If you’ve ever had major digestive discomfort after eating beans or greens like asparagus, then you may be sensitive to fructans. Fructans are non-digestible carbohydrates found in certain foods that are not considered safe on the low FODMAP diet. Although humans in general cannot digest such foods, this inability to digest fructans is even worse in those with digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Although some fructans are easy to identify and avoid if you have a sensitivity, there are some fructan-containing foods that may not be so easy to spot. Read below to learn more about fructans and how to avoid them on the low FODMAP diet.
What are fructans?
Fructans are poly- or oligosaccharides with short chains of fructose that cannot be digested by the average human. The reason for this is the lack of enzymes that humans possess to break down fructan compounds into more easily digestible single sugars. As a result, these fructan compounds travel through the gut unabsorbed and the bacteria in the large intestine ferments these sugars. This fermentation produces gases which causes flatulence in normal, healthy digestive tracts. In those with IBS, since the gut is extra sensitive, symptoms are more severe.
Common symptoms of those with fructan intolerance when they consume fructan-containing foods include abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, and bloating, to name a few. Some diarrhea and bloating is thought to be caused by the fructan molecules drawing water into the small intestine.
An example of a well-known fructan is the sweetener inulin. However, there are many other foods that are high in fructans that should be avoided by those with a sensitivity to this compound.
Foods high in fructans
Fructans are different from fructose, which is a sugar compound. Fructans are found in wheat and wheat-based products as well as vegetables like:
- Chicory root
- Beet root (4 slices of fresh is considered high FODMAP)
- Beans and legumes
Also, if you have a sensitivity to high fructan foods like onion or garlic, then you most likely have a sensitivity to related foods such as chives and leeks too. Because these types of plant-based foods are found in powdered, diced, and oil forms in many prepared foods and food products, those with a fructan sensitivity need to be very careful when eating outside of the home and purchasing food at the grocery store. Garlic- or onion infused oils are the only exception since the fructans in onion and garlic are water-soluble and will therefore not be found in fat-based oil mixtures.
What to eat instead
You may be looking at this list and overwhelmed at how many foods you might have to avoid to stay safe from fructan intolerance symptoms. However, there are many ways to enjoy plenty of fiber and flavor without fructans.
- Use herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, or bay leaves to flavor foods instead of onion or garlic. Or try a low FODMAP spice blend like low FODMAP garlic or onion powder substitute by Casa de Sante.
- Get your fiber fill from other plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, and leafy greens instead of beans or legumes.
- Choose foods sweetened with natural cane sugar or stevia instead of fructan-rich sweeteners like chicory root or inulin. Or use low FODMAP sweeteners like brown rice syrup.
- Blend together red peppers, tomatoes, spinach leaves, some garlic-infused olive oil, and a few walnuts for a delicious dip to substitute hummus or other bean dips. You still get a fiber-rich dip full of low FODMAP flavor, healthy fats, and some antioxidants as an added bonus.
Take home message
If you are sensitive to several foods on this fructans list, then you are most likely dealing with a fructan sensitivity. Therefore, the low FODMAP diet may be the right choice for you to help you prevent symptoms and feel healthier. Visit the Casa de Sante website for more information on how to get started on the low FODMAP diet.