Over the weekend I had the pleasure of presenting at the Gluten Free Food & Allergy Show in Auckland, New Zealand. I gave a seminar on how to love your low FODMAP life, which was filled with tips and tricks to help people integrate the low FODMAP diet into their lives. I also focused on dispelling a few low FODMAP myths to make the low FODMAP journey a little bit easier. Today we are going to discuss five low FODMAP myths.
Myth #1: Low FODMAP Diet is a Life Time Diet
The good news is that the strict low FODMAP phase is not for life. You only need to stay on the strict diet for 2 to 6 weeks until your symptoms are settled (1). Once you have good symptom control you can move through the reintroduction phase with the help of your dietitian. After that you can add in any high FODMAP foods that do not trigger your gastrointestinal symptoms. This modified low FODMAP diet will allow you to enjoy some high FODMAP foods while maintaining good symptom control (1).
Myth #2: Low FODMAP Diet is a Dairy Free Diet
Lactose is a di-saccharide and stands for the ‘D’ in the FODMAP acronym. This means you do need to avoid dairy products that have high to moderate levels of lactose, like standard cows’ milk, yoghurt, ice cream, and sour cream (this is not an extensive list – for more info see the Monash Low FODMAP App). However, you can still enjoy some dairy products like lactose free milk or yoghurt (2). Also remember that most hard cheeses are low lactose, and these are delicious additions to low FODMAP meals! You can find a detailed list of low FODMAP cheeses here.
According to Australian based dietitian Joanna Baker (APD), “if you choose to replace cows milk with an alternative plant based milk, look for something that is nutritionally similar in terms of calcium and protein. Good nutritional benchmarks to look for are 120mg of calcium per 100ml serve, and 3g of protein per 100ml serve (you can find this info in the nutrition label). If you are concerned, it’s best to discuss your calcium needs with your dietitian.”
Myth #3: Low FODMAP Diet is a Gluten Free Diet
The low FODMAP diet is not a completely gluten free diet. Gluten is a protein and is not a FODMAP. The issue with gluten containing grains (wheat, rye, spelt, and barley) is that they also contain fructans (these are high FODMAP short chain carbohydrates). Gluten free products are often recommended because they cut out gluten containing grains, which significantly reduces the overall amount of fructans in your diet.
Keep in mind that small amounts of wheat, spelt, and oats are all low FODMAP (2). This means you do not need to be worried about trace amounts of wheat or spelt, unless you also have Coeliac disease. I encourage you to explore traditional spelt or wheat based sourdough breads, as these can be a tasty bread option while you are in the low FODMAP phase (just watch out for added high FODMAP sweeteners like honey) (2). Check out this article for more information on low FODMAP sourdough bread.
Also remember that even if a product states it is gluten free it could still have added high FODMAP ingredients, like inulin or fruit juice concentrate. You can find more information about selecting low FODMAP gluten free products here. The takeaway message is that you need to reduce fructan (gluten) containing grains but you do not need to exclude them completely.
Myth #4: All Spelt Products Are Low FODMAP
Monash University has been working hard over the past year to raise awareness that not all spelt products are low FODMAP. As I mentioned before, traditional spelt sourdough bread is low FODMAP, and this is due to the fermentation process as the bread leavens, which reduces the level of fructans in the bread (3). Other spelt products like spelt pasta can be enjoyed in small serves (1/2 cup or 74g) before they become high FODMAP, and some products like spelt flakes should be avoided altogether as they are high FODMAP even in small serves (2). You can read more about spelt and the low FODMAP diet from the Monash University FODMAP team here.
Myth 5: You Can Cook with High FODMAP Ingredients & Just Remove Them
Unfortunately it is a myth that you can leave onion, garlic or other high FODMAP ingredients in your water-based meals (soups, stews, & sauces) and just remove them before you eat. Fructans are water soluble, which means they leach out of the high FODMAP ingredient and into any liquid in your meal (4). This can raise the overall FODMAP levels of your entire meal, even if you pick out the high FODMAP ingredients. The safest way to create tasty low FODMAP meals is to only use low FODMAP ingredients.
However, there is a helpful trick you can use to capture the onion and garlic flavour. If you want to use onion and garlic in your meals you need to make infused oils (4). You can do this by frying whole pieces of onion or garlic in your cooking oil for 2 to 3 minutes at the start of the meal. Remove the onion and garlic once they start to brown and before you add any other ingredients. This way you will capture the flavour without the FODMAPs, as fructans are not oil soluble (4).
Unlike Coeliac diesease, cross contamination is not a major issue on the low FODMAP diet. This means if a high FODMAP food like mushroom or asparagus is served next to your low FODMAP food and touch on the plate it is not an issue. In most cases you can pick those high FODMAP foods out and continue to eat the meal without going over your FODMAP threshold. This is because there is no liquid for the FODMAPs to leach into. However, this rule does not apply to sauces, soups or stews.