With IBS affecting 1 in 5 Brits, many of us have been advised to try a low FODMAP diet, but figuring out the FODMAP content of foods can be a minefield. For a FODMAP friendly food guide, look no further…
Whether you fall into the 20 per cent of the population that suffers from irritable bowel syndrome , have been diagnosed with Crohn's or coeliac disease or have a sensitive gut and are yet to figure out why, the NHS endorsed low FODMAP diet could help you to identify dietary triggers, eliminate discomfort and reduce bloating and other unpleasant symptoms. Standing for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides and Polyols (catchy), FODMAPs are naturally occurring short-chained sugars in food that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine, with the potential to cause digestive havoc in some people. Identifying where FODMAPs are lurking in high numbers can make for an epic Lord of the Rings style quest across the supermarket aisles, so we recruited IBS sufferer and author of The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen Emma Hatcher to help you to navigate the weekly shop. If in doubt, print out the handy chart below. Happy eating.
SUITABLE FOODS AND FOODS TO AVOID
This list is by no means conclusive but hopefully gives you an overview of the FODMAP amounts in various foods, so that you can have an understanding of why particular ingredients are used, and the amounts in which they are used. The chart is just a guide - everybody has different tolerance levels and just because a food is listed as high in FODMAPs it might not mean that you can never eat it, likewise if it’s low in FODMAPs it might not mean that your gut always loves it – so experiment (safely!) to find out what’s best for you and don’t be afraid to adapt the recipes to suit.
Generally, stoned fruits are high in FODMAPs, along with watermelons and other fruits such as blackberries - but there are still plenty of others to eat. Dried fruit often means an increased concentration of FODMAPs, so it’s often best to keep these in small portions.
VEGETABLES AND PULSES
Veggies and pulses are a mixed bag when it comes to the FODMAP diet, but there is a huge variety low in FODMAPs. The green parts of leeks and spring onions are low FODMAP and great for adding flavour. Unfortunately most legumes aren’t low FODMAP – but tinned lentils and chickpeas can be easier on the gut because the FODMAPs leach out into the liquid, which you can then remove, by draining and rinsing before eating. Just make sure you stick to recommended portion sizes.
GRAINS, CEREALS AND FLOURS
Many assume that a low FODMAP diet means no grains, cereals or flours, but there are tonnes of options out there. Unless you’re coeliac, don’t write off wheat, barley and rye entirely – small amounts may be tolerated by some people with a sensitive gut: one slice of toast or a small bit of wheat flour coating on fish for example. However lots of other options are listed and are used in the recipes in this book that contain lower amounts of FODMAPs which means eating them in bigger amounts shouldn’t affect your gut. Gluten-free bread is now readily available, but check for high FODMAP additives such as high-fructose corn syrup, honey and chicory root/ inulin, which is often added by food companies to boost the fibre content of their products.
DAIRY AND NON-DAIRY SUBSTITUTES
You might be pleased to know that a low FODMAP diet isn’t a dairy-free diet! It’s the lactose you might need to watch out for. Most hard cheeses contain very little lactose so are suitable and although butter is a dairy product, it’s considered low FODMAP in small amounts as it contains very little lactose tooe. Watch out for yoghurts labelled dairy or lactose free; they often contain chicory root or inulin and can be sweetened with honey or apple juice, which can cause problems.
NUTS AND SEEDS
Most nuts and seeds can be eaten in small portions without causing symptoms, but some are lower in FODMAPs than others. Alternate in recipes, adapting to suit your tolerances.
Beware of an excess of fructose when it comes to sweeteners – I find maple syrup and brown sugar great options for sweet recipes.
A QUICK NOTE ON…
Fish, eggs and meat: Any plain fish or meat, along with eggs should be FODMAP friendly. Try to avoid fatty cuts of meat, or eat them in small portions, as fat can aggravate symptoms. Watch out for sausages and other processed meats as they often contain wheat, garlic and/or onions, all of which can upset a sensitive gut.
Herbs and spices: Almost all fresh and dried herbs and spices are suitable – just be wary of too much chilli and foods that are very spicy, as these can cause symptoms for some.
Oils: All oils are low FODMAP as they are carbohydrate free. However, just as with fatty cuts of meat, some people with IBS struggle to tolerate fats in large amounts (and we shouldn’t be having too much anyway!), so it’s been suggested to eat these in moderation.
FODMAP FOOD CHART
*Kefir is high in FODMAPS
SO WHAT NEXT?
Following a low FODMAP Diet is a three-phase process. The first is the elimination phase, where you remove all high FODMAP foods from your diet. After that, each subgroup is slowly introduced back into the diet, one at a time. That way, you know if it’s the lactose group that’s a problem, the fructans group, or one of the others. Finally, phase three allows you to eat what you want, whilst avoiding the high FODMAP foods or groups that were a trigger during phase two.
Should you adopt a low FODMAP diet? Find out more about eating to ease IBS
Extracted from The FODMAP Friendly Kitchen Cookbook by Emma Hatcher, £20, published by Yellow Kite
Follow Emma on Twitter @shecanteatwhat and Instagram @shecanteatwhat