In the daily diet, there may be foods that are not easily digestible by the body and whose reasons we cannot explain. Without prior knowledge, we consume macronutrients that can drastically affect our health, including our normal life.

Among them are a list of certain foods rich in carbohydrates and sugars called FODMAPs and that, for some reason, damage or interrupt the normal functioning of the digestive process.

In the following article, we give you all the information you need to know about this type of macronutrients, their characteristics, and how you should consume them.

What is a FODMAP food?

First we must know what FODMAP means. This acronym includes the initial letters of the types of substances found in FODMAP foods that can cause negative symptoms. 

You should know: The “F” refers to carbohydrates that are fermented during the digestive process and that in healthy people are sources of energy, but for more sensitive others they can cause complications due to their tolerance. The “O” refers to oligosaccharide compounds “D” refers to disaccharide compounds ; ” M  includes monosaccharides and “P ” polyalcohols .

In this context, foods rich in FODMAP contain within their nutritional composition some of these substances and are normally part of our daily diet.

To highlight: FODMAP foods are characterized by the fact that they are poorly absorbed in the small intestine , continuing their transit to the colon where the bacteria that live there ferment them, producing a series of undesirable symptoms.

Another characteristic is that they have a high content of short-chain carbohydrates and proteins, such as gluten, which is not easily digestible for some sensitive people.

Types of FODMAP foods

Because our knowledge regarding the class and type of food we consume is almost scarce, we list below the types of foods considered FODMAP so that you know about them:

1. Fructans

Fructan, or fructosan, is chemically a polymer made up of molecules of fructose , a natural sugar derived from sucrose. Nutritionally they are polysaccharide and oligosaccharide carbohydrates formed exclusively by fructose units. 

Important: It must be taken into account that there are people who are sensitive to fructans and their continuous consumption of small portions causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, among others.

But it is necessary to clarify that the consumption of fructans in healthy people has a very beneficial effect on the body due to its probiotic, immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties. (1)

2. Monosaccharides

Monosaccharides, also known as simple sugars or carbohydrates, are molecules that, when subjected to a hydrolysis process, do not break down into other simpler molecules. The main function of this type of FODMAP is to provide immediate energy to the body’s cells.

Note: There may be people with secondary intolerance to monosaccharides , who may present symptoms such as diarrheal syndrome. (two)

3. Disaccharides

Disaccharides are molecules that are also called double sugars or two monosaccharide molecules. Disaccharides, like monosaccharides, have the function of providing energy to the cells of the organism.

You should know: Intolerance to disaccharides in some people can cause intestinal discomfort such as abdominal pain and/or bloating, diarrhea, bloating, nausea and constipation. (3)

4. Galacto-oligosaccharides

Galactooligosaccharides are ingredients that serve as prebiotics for the microorganisms that make up the bacterial flora of the intestines and are found naturally in breast milk or in infant milk formulas. 

Chemically they are defined as  oligosaccharides, composed of a terminal glucose unit and two or more galactose units.

Note: Lactose intolerant people are equally intolerant to galactooligosaccharide compounds, so their consumption should be avoided for this segment of people. (4)

5. Polyols

Polyols, also known as sugar alcohols , are poorly digestible products whose function is to replace table sugar. They are regularly sweeteners used to sweeten foods, without the caloric load of white sugar.

You should know: The consumption of polyols could produce a slight increase in the frequency of bowel movements and a softer consistency of the stool due to its laxative effect. (5)

On the other hand, intolerance to polyols can cause very bothersome symptoms such as gas, osmotic diarrhea, urgency to go to the bathroom, bloating and abdominal cramps. (6)

What are high FODMAP foods?

Many FODMAP-rich foods that we cannot identify are traditionally included in our daily diet. Here we mention the foods that have this characteristic:

1. Cereals and legumes

Some cereals belong to this FODMAP food group, because they have sugars or fermentable carbohydrates such as fructooligosaccharide in their nutritional composition.

To highlight: Among these cereals are rye wheat, buckwheat, barley, kamut, triticale, hops, malt, amaranth , bulgur, corn on the cob, brown rice, spelled bread . 

As for legumes, there are lentils, chickpeas , beans, broad beans, green beans and soybeans . These foods are rich in galactooligosaccharides.

2. Tubers

Root vegetables are another high FODMAP food, as they are high in starch , a polysaccharide compound, made up of many monosaccharides . Among these are the potato, yam, tiger nut, sweet potato , cassava root, among others.

3. Dairy

Dairy products contain monosaccharide compounds such as lactose or they can be disaccharides, when they are attached to another molecule such as glucose. This includes milk and derivatives such as cheese, whey and butter.

4. Vegetables and greens

There are vegetables with FODMAP characteristics, which are part of your common daily diet. These foods are rich in fermentable carbohydrates including garlic , onion , broccoli , asparagus, cauliflower , sweet corn, red peppers, among many others.

Note: It is advisable to consult your dietitian for advice on this type of diet.

5. Fruits and nuts

Regarding fruits, the list is broader, since they are foods rich in polyols and monosaccharides. The most common fruits are apple , pear , peach, apricot, persimmon, custard apple, cherry, blackberry, watermelon, among others, and fruit in syrup . Nuts include cashew , hazelnut, pistachio and peanuts.

To highlight: In nuts it is recommended to eat almonds and walnuts in small quantities.

6. Meats and sausages

Meats as such do not contain FODMAPs, but it must be specified that processed meats do contain some ingredients that could make them fermentable.

For example, there are packaged meats and sausages to which onion, herb salt, powdered vegetables, dehydrated vegetables, broths, among others, are added, even if it is not specified on the label, making them rich in FODMAP foods .

You should know: A food classified as a FODMAP food contains more than one of the following carbohydrates: oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols.

7. Sweets and sweeteners

Candies and sweeteners contain mostly polyols or sugar alcohols . Among these foods we can mention sweeteners such as aspartame, cyclamate, steviol glycosides, saccharin, sucralose , white and brown sugar, glucose, maple syrup, corn syrup, among others.

Even foods that have these polyols as ingredients are considered FODMAP foods, such as diet sodas and bakery desserts.

When should high FODMAP foods be avoided?

Obviously, if we notice that after meals or during the day we begin to suffer from intestinal discomfort , it is appropriate to investigate what happens to us, however there are people with diseases caused by genetic disorders that prevent the mandatory intake of foods with FODMAP content. . 

Here we mention some of them:

1. In case of suffering from irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is a gastrointestinal disease, the cause of which is still not perfectly clear , however, it has been established that the digestive system is especially sensitive to a large number of stimuli, including foods with lactose or gluten. 

To highlight: Some of the FODMAP foods contain these compounds, so they should be limited. Among them are vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, whole grains, carbonated drinks, legumes with skin, dairy products and their derivatives, among others. (7)

2. In case of suffering from Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive tract that can affect any part of this tract. Eating foods rich in FODMAPs do not represent the cause of this disease, but they can worsen its symptoms.

Note: Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, whole grains, carbonated drinks, legumes, dairy products and their derivatives, among others, should be avoided. (8)

3. In case of suffering from ulcerative colitis

This is an inflammatory bowel disease, which causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract, affecting the lining of the colon and rectum. In this disease, legumes, dairy products, carbohydrates and fermentable sugars, among others, should be avoided. (9)

4. In case of food intolerances

It is very common in people to suffer from food intolerances, with very negative causes in the digestive tract. Here are those intolerant to lactose, gluten, fructose and sucrose, which wreak havoc on the digestive system. 

In this context, they must follow low FODMAP diet , consuming, for example , lactose-free milk, gluten-free proteins, among others. (10)

Key Findings

  • High FODMAP foods contain mainly fermentable carbohydrates and sugars .
  • Foods high in FODMAPs primarily affect people with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Foods high in FODMAPs are beneficial for healthy people because they represent sources of energy and promote intestinal health.
  • The reduction in the consumption of foods high in FODMAPs does not cure diseases of the digestive tract, but rather improves its annoying symptoms.

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