Low FODMAP Guide To Reading Food Labels

Low FODMAP Guide To Reading Labels

Reading Labels on the Low FODMAP Diet

Learning to read food labels is a minefield on the low FODMAP diet! Many high FODMAP foods are added to processed products to help enhance their texture and taste. This guide will help you spot the high FODMAP ingredients and and optimize your chance of success.

How to Read the Ingredient List

In food labels ingredients are listed in order of weight. This means the first ingredient listed is in the largest quantity and the last ingredient listed is in the lowest quantity. Dietitian Caroline Tuck from Monash University states that "when you are starting to re-introduce higher FODMAP foods, you may choose to try products which have high FODMAP ingredients such as garlic powder listed as minor ingredients. You just then need to monitor your tolerance" (Tuck, 2015). During the elimination phase it is recommended that you avoid high FODMAP ingredients if possible. When it comes to wheat, rye, and barley try to avoid products that list these ingredients as first to third in the ingredient list (Tuck, 2015).

Common High FODMAP Ingredients

Inulin or chicory root extract/fibre is often added to dairy products (like yoghurt), gluten free bread and baking, rice crackers, stevia blends, coconut milk and protein powders. It can also be labelled as dietary fibre in some countries (Food Navigator, 2001; GF Gluten Free, 2015).

You also need to watch out for fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), which are added to processed foods as well as supplements and protein powders.

Sugar alcohols, or polyols as we know them, are added to a wide range of processed foods. The ones to watch out for are sorbitol (E420), mannitol (E421), maltitol (E956), xylitol (E967), erythritol (E968) and isomalt (E953) (Catsos, 2014a; Shepherd & Gibson, 2012). Remember to check for their food additive numbers as well.

High FODMAP sweeteners can also cause digestive issues. These sweeteners include honey, high-fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, agave syrup, yacon syrup, fruit sugar, isolated fructose, fructose, fructose syrup, Isoglucose, fructose-glucose syrup, and glucose-fructose syrup (Catsos, 2014a; EUFIC, 2015; Starch Europe, 2013). Concentrated fruit juice is another high FODMAP ingredient especially prevalent in gluten free products. In particular watch out for apple juice and pear juice, as well as any juice from other high FODMAP fruits.

Onion and garlic like to sneak into processed foods, so check labels for onion, onion powder, onion extract, garlic, garlic powder, and garlic extract. Also watch out for ingredients labelled as spices, natural flavours, dehydrated vegetables, and chicken salt, as these can all have onion or garlic as a hidden ingredient. If you are not sure whether the product contains onion or garlic ring or email the manufacturer. Also check dried spices and spice mixtures (especially Chinese five spice powder, curry powder, chilli, or cayenne pepper) for added garlic and onion powders. Worcestershire sauce is an exception and is low FODMAP (Monash Low FODMAP App, 2015). You can read more about worcestershire sauce here.

Lactose can hide in a number of different ingredients, so keep an eye out for milk, milk solids, yoghurt, buttermilk, sour cream, milk curds, and whey protein concentrate in ingredient lists (Scarlata, 2014).

Dried fruit is often high FODMAP. Avoid products, like breakfast cereals and muesli bars, that have high amounts of dried fruit in them.

When looking for low FODMAP baking and bread, keep an eye out for these high FODMAP flours: amaranth flour, einkorn, emmer, khorasan, kamut, lupin, barley, amaranth, rye, soy and wheat (Monash University App, 2015). Just remember that if soy flour (or other high FODMAP flours) are not the predominant flour in the bread  (it is far enough down the ingredient list) then the product could still be FODMAP safe. You will need to test it to check your tolerance levels.

Ingredients that Are Considered Low FODMAP

There is a misperception that gums are high FODMAP. However, according to FODMAP dietitian Kate Scarlata guar gum, locust bean gum, xanthan gum, and cellulose are not considered FODMAPs at this time (Scarlata, 2012). However, these gums can be fermented in our digestive systems, which means some people with IBS may have additional issues with them that are not related to FODMAPs.

Although many soy products are high FODMAP, soy lecithin is considered low FODMAP (Catsos, 2014b). Soy lecithin is made from a mixture of phospholipids and oil (Greene, 2013), neither of which are believed to contain FODMAPs.

Examples of High & Low FODMAP Ingredients

Please note that this is not be a complete list of high & low FODMAP ingredients.

  High FODMAP

Low FODMAP

  Not Tested But Considered Low FODMAP

  Not Tested But Considered High FODMAP

Amaranth flour Beet sugar Acidity regulators                Coconut flour

Apple juice

Brown sugar

Anti-caking agents

Erythritol (E420)

Agave syrup

Buckwheat flour

Antifoaming agent

Gram flour

Barley

Corn syrup

Antioxidants

Lentil flour

Buttermilk

Dextrose

Barley Malt Extract (small serves only)

 Milk curds

Chicken salt*

Garlic infused oil

Cane juice crystals

Milk solids

Chicory root extract/fibre  

Glucose syrup

Caramel Colour

Molasses

Crystalline fructose

Golden syrup** (1/2 tbsp serves)

Cellulose

Soy flour

Dehydrated vegetables*

Maple syrup

Colourings & colour fixatives

Whey protein concentrate

Einkorn

Mineral salts

Enzymes

Yacon syrup

Emmer

Palm sugar

Flavour enhancers

 

Fruit sugar

Rice malt syrup

Foaming agents

 

Fruit concentrate

Soy/soya protein isolate

Fruit flavours/extract

 

Fructo-oliogsaccharides (FOS)            

Stevia

Guar gum

 

Fructose-glucose syrup

Whey protein isolate   

Invert sugar

 

Natural flavours*

Wheat starch            

Locust bean gum

 

Garlic/garlic powder

 

Maltodextrin

  

Glucose-fructose syrup

 

Preservatives

 

High fructose corn syrup 

 

Raising agents

 
Honey

 

Thickeners  

Inulin  (dietary fibre)

 

Soy lecithin

 

Isoglucose

 

Stabilisers  

Isolated fructose

 

Xanthan gum  

Isomalt (E953)

 

   

Khorasan (kamut)

 

   

Lupin

 

   

Maltitol (E956)

 

   

Mannitol (E421)

 

   

Milk

 

   

Milk curds

 

   

Onion/onion powder

 

   

Spices *

 

   

Sorbitol (E420)

 

   

Sour cream

 

   

Wheat flour

 

   

Xylitol (E967)

   

   

Yoghurt

 

   

* These ingredients can contain onion or garlic

**High FODMAP in larger serves

(Table compiled from: Catsos, 2014a; Catsos, 2014b; Monash University App, 2015; Scarlata, 2012; Scarlata, 2014; Shepherd & Gibson, 2012)

Food Label Examples

Low FODMAP: Soy Milk made from Soy Protein. Note how soy protein is listed in the ingredients.

Soy Protein Milk (Low FODMAP)

FODMAP Content Depends on Serving Size: Soy Milk made from Hulled Soy Beans

Soy milk made from hulled soya beans contains varying amounts of FODMAPs depending on the serving size. It is low FODMAP at ¼ cup (60ml) serve, moderate FODMAP at ½ cup (125ml) serve, and high FODMAP at 250ml (1 cup) serve. This means if you chose to use soy milk made from hulled soy beans you need to control your portion size.

Hulled Soy Bean Milk (Moderate To High FODMAP)

High FODMAP: Soy Milk made from Whole Soy Beans. Problem ingredients: whole soybeans & pearl barley.

Whole Soybean Milk (High FODMAP)

 High FODMAP: Gluten Free Cornflakes

Problem ingredient is the apple juice concentrate. Gluten free cornflakes made without apple juice could be low FODMAP providing other high FODMAP ingredients have not been added.

 Gluten Free Cornflakes (High FODMAP Option)

Low FODMAP: Gluten Free Bread

This bread does contain a potential high FODMAP ingredient – soy flour. However it is not the predominant flour used in the bread and it is the fourth ingredient listed in the ingredient list. This means the FODMAP content in 1 to 2 slices of this gluten free bread could be low FODMAP.

Gluten Free Bread (Low FODMAP Option)

High FODMAP: Rice crackers

Problem ingredient: chicory root fibre. Plain rice crackers without chicory root fibre/inulin are low FODMAP.

High FODMAP Rice Crackers

 Final Thoughts

Checking labels for high FODMAP ingredients is an important part of the low FODMAP diet. In the beginning it is often easier to choose products that have shorter ingredient lists. I recommend that you cook meals from fresh ingredients as much as possible. If you have questions about the FODMAP content of certain ingredients please let me know by commenting below. 

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REFERENCES

  1. Tuck C. Label reading – how to spot the FODMAPs. Monash Low FODMAP Blog. 2015-09-17. Retrieved from:http://fodmapmonash.blogspot.co.nz/2015/09/label-reading.html. Retrieved on: 2016-01-03. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6eGzvOObl)
  2. Monash University App. Information Section & Food Guide. The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App. 2015: Version 1.5 (295). Date retrieved: 2015-11-14. Retrieved from:http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/iphone-app.html. Accessed: 2015-11-14. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6Wog73c8B)
  3. Food Navigator. New labelling law for inulin in the UK. Food Navigator. 2001-02-27. Retrieved from :http://www.foodnavigator.com/Policy/New-labelling-law-for-inulin-in-the-UK. Retrieved on: 2015-08-27. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6b6uRVCzH)
  4. GF Gluten Free. Food Labeling Laws - Australia / NZ . GF Gluten Free. 2015. Retrieved from:http://www.gf-glutenfree.com/food-labeling-australianz. Retrieved on: 2015-08-27.
  5. Catsos P. Sweeteners and FODMAPs. IBS - Free At Last. 2014-10-31. Retrieved from:http://www.ibsfree.net/news/2014/10/31/sweeteners-and-fodmaps?rq=sweeteners. Retrieved on: 2015-08-27. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6b6v9wb9t)
  6. Catsos P. FODMAPs and Soy: Why So Confusing?. IBS - Free At Last. 2014-05-18. Retrieved from:http://www.ibsfree.net/news/2014/5/18/fodmaps-and-soy-why-so-confusing. Retrieved on: 2016-01-03. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6eGtoW7qy)
  7. Shepherd, S & Gibson P. Information on How to Read Food Labels . Food Intolerance Management Plan. 2012. Retrieved from:http://www.foodintolerancemanagementplan.com.au/documents/Food%20Label%20Reading.pdf. Retrieved on: 2015-08-28. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6b6wmAMDs)
  8. EUFIC. Frequently Asked Questions: What is Glucose Fructose Syrup. European Food Information Council. 2015. Retrieved from:http://www.eufic.org/page/en/page/FAQ/faqid/glucose-fructose-syrup/. Retrieved on: 2015-08-03. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6aUyez54v)
  9. Starch Europe. Factsheet on Glucose Fructose Syrup and Isoglucose. Starch Europe. 2013-06-10. Retrieved from:http://www.starch.eu/factsheet-on-glucose-fructose-syrups-and-isoglucose/?redirect=true. Retrieved on: 2015-08-03. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6aUyOYve9)
  10. Scarlata, K. Low FODMAP diet is not dairy free!. The Well Balanced FODMAPer. 2014-08-19. Retrieved from:http://blog.katescarlata.com/2014/08/19/low-fodmap-dairy-free/. Retrieved on: 2015-08-28. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6b6xDbzuB)
  11. Scarlata, K. FODMAP Checklist: Comment Section. The Well Balanced FODMAPer. 2012-03-08. Retrieved from:http://blog.katescarlata.com/fodmaps-basics/fodmaps-checklist/. Retrieved on: 2016-01-27. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6erBy3JhT)
  12. Greene, A. Soy Lecithin: Why Is It In Everything?. HuffPost Taste. 2013-03-18. Retrieve from:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-greene/soy-lecithin-why-is-it-in_b_2891780.html. Retrieved on: 2015-03-29. (Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/6XOxJ40WA)