Detecting FODMAPs in Processed Foods

20 August, 2021 ,

When following a low-FODMAP* diet, some foods need to be avoided or should only be consumed in certain quantities. Thanks to our lists of foods to avoid and foods you can eat, or the Monash application, it is easy to identify which individual foods should be avoided, such as honey, wheat pasta, or white beans. Where things get complicated is when it comes to the FODMAP content of processed food such as granola bars, bread, breakfast cereals… In this case, it is necessary to know how to interpret the list of ingredients, but it can be complicated.

Some simple rules to follow when reading ingredient labels

  • Prioritise unprocessed foods

This advice is good for everyone, not just for those who follow a low-FODMAP diet. The more you opt for a diet that is little processed and consists of whole foods, the better your health is likely to be. Indeed, in our daily diet it is important to favor fresh foods such as fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, eggs, meats, poultry, fish, seafood, nuts and seeds, legumes, rice, milk, plain yogurt without sugar, herbs… Additionally, this means you don’t have to read the labels!

  • Find hidden FODMAPs

When reading the list of ingredients, it is sometimes very easy to know if the selected food contains FODMAPs, but sometimes the labels can contain words that we are not used to seeing, such as: inulin, fructose, isomalt, polydextrose… To help you decode hidden FODMAPs, I invite you to read this article.

  • Pay attention to the order of the ingredients

Keep in mind that food labels list ingredients in descending order for the quantity included in the product. The first ingredient will therefore be the one present in the greatest quantity and the last ingredient will be present in negligible quantities. Therefore, if an ingredient high in FODMAPs is listed as one of the first ingredients of a food, then this food can be considered to be high in FODMAPs.

Label reading can take some time to master but once the knowledge is acquired it is very useful, and it becomes easy to notice if the selected food is high in FODMAPs or not.  In addition, once your reintroduction tests have been carried out and the problem food families are identified, it will be easier for you to select products that are adapted to your tolerances. If you have any doubts about a product that you want to introduce into your diet, I invite you to read this article.

A helpful app

You may have heard of the Spoonful app.  This allows you to scan a food and informs you if it contains one or more ingredients with FODMAPs. The app uses the same color code as the Monash app. Thus, if the food you are scanning contains at least one ingredient recognized as being high in FODMAPs, then the name of the food in question will appear in red. If it contains at least one food recognized as moderate in FODMAPs, then the name will appear in orange and, finally, if it does not contain any FODMAPs, then it will be indicated in green.

The app is a good tool to detect in the blink of an eye if the food contains FODMAPs or not. In addition, it informs you about the problematic ingredients, which helps you become accustomed to recognizing which ones should be monitored. I therefore invite you to pay attention to the information provided by the application. It also offers alternatives to scanned foods considered high or moderate in FODMAPs.

However, as nothing is perfect, the application only informs you of the presence of ingredients that are recognized to be moderate or high in FODMAPs. It does not give you the exact amount of food you can consume based on its FODMAP content. In effect, if a food appears in orange, the application cannot say whether a serving of this food has a low, moderate, or high content in FODMAPs, we only know that the food contains an ingredient considered to have a moderate FODMAP content.

In addition, the application does not take into account the nutritional value of the scanned food. Moreover, if there is a label to scan that has a long list of ingredients, there is a good chance that it is an ultra-processed food and that it is not a good choice from a nutritional point of view.

Finally, the app only works for the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, and not all foods are listed. It is therefore important to get used to detecting FODMAPs for yourself.

If you want to adopt a low-FODMAP diet and want to be supported along the way, our dietitians are available to help you. We also offer delicious low-FODMAP meal plans and recipes.

*FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that are partly responsible for causing symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For more info, read this article.

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Author

Jennifer Morzier

Jennifer Morzier

Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian graduated from the University of Montreal in December 2018 and is a member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ). She believes that the quality of our food choices has a direct impact on our health and energy level. Her goal? To help people improve the quality of what they put in their plates, for their better well-being and greater pleasure.

Jennifer Morzier

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