Simple Guide to Reading & Understanding Low FODMAP Food Labels
It can be a struggle starting out on the low FODMAP diet. The days of being able to open the fridge up for a snack will now be replaced with a meticulous stocking of safe, low FODMAP foods.
This is especially true during the elimination phase.
Using fresh ingredients makes it easier but when it comes to cooking and snacking, you'll need to use processed foods which typically contain high FODMAP ingredients. Processed foods contain high FODMAPs for flavoring and texture which is sometimes inevitable.
High FODMAPs can be disguised in ingredient lists and food labels under a variety of names.
For instance, "natural flavors" in savory foods often refers to onion & garlic powder. This makes deciphering ingredient lists a difficult task. To ensure the foods your using are low FODMAP and won't set off your IBS symptoms you’ll need to establish the practice of thoroughly reading food labels.
We are here to help! We understand that the transition to a low FODMAP diet can be challenging. We've been there! What makes it easier is knowing how to read ingredient lists so you can expertly navigate your way around the grocery store. Soon, you'll develop a memory-bank of high FODMAPs to watch out for! We've put together this guide on low FODMAP label reading that shows you the ins-and-outs of decoding tricky ingredient lists.
How to Read for Low FODMAP Labeling?
Food labels list ingredients in descending order by weight, from largest to smallest. The first ingredient listed will be the most prevalent used while the last ingredient will make up the smallest portion. Also, key ingredients must be declared by percentage weight.
The first five ingredients have the highest concentration—largest quantity. As you re-introduce high FODMAP foods, like garlic powder, you can begin with foods with labels where garlic powder is listed further down in the ingredient list. Meaning, garlic powder makes up a low percentage of the ingredients in the product.
So, if you buy soy milk made from soy protein, the ingredient lists might look like this:
- Filtered Water
- Soy Protein (3.5%)
- Corn Maltodextrin
- Vegetable Oils (Sunflower, Canola)
- Cane Sugar
Soy milk is often made from hulled soybeans, which are commonly known high FODMAPs. During the elimination phase, you will want to stay clear of this product. Once you have stabilized your gut and are entering the re-introduction phase, you can begin to monitor your serving size of soy. Following this ingredient list, soy milk made from hulled soybeans are considered low FODMAP at 1/4 cup serving. Any higher, like 1/2 cup serving will be a moderate serving while a full cup serving is a high FODMAP.
The GO-TOs: Low FODMAP Ingredients
FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are common triggering foods for those with IBS. Anything that falls out of this range and has not been shown to ferment in the stomach is considered a low FODMAP.
The Gut Program packages up known low FODMAP snacks for personalized orders. As part of each program, we start with an interview to identify your symptoms, tastes, and potential trigger foods before getting started. You'll receive packages with low FODMAP snacks, recipe cards, guides, and access to a members-only low FODMAP store that makes this diet much easier to live on!
Keep These in Mind at the Grocery Store
Wheat is a tested high FODMAP. During the elimination phase, you will need to phase out wheat-made products. Gluten is not a FODMAP and many FODMAPers rely on gluten-free products to supplement their non-wheat food choices. Be careful! Gluten-free products often use concentrated fruit juice, inulin, besan (chickpea flour), soy flour, almond meal, and chicory root extract, which are high FODMAP ingredients.
Bread that has undergone the sourdough process or bread that contain ingredients like glucose, starches, and flavors from wheat is okay! Also, small amounts of wheat—in condiments like soy sauce—that are toward the bottom of the ingredient lists are usually not a red flag for FOODMAPers.
Common High FODMAP Foods
Foods that include an abundance of sugar which break down and decay with bacteria in the gut like soft drinks, candy, cookies, and cakes are fermentable.
These are carbohydrates are composed of 3 to 9 monosaccharides. Examples are whole grains, beans, artichokes, and other canned foods.
Simple sugars that consist of exactly two monosaccharides like sucrose, lactose, and maltose. Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese contain high amounts of this segment of FODMAP.
A simple sugar that cannot be broken down into a smaller unit like glucose, fructose, and galactose. Fruits like mango, apples, cherries, and watermelon fit this group. Fructans also found onions, garlic, and wheat are categorized here too.
Polyols are sugar alcohols that occur naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables. There are seven polyols known to cause stomach discomfort: sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol, isomalt, lactitol, and erythritol. Mushrooms, sugar-free sweeteners, and even cauliflower contain polyols.
Tools You Can Use to Read Food Labels
Packaged foods are a barrage of claims and marketing information that can be helpful or confusing. As IBS continues to be a prevalent source of discomfort for many individuals, food marketers are placing the words "tummy friendly" or "supports gut health" on their packaging. Sometimes, these foods can still contain high FODMAPS. Check with The Gut Program, your dietician, and physician to be sure!
There are two logos that you can trust.
FODMAP Friendly Logo: This registered trademark is certified and products with this logo have been lab-tested. Products with this logo have been empirically shown to be low FODMAP and are safe to use.
Monash Logo: This Australian University is the leading academic authority on the low FODMAP diet. The Monash University, along with others, are steadily conducting low FODMAP content-tests to protect FODMAPers by identifying both packaged foods that are certified low FODMAP. Monash also has an application that is updated regularly and is a very useful tool to use while grocery shopping.
The Gut Program: We have three programs that can help you no matter what phase of the low FODMAP diet you're entering. Our programs include snacks we've handpicked and identified, to not only be low FODMAP, but also taste great! These systems make it easy to stick with your diet because you have quick access to great-tasting snacks you know you can trust! Get started now!
We wish you good luck with your journey through the low FODMAP diet. It can be an arduous climb but when you get to the top—your IBS symptoms begin to manage themselves. You will begin to get into good habits of checking your food labels regularly. After a while, you'll have a memorized grocery list of products that are your 'go-to' products. It's always a good idea to use fresh ingredients that you know are low FODMAPs.
If you need any help or guidance, please contact The Gut Program here!
About The Author: Drew is the founder of The Gut Program and a gut health expert. His work has been featured on The Gut Program, CbdOilForIBS.com, Ask Men and The Gut BrainConnection Community. Learn more at his personal site.