, long words simply refer to the type and length of the sugar molecule. For example, disaccharide refers to two sugar molecules attached to each other. Each type of fodmap is slightly different in chain length and shape. 

The important thing to remember about fodmaps, however, is that they are sugars that are rapidly digested (or fermented) by our gut bacteria. This is true of fodmaps regardless of the type of fodmap listed above. 

This fermentation by our gut bacteria is a normal process in our bodies. Our gut bacteria play very important roles in our digestive system as well as in other processes that effect us systemically.

They help us digest particles that we are unable to. They also produce helpful compounds like short chain fatty acids in our bodies among many other health benefits. 

For some people, however, the process of rapid fermentation by these gut bacteria can cause uncomfortable symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, gas and often loose stools. One key reason that this fermentation causes these gut symptoms is because of how quickly it occurs. 

Man wearing a blue shirt with a blue background holding his bloated stomach

Our gut bacteria can ferment other sugars also, but not as quickly. When we have lots of fermentation happening in a short amount of time, alot of gas is produced and this can be uncomfortable. Fodmaps can also draw extra water in the GI tract which is often responsible for the loose stools. 

Our large intestine, as well as our small intestine, has to expand to allow for this gas production and extra water. This can cause abdominal distention as well as the sensation of bloating. 

Many IBS sufferers find that limiting foods with a high fodmap load can be very helpful for minimizing their digestive symptoms. Do note, however, that the diet is not intended to be followed long term. This is because it is restrictive, difficult to follow and not considered nutritionally adequate long term. 

The low fodmap diet should be followed temporarily to get symptoms under control. Then, the best way to proceed is to systematically test each fodmap group to identify your particular food triggers.

After this second phase, called the challenge phase, you should be able to liberalize your diet and only restrict the fodmap groups that were the most bothersome. 

It is best to utilize the help of a trained Registered Dietitian to guide you through this process. They can be a resource for questions, meal ideas and even provide some low fodmap recipes.

Three large spoonfuls sitting next to each other on a counter top. Each one holds a different color of quinoa, black, red and white.

Grains

Grains are carbohydrates, and carbohydrates are chains of sugars. Since fodmaps are sugars, you may be wondering if all grains are high fodmap. The answer is no!

Remember what distinguishes high fodmap foods from low fodmap foods – whether or not it contains rapidly fermentable sugars. Some grains contain high amounts of these sugars (fodmaps) and others do not. The key is to learn which is which.

Low Fodmap Grains

Here are some examples of low fodmaps grains. 

  • Quinoa
  • Corn
  • Rice (all kinds)
  • Buckwheat flour
  • Grits
  • Millet
  • Popcorn
  • Oat flour 
  • Potato (not a grain but worth including, note: sweet potatoes are low fodmap in ½ cup serving)

Flours from the above listed grains are also low fodmap. Examples include rice flour, potato flour and even cornmeal. Do be careful when it comes to cornmeal, however, as it may be blended with wheat flour in products like cornbread or corn muffins.

However, this is not as commonly the case in products like corn tortillas or corn tortilla chips. The same goes for buckwheat flour – this can often be found blended with wheat flour so be careful with this.

As is often the case with fodmap containing foods, portion size can make a significant difference. Listed below are a few grains and grain options that are a little higher in fodmaps than the “low” category but lower than the “high” category. Consider these options to have a “medium fodmap” content.

Generally, it is the best to stick to the portion sizes listed and avoid large quantities to ensure a low fodmap load. Small amounts of these foods will keep you in the low fodmap range. 

  • Oatmeal (1/2 cup)
  • Amaranth grain, puffed (1/4 cup)
  • Sourdough bread (1 slice)
Bowl of oatmeal sitting on a table next to a spoon and table cloth. The oatmeal has blueberries, bananas, chia seeds and pecans on it

Note: there are different types of sourdough bread and some vary in fodmap content. Generally, rye, kamut and spelt sourdough breads are going to be higher in fodmaps according to Monash University. It’s best to avoid these varieties. Most others are safe in 1 slice serving size.

High Fodmap Grains 

Here is a list of high fodmap grains you should avoid while on the low fodmap diet. 

  • Wheat 
  • Bulgar wheat
  • Sprouted wheat
  • Wheat berries
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Freekah
  • Bran flakes
  • Graham flour

One thing to remember about wheat – this list refers to the actual wheat plant itself. From a fodmap standpoint, both “white” and “wheat” flours are made from the same plant – the wheat plant. So it does not matter if you are eating 100% whole wheat bread or “white bread” like Wonder Bread, it is still high fodmap. 

Both of these breads are made from the same kernel of wheat. The difference is, the 100% whole wheat bread has the whole grain or kernel intact, whereas the white bread is made from refined wheat flour.

This means that the kernel of wheat grain used in the “white” flour has components of it removed like the bran layer, etc.

Bowl of wheat grains and sprigs of wheat stalks on top of a burlap table cloth

The white flour is usually bleached, hence the white color. The fodmap component is still present in both flours and ultimately both products. 

Whole Grain

Some people also get confused by the term “whole grains” and how this plays into the mix, so lets address that as well. Whole grain is a broader term that refers to grain of any kind.

The 100% whole wheat bread mentioned above would be considered a whole grain. This is because the whole grain of wheat is intact.

Similarly, a gluten free brown rice bread may also be labeled as whole grain if the kernel of rice does not have any components removed. This is the key difference between brown rice and white rice just like the breads compared above. 

So, in terms of fodmaps, a whole grain product might be low fodmap… and it might be high fodmap. It simply depends on what type of grain it is referring to. 

Note on Gluten

You may see “gluten free” products referred to as low fodmap. Don’t let this confuse you. Gluten is a protein, not a sugar, so gluten is not actually a fodmap. 

However, gluten is found in high fodmap grains such as wheat, rye and barley. This means that gluten free products like gluten free breads, cereals and pastas will be made with a low fodmap grain base like rice flour, corn, etc. 

This means that gluten free products MAY be low fodmap, though not guaranteed. The reason for this is that, depending on the product, it may have high fodmap ingredients added to it. These could include certain added sugars or seasonings that are high fodmap. 

Bowl of fruit loops cereal sitting on a table on top of a green circular place mat.

For example, some gluten free cereals may be sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or honey, both of which are high fodmap. Seasoned gluten free bagels or focaccia bread may have garlic or onion added – these are high fodmap foods as well.

These additives will, of course, increase the overall fodmap content of food. It is important to read the ingredient list on the food label to ensure the gluten free product is truly low fodmap. 

One last point to mention about gluten. A low fodmap diet is NOT a gluten free diet to the extent that someone with celiac disease, for example, would need to follow. A low fodmap diet is a LOW gluten diet, not a NO gluten diet. 

​Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many low fodmap grain options when following the low fodmap diet. Again, it is important to work with a qualified Registered Dietitian who has expertise in digestive health when following the low fodmap diet. A dietitian can ensure that you are getting adequate nutrition on the diet and incorporating a wide variety of foods. 

For more on the low fodmap diet, see related posts: 

As always, thanks for reading!