Cabbage & the Low FODMAP Diet

Feb 2, 2021 - Vanessa Vargas, RD

Cabbage Low FODMAP Diet

It’s time to shine the spotlight on an amazing and often confusing vegetable — cabbage. Perfect timing too as St. Patrick’s day is just around the corner. Many wonder if they can enjoy this vegetable on the low FODMAP diet, so why all the confusion? Well, cabbage has a certain reputation for being a gassy vegetable, causing many of us with IBS to take pause before digging in. You may have even been advised to avoid cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts pre-FODMAP. 

The good news is that cabbage is low FODMAP, however variety and portion size do matter. If you are a cabbage lover and want to incorporate this delicious, nutritious vegetable, keep reading.

Spoonful App

Cabbage Test Results

Monash has tested several different types of cabbage, and they range in low FODMAP serving sizes. 

  • Common cabbage: ¾ cup raw
  • Red cabbage: ¾ cup raw
  • Fermented Red Cabbage: ½ cup
  • Napa Cabbage (Chinese Cabbage, Wombok): 1 cup raw
  • Savoy: ½ cup raw
  • Sauerkraut (made from white cabbage): 1 tablespoon

Here are some store bought sauerkrauts made from white cabbage:

Why Some of Us May Not Tolerate Cabbage

If you suspect cabbage is not your friend, it may not be the FODMAPs that are bothering you, but rather the sulfur compounds. These may cause you to feel gassy and experience smelly farts. Or maybe the naturally occurring sugar, raffinose, is to blame as we can not really break it down. Our gut bacteria ferments this sugar often resulting in gas, bloating, and/or abdominal pain.

F is for Fermentable

Many assume that the low FODMAP diet limits all fermentable foods since the F in FODMAPs stands for fermentation. However this is untrue. Sauerkraut, traditional sourdough breads, tempeh, and lactose-free yogurt are all examples of low FODMAP fermented foods. The fermentation takes place in our large intestines when the gut bacteria feed on the FODMAPs and release gas that causes bloating, excessive gas, and abdominal pain for many with IBS.

Fermented foods, including sauerkraut, are fermented before we ingest. Interestingly enough, sauerkraut is made by adding lactic acid to the cabbage causing it to ferment. This helps to reduce the fructose content but converts it to mannitol – crazy huh? So while one cup of common cabbage is low FODMAP, this serving size would be high FODMAP if fermented into sauerkraut due to the mannitol.

6 Low FODMAP Ways to Enjoy Cabbage

Sautéed
Just heat up your favorite large sauté pan with a few tablespoons of oil and add thinly sliced cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Whoolah! A perfect satisfying side in only a few minutes.

Added to a stir fry
Slice the cabbage into thin slices and add to your favorite low FODMAP vegetables. Add your favorite stir-fry sauce or try FODY Food’s Sesame Ginger Sauce.

Coleslaw
Many classic mayonnaise-based coleslaw recipes can be low FODMAP if you watch your portions and choose a mayonnaise without garlic and onion. Here is a recipe that closely resembles traditional coleslaw but with a twist from FODMAP Everyday.

Low FODMAP Creamy Coleslaw with Raisins by FODMAP Everyday
Low FODMAP Creamy Coleslaw with Raisins by FODMAP Everyday

Grilled
Have you ever grilled a cabbage wedge? Simply brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill until the edges turn brown and crispy and the center part softens. For a real treat, top with chopped bacon.

Stuffed
Traditional stuffed cabbage is a no go as many recipes call for onions and garlic. Here is a low FODMAP version from Fit FODMAP Foodie.

Cabbage rolls stuffed with veg and mince by Fit FODMAP Foodie
Cabbage rolls stuffed with veg and mince by Fit FODMAP Foodie

Wrapped
Use Napa cabbage leaves instead of rice paper, tortillas, and bread to wrap up your favorite fillings. Look at this fun recipe by Midwest Living, Napa Cabbage Spring Rolls.

Here is a fun, classic recipe to celebrate St. Patty’s Day with: Low FODMAP Corned Beef & Cabbage by FODMAP Everyday.

Low FODMAP Corned Beef & Cabbage Recipe by FODMAP Everyday
Low FODMAP Corned Beef & Cabbage by FODMAP Everyday

Summary

Cabbage is packed full of healthy nutrients including a third of your daily Vitamin C needs, Vitamin K, folate, potassium, magnesium, and fiber. Cabbage is super low in calories, providing less than twenty calories per half cup cooked. Fermented cabbage contains beneficial probiotics that help nourish our gut bacteria.

Hopefully this article about cabbage has lessened your fears and opened your eyes to all the fun ways to enjoy the humble cabbage. If you have concerns regarding your personal tolerance, start with a small serving and monitor your symptoms for 24 hours. Again, if you do react, it is unlikely a FODMAP reaction, but instead a raffinose or sulfur issue.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy this super healthy and versatile vegetable?