Eat to Feel Better
Feed Your Shopping Cart and Tummy Low FODMAP Foods
Paleo? Keto? Low FODMAP? The list of weird-sounding, internet-trending diets seems to be ever-growing. Perhaps you’ve tried a few, only to be frustrated by the hunger and little results many seem to yield. Maybe reading the unfamiliar words, “Low FODMAP” briefly piqued your interest, but you are understandably skeptical of any new diet. Although the Low FODMAP diet has only been around for twelve years, it has proved extremely helpful for people with digestive issues. The Low FODMAP regime was not designed for weight loss, however, eating the whole foods it prescribes may aid in this endeavor while also allowing you to eat your way to wellness.
To learn more about how the Low FODMAP diet works, prepare for a mini science lesson. You may have noticed things get a little, well, windy after you eat foods like broccoli or cheese. According to Monash University professor Peter R. Gibson, certain foods containing short-chain carbohydrates such as cruciferous vegetables have long been known to tummy troubles as the gut does not absorb them well. In 2004, researchers at Monash University decided to connect these discomfort-causing, short-chain carbohydrate foods under the acronym FODMAP, which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides and Monosaccharides and Polyols. It was hypothesized that restricting these types of carbohydrates would lessen discomfort, and thus the Low FODMAP Diet was born.
But what exactly are FODMAPS? According to the Stanford University Medical Center, FODMAPS are carbohydrates (aka sugars) found in foods, but not all carbs are FODMAPS. FODMAPS include: Fructose (found in High Fructose Corn Syrup, honey, fruits), Lactose (found in dairy products), Fructans (found in wheat, onion, garlic), Galactans (found in beans, lentils, and legumes), and Polyols (found in sweeteners ending in -ol and stone fruits). High-fiber foods also contain a high amount of FODMAPS. These FODMAPS cause gas, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea because they pull water into the digestive tract and are not absorbed well, which leads to their fermentation in the gut. A more complete list of allowed and restricted foods can be found here. Limiting foods containing high amounts of FODMAPS can help sufferers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other digestive diseases like Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. According to the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, clinical trials have revealed that a Low FODMAP diet can help up to seventy percent of people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. However, according to Monash University researcher Lyndal McNamara, the effectiveness of a Low FODMAP diet for people with leaky gut is debated. Although the diet benefitted mice with the condition in a study, it is unknown whether this transfers to the human body. However, trying the Low FODMAP diet cannot not hurt, as I found out two weeks ago when I first began implementing Low FODMAP into my own life.
My doctor recommended I try the Low FODMAP diet as I have been experiencing debilitating digestive problems for the past six months. We are trying to rule out digestive diseases such as IBS by seeing if my symptoms improve by restricting high FODMAP foods. I am in the elimination phase of the diet in which all high FODMAP foods are strictly avoided. However, Gibson and his colleagues recommend that restricted foods are gradually introduced to prevent a reduction in beneficial gut bacteria and to discourage disordered eating. Below, read about my trials and triumphs on the first week of the Low FODMAP diet and my tips for successfully adhering to this new regime.
Armed with a wrinkled print-out of allowed and restricted foods given to me by my doctor, I strode into Sprouts. My eyes darted around the store, searching the dizzying array of organic products for a place to begin. I settled on the cereal aisle, thinking it a simple starting point. My face fell as I picked up a yummy-looking cereal and skimmed the long list of ingredients. Soy lecithin? Xanthan gum? I had neither the knowledge nor the cellular data to help me discern whether these ingredients were low FODMAP. My eyes strayed longingly to the Cheerios, which I had enjoyed with golden rivulets of delicious honey for as long as I could remember. For now, those days were over. Hot tears pulsed behind my eyes, but I squared my shoulders and resumed my elusive search for a gluten free and thus Low FODMAP friendly cereal.
Googling unknown ingredients to check whether they’re Low FODMAP friendly when you first begin the diet can be frustrating, not to mention difficult in a crowded store. I soon found that farmers’ markets are a less overwhelming and more fun way to shop—you are more likely to find foods without additives needing further Googling. Some information you find when Googling can be confusing, however. For example, soy should generally be avoided, but I found that tempeh is allowed as fermentation reduces FODMAPS. Also, different lists of allowed foods may vary a bit. For example, one list I consulted said that garlic and onion are no-no’s, but another allowed garlic and onion powders. When in doubt, ask your doctor and do the best you can. Although Googling ingredients can be frustrating at first, try to see the process as an adventure in which you learn what’s best to put in your body, a lesson that will serve you even when you’re well.
My vision doubled as I continued skimming rows upon rows of organic cereals. I discovered that while some stores have small gluten-free sections, more gluten-free products are usually mixed in throughout the store. I eventually settled on a chocolate brown rice cereal and went in search of fun gluten-free snacks. Sadly, the majority of what I found were crackers, some of which I later found were not proper sustenance and made me bloated and crampy. My eyes still aching, I decided to seek rest from endless ingredient lists in the produce section. The colorful display of shiny fruits and vegetables instantly lifted my spirits, and I picked out a few plump red peppers and zucchinis.
As I cooked with them throughout the week, I noticed you need less fresh produce than you think. Just one zucchini and one red pepper would have gone a long way. I combatted spoilage by freezing excess vegetables and buying some frozen.
Once I returned home, I arranged my treasures on the counter and gazed at them quizzically. How was I to form cohesive meals out of seemingly random ingredients? As the week went on, I developed a few favorite breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks detailed below. However, a healthy perspective to keep in mind while cooking and eating is to notice the list says to LIMIT high FODMAP foods, so do not be hard on yourself if you accidentally eat something high FODMAP, especially if it’s just a small amount. However, try to stick to the diet as accurately as possible for best results.
All photos by Kaylee Bosse
Find recipe for this blueberry crumble here.
For breakfast, I enjoy Trader Joe’s gluten free cinnamon raisin bread toasted with tahini (1 tbsp for Low FODMAP) and extra cinnamon with a side of strawberries and blueberries. Tiffany’s Kitchen ultra-low sugar granola (found at Escondido and Vista farmers’ markets) with fruit and/or lactose free milk and lactose free whipped cream also makes for a sweet start to the day. For lunch or dinner, I enjoy an Italian meal three ways. You can put tomato sauce, Trader Joe’s vegan mozzarella cheese, zucchini, red pepper, butternut squash spirals, spinach, and meat on a Sprout’s gluten free pizza crust, atop gluten free spaghetti, or sauté the toppings by themselves. I like to browse social media sites to find fun Low FODMAP snacks.
While I have not noticed a dramatic change in my digestive symptoms while on the Low FODMAP diet, I have noticed I feel better when I eat the minimally processed foods the Low FODMAP diet allows. Instead of seeing each grocery run as an insurmountable feat, I now welcome them as invitations to healthy eating and culinary adventures. I encourage you to see whether the Low FODMAP diet can help you eat your way to wellness.
Find the recipe for banana cookies here.