The Mediterranean diet has been recommended by doctors and nutritionists around the world to patients wishing to improve their health and weight for the last few decades.
At a glance, you may have thought that it was impossible for you to try it with IBS symptoms and whilst sticking to a Low FODMAP diet. Turns out, you actually can!
Sure, the first thing that comes to mind remembering the food you had on holidays in Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey, is the flavours of garlic and onion or those impressive fruit platters adorned with figs, peaches and dates. But if you check how many of the foods are actually FODMAP friendly you will be pleasantly surprised.
The main components that make the Mediterranean Diet good for us are: healthy fats/oils, fruits, vegetables, lean meat and fish, legumes and most of all a variety of all of these. It is not one single food like garlic or onion that gives it its reputation or causes the protective effect on our health.
You can use a good olive oil as the oil for marinating, cooking and dressing your food ready for your Summer BBQ. Olive oil is primarily composed of monounsaturated fatty acids and these have been shown to protect against many chronic diseases including heart disease, cancers and diabetes.
Luckily for FODMAP diet followers, the carbohydrates that make onion and garlic a ‘no no’ for IBS, are not oil soluble and therefore you can use garlic or onion infused oils to flavour your foods without the unpleasant consequences of eating the garlic or onion.
It could be tempting to make your own garlic or onion infused oil; however, we recommend you to buy it instead because the home filtering process is not as effective as the manufacturing process to remove any small parts of the garlic or onion used to infuse the oils.
One of the best parts of the Mediterranean diet is the plant-based food that many scientists have found to be healthier than a meat-based diet (in particular red meats).
You can try a wide variety of colourful low FODMAP vegetables including carrots, tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, rocket, sweet red peppers, tomato and even fresh Mediterranean chillies. With some of the vegetables you will need to remember that the portion-size is key (for example aubergine, courgette and fennel) but the good habit of the local people is to serve the food in smaller portions or on a tapas/mezze style for the whole family to share, which helps those following the FODMAP diet to keep those portion-sizes limits in check!
And there are plenty of fruit that are safe too: juicy strawberries, fragrant oranges that will forever evoke memories of sunbathing on the Sicilian beaches, sweet pears, delicious kiwis and let’s not forget the quintessential Mediterranean fruit, the grapes.. they are not only good squeezed!
And once again, portion is key for all the other Mediterranean fruit too so perhaps you could partake with an Italian summer favourite, a ‘Macedonia di frutta’ (Fruit Salad) and keep the portions within your limits.
For your evening grills and lazy afternoon lunches, try adding freshly grilled fish to your salads or perhaps give pulses one more chance!
Yes, most pulses are naturally high in FODMAPS, however these are water soluble and they leach into the canning liquids so the lower FODMAP options are canned beans, lentils and chickpeas because up to ½ a cup of canned lentils and ¼ cup of canned chickpeas or butter beans are considered low FODMAP. So, you no longer have to say no to a Moroccan tagine or a Turkish ‘Etli Nohut’ (chickpeas with meat stew).
The most important aspect of the Mediterranean diet is eating a variety of foods because each of them provides different types of nutrients.
Your fruits and vegetables are bursting with vitamins and minerals, whole grains provide you with energy and extra vitamins to regulate your metabolism, while legumes, fish and lean meat are the protein which are the building blocks of your muscles and repair the body’s daily wears and tears.
And remember, although the low FODMAP diet limits the consumption of certain foods, it doesn’t completely remove any food group in its entirety. This means that you can still get all the nutrients you need to keep in good health by planning your meals to include a little sample from all the food groups every day.
We will leave you with all these Mediterranean food ideas to stimulate your imagination for the summer. We are sure everyone can embrace the Mediterranean diet concept and enjoy a wonderful range of food whilst managing your IBS symptoms at the same time.