With so many hidden sweeteners in foods and drinks, it can difficult to know which are low FODMAP friendly. Some sweeteners may cause symptoms such as abdominal cramping and loose stools, which can be painful and uncomfortable. Therefore, read below for tips on choosing sweeteners that are safe on the low FODMAP diet.
Say No to Fructose
Foods and drinks that contain fructose sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup should be avoided on the low FODMAP diet. In addition, high fructose fruit-based juices and concentrates such as apple, grapefruit, peach, pear, and mango concentrates, to name a few, should not be consumed. And although it may seem better to choose natural sweeteners like honey and agave syrup, these options are high in fructose, which can trigger digestive symptoms in some people. Honey is nearly 50-percent fructose, while agave syrup is nearly two-thirds fructose.
Sugar Alcohols are Not Safe
It may seem healthier to choose sugar-free options, but with the low FODMAP diet this is not always the case. Although some artificial sweeteners are ok in moderation, sugar alcohols should be avoided in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet. Sugar alcohols are those sweeteners that end in -tol such as xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, maltitol, and isomalt.
When it comes to erythritol, although Monash considers it is most likely low FODMAP, they clearly state that it is just "less likely to cause gas or bloating symptoms than other sugar polyols." It could therefore still trigger digestive symptoms in some people. Also, research shows that when consumed with fructose-containing foods, erythritol can cause gastrointestinal distress symptoms in healthy adults. That is why some experts are not recommending this sugar alcohol for the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet.
Regardless of what regimen you follow, sugar alcohol consumption above around 10 grams a day has been found to cause laxative-like symptoms, so should be limited in one’s diet.
Inulin is Out
Inulin is a plant-based sweetener most often extracted from the chicory root. It can be found in health products that want to add fiber without much bulk and may be found on the label of products as “inulin fiber”, “chicory root fiber,” “chicory root extract,” or just as “inulin.” Since this sweetener can also be derived from foods such as onions, asparagus, and wheat, and since it contains fructans, it is not tolerated by those with irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive conditions. You may see this sweetener or chicory root extract in many health food items such as yogurt, nutrition bars, or health food dessert items, to name a few.
Stick to Sugar
Instead of risking a trigger of symptoms, it is best to stick to basic sugar, or sucrose to sweeten your food and drinks. Whether its in its refined form, in raw form such as dehydrated cane juice, or in the form of light or dark brown sugar, sugar is safe on a low FODMAP diet. It is recommended to consume no more than 1 tablespoon a day though since it does contain 50-percent fructose. Dextrose, which is derived from glucose and is a low fructose sugar, is also safe on the low FODMAP diet.
You can still enjoy sweetness on the low FODMAP diet, even if fructose is not tolerated. Here is a summary of sweeteners that are low FODMAP friendly.
- Cane sugar, raw or refined, as well as light or dark brown sugar
- Brown rice syrup
- Golden syrup, which is derived from sucrose and is therefore 50-percent fructose; therefore, no more than ½ tablespoon a day should be consumed on a low FODMAP diet.
- Beet sugar
- Coconut sugar, which contains fructose, so no more than 1 tablespoon a day should be consumed on a low FODMAP regimen.
- Pure maple syrup
- Monk fruit sugar
- Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame-K, saccharine, sucralose.
In addition to the sweeteners listed, try pureeing some low FODMAP friendly fruits like strawberries to sweeten smoothies, or try low FODMAP-friendly juices like pineapple juice or grape juice to sweeten recipes (as long as they do not contain high fructose corn syrup). Check out this low FODMAP shopping list for more information on low FODMAP friendly fruits and sweeteners.
Written by Staci Gulbin, MS, RD a Board-certified dietitian.