- People use the low-FODMAP diet to manage the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal (GI) issues.
- The low-FODMAP diet emphasises eating foods that are low in poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates and therefore easier to digest.
- People following the low-FODMAP diet can eat low-lactose cheeses and many fruits and vegetables.
In an effort to combat the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal (GI) issues, researchers at Monash University in Australia created the low-FODMAP diet. Not to be confused with a weight-loss diet, the low-FODMAP diet is an elimination diet aimed at relieving GI symptoms such as intestinal bloating, gas, and pain.
You may have heard about the low-FODMAP diet and how restrictive it is, but you might not realise that there are plenty of foods you can eat on the low-FODMAP diet.
FODMAPs are poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for “fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharide, and polyols.”
Nancee Jaffe, MS, registered dietitian at the UCLA Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases, told INSIDER that “the low-FODMAP diet focuses on five different sugar and fibre categories that tend to cause digestive upset for patients with functional gut disorders.”
Therefore, consuming foods that are low in FODMAPs might help keep symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal bloating or distention, abdominal discomfort or pain, gas, and bloating at bay.
The low-FODMAP diet differs from regular diets in that it has three distinct phases
According to Monash University, the low-FODMAP diet is generally approached in three parts.
First, there is the elimination phase, in which you eat low-FODMAP foods exclusively for two to six weeks to see if your GI symptoms subside.
Next, you enter the reintroduction phase, which is where you try small amounts of higher-FODMAP foods to see what you can tolerate.
You are free to incorporate any high-FODMAP foods you are able to tolerate back into your diet while in the personalisation phase.
The only time the diet requires you to consume exclusively low-FODMAP foods is during the elimination phase.
Here’s a common list of low-FODMAP foods to eat in the elimination phase.
Low-lactose foods, like parmesan cheese, are low in FODMAPs
Many popular low-lactose foods are low in FODMAPs. According to Jaffe, “It’s actually not necessary to be 100% lactose-free in order to get the benefit we’re looking for [on the low-FODMAP diet].”‘
When it comes to buying low-FODMAP cheese, Jaffe’s rule of thumb is that “‘the more aged a cheese is, the less likely it is to cause FODMAP symptoms.”‘
Cheeses such as feta, cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan are low in FODMAPS as is lactose-free milk, lactose-free yogurt, lactose-free cottage cheese, and alternative kinds of milk such as almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk.
Low-fructose foods, such as blueberries, are low in FODMAPs
According to Jaffe, when a person with a sensitive GI system consumes too much fructose, it’s going to cause GI symptoms.
Most fruits including blueberries, cantaloupe, lemon, banana, and strawberries, and sweeteners such as maple syrup, brown sugar, and raw sugar are examples of low-FODMAP foods that are low in fructose.
Foods that are low in fructans and galactooligosaccharides (GOS), like kale, tend to be low in FODMAPs
This category includes two types of FODMAPs, fructans and GOS, because their effect on the gut is similar in that they both produce gas.
According to Jaffe, these chains of sugars cause GI distress because our natural gut bacteria “eat away at the fructans and the GOS, and this can create gas, bloating, and cramping.”
Although a FODMAP patient might not necessarily produce more gas than a healthy person, they might experience more pain and discomfort as a result of the gas, Jaffe told INSIDER.
Foods that are low in fructans/GOS are generally low in FODMAPs, though some foods in this section – like butternut squash and sweet potato – become high-FODMAP if eaten in large quantities.
Most vegetables including spinach, kale, lettuce, green beans, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, and zucchini, some gluten-free bread, oats, corn tortillas, most nuts such as almonds, peanuts, pecans, and chickpeas, firm tofu, and tempeh are examples of low-FODMAP foods with low fructans/GOS.
Foods that are low in polyols, such as passion fruit, tend to be low in FODMAPs
The low-FODMAP foods in the low polyols (hydrogenated carbohydrates used as sugar replacers) category are similar to the foods in the no excess fructose category in that they are easy on the gut and don’t produce excess water retention leading to bloating and gas.
Rather than consume high-polyol sweeteners such as sorbitol and lactitol, people on the low-FODMAP diet, therefore, should opt for sweeteners such as stevia or artificial sweeteners that do not end in “ol.”
Some vegetables, such as cauliflower, have naturally occurring polyols and should be avoided. Instead, low-FODMAP diet followers should opt for vegetables such as carrots, yams, and swiss chard.
Although fruits such as apples are high in polyols, oranges, rhubarb, and passion fruit are low in polyols and therefore, are safe to eat.
For a comprehensive list of foods you can eat on the low-FODMAP diet, you can reference the University of Michigan’s Division of Gastroenterology & Hepatology’s checklist. If you still aren’t sure if a food is high or low in FODMAPs,Monash University developed an app that frequently tests foods for their FODMAP levels.
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