The Atkins Diet. The Zone Diet. The Dukan Diet. All of these programs promise to help you drop pounds by restricting certain food groups or eliminating certain ingredients.
But have you heard of the "low FODMAP" diet? Often credited with relieving symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), including chronic gassiness, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation and/or diarrhea, this diet is becoming more popular.
FODMAP is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, And Polyols. These are all technical ways of referencing certain types of carbohydrates (or sugars) — many of them healthy. Lots of people have a hard time digesting these types of carbohydrates, and they can become malabsorbed and/or create an environment in the gut for bacteria to ferment. All of this can wreak havoc on your GI tract and make for some very uncomfortable and possibly embarrassing symptoms.
The strategy of the low FODMAP diet is to eliminate all foods that contain these carbohydrates for six weeks and then reintroduce them slowly to determine which ones are associated with offending symptoms.
Below are 10 common healthy foods that are restricted on the FODMAP diet (and what they can be replaced with) because of their powerful ability to create turmoil in your stomach:
Although apples have been a well-established symbol of good health, they are high in fructose, a carbohydrate that can upset the stomach. If following a low FODMAP diet, avoid apples. Instead choose an equally convenient orange.
Watermelon has a reputation of being mostly water, but it is also high in three carbohydrates that are possibly irritating to your gut: oligosaccharides, fructose and polyols (sugar alcohols). If you are yearning for a tropical fruit, pineapple is a good substitute.
Pears are a tasty high-fiber food, but they are also high in fructose and polyols and should be avoided on the FODMAP diet. Instead of a pear, choose another high-fiber, FODMAP-friendly fruit, such as raspberries or blueberries.
Although the probiotics in yogurt are good for your gut, yogurt is also high in lactose, a carbohydrate that is commonly mal-absorbed and can cause uncomfortable gas and bloating. For those on the FODMAP diet, substitute lactose-free kefir to get that daily dose of healthy bacteria.
Avocados have become a staple in many heart-healthy diets, but the avocado contains polyols (P in the FODMAP) that can be disruptive to the gut. For sources of heart-healthy fats low in FODMAPs, choose nuts like pecans or pine nuts instead.
Roasted cauliflower is extremely tasty, but it's high polyol level could be causing some unpleasant stomach problems. Roast broccoli or Brussels sprouts instead.
Asparagus is a great way to reduce bloat, but those that are sensitive to FODMAPs should avoid this vegetable. Instead of pairing asparagus with your protein, make a big salad with an assortment of greens (e.g., kale, butter lettuce, endive).
Sautéed onions or onion powder can make many dishes smell and taste better, but your stomach might not appreciate it! Onions are rich in carbohydrates called oligosaccharides, carbohydrates that some people do not have the enzymes to break down properly. To flavor dishes, substitute chives or the green part of scallion.
Wheat flour is not allowed on the FODMAP diet. When shopping, buy gluten-free all-purpose flour blends that are free of soy as well. And just because they're gluten-free doesn’t mean they are low in FODMAP — many gluten-free breads contain inulin, a polyol that can also be very irritating to the gut.
Honey is a great sweetener that also contains antioxidants. However, for those that mal-absorb fructose, honey is a bad choice. Instead, use other natural sweeteners like maple syrup.