Life can still be sweet if you are following the low-FODMAP diet to help with your symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). When you do find sugars or sweeteners in candies, chocolate or other goods, the best advice is to not go overboard (for several reasons). Be an educated consumer and be good to your health! Read on to learn more about low-FODMAP sugars and sweeteners.

Here are some tips (my printable list of low-FODMAP Sugars and Sweeteners is below)!

  1. With regard to your overall health, consider being mindful of how much added sugar is healthy to consume on a daily basis. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are (7): Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons). Added sugars are simply sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation (such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal). Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food. The AHA recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance. For most American women, this is no more than 100 calories per day and no more than 150 calories per day for men (or about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men). 
  2. Read those labels!  When looking to buy chocolate, candy, or anything sweet you should know which sugars and other ingredients are low-FODMAP and which are high-FODMAP.  —See my printable list below for sugars and sweeteners.
    1. Be cautious of any other high-FODMAP ingredients listed on the food label. 
    2. Also know that if a high-FODMAP ingredient is listed near the bottom of the ingredient list, it should be present in small quantities and therefore safe to consume. 
    3. If you see something like apple or beet juice but they are used to add color to the product and not flavor it, again the product should be safe to consume.
  3. Don’t go overboard – Pay attention to servings. On the Monash FODMAP app, you can find listings for different chocolate products. For example, dark chocolate should be limited to 5 squares or the equivalent of 1/2 small bar, or 30 grams. Milk and white chocolate – 1 fun-size bar is LOW but 5 squares or 30 grams or more has MODERATE amounts of lactose. Intake should be limited if you malabsorb lactose. Chocolate Chip Cookies, Biscuits – 1 cookie is LOW in FODMAPs. Drinking Chocolate 23%, 60% and 70% cocoa powder – 1 – 2 heaped teaspoons is LOW. See the Monash app for more information.

Another reason to not go overboard with sugar

  1. A diet poor in nutrition (forget your veggies?) and high in sugar can lead to Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). SIBO occurs when the bacteria in your small intestine get out of balance and overgrow. The excess bacteria feed on sugar, simple and complex carbohydrates, starches, and alcohol. When all is said and done, symptoms can lead to belching, flatulence, severe bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Another reason to keep sugar in check!
  2. A diet high in sugar can also lead to heart disease, diabetes, bacterial vaginosis, weight gain, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Too much sugar can drain your energy and lead to depression (source).

First of all, which types of sugars are safe on the low-FODMAP diet?

  • Fructose (natural sugar from fruits) **Only OK when a food or food product contains equal glucose to fructose ratios 
  • Lactose (natural sugar from milk) **Only OK in small amounts
  • Maltose (sugar made from grain)
  • Sucrose (made from fructose and glucose)
  • Glucose (simple sugar, product of photosynthesis)
  • extrose (form of glucose)
high fodmaps apples
Excess fructose is found in apples and pears among other fruits, vegetables, syrups and juices

And which sugars or sweeteners are high in FODMAPs?

  • EXCESS fructose – When there is more fructose than glucose a food becomes high in FODMAPs. The fructose can then by malabsorbed by your body and it becomes food for your gut bacteria, triggering symptoms. Avoid high-fructose containing foods such as high fructose corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup solids, apples, cherries, boysenberries, figs, pears and mangoes, honey or agave nectar, asparagus and sugar snap peas. For a full list of foods with excess fructose, use the filter in your Monash FODMAP app to view only foods high in fructose. Having trouble using the filters? Read “Using the filters on the Monash FODMAP Diet App.”
  • Lactose – the threshold limit for lactose on the low-FODMAP diet is 1 gram. According to Monash University, “research suggests that most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate 12-15g of lactose per day (equivalent to up to 250ml of regular milk) and possibly even more if lactose consumption is spread throughout the day rather than in a single sitting. Examples of foods containing low, moderate and high amounts of lactose are as follows:
    • LOW – Cheddar cheese 0.04 grams lactose (40 grams or two slices)
    • MODERATE – Ricotta cheese 1.6 grams (80 grams)
    • HIGH – Skim milk 12.5 grams lactose (250 ml) Lactose – the threshold limit for lactose on the low-FODMAP diet is 1 gram. According to Monash University, “research suggests that most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate 12-15g of lactose per day (equivalent to up to 250ml of regular milk) and possibly even more if lactose consumption is spread throughout the day rather than in a single sitting.
  • Inulin –  a class of dietary fibers known as fructans also known as inulin fiber, chicory root fiber, chicory root extract
  • Polyols – the “P” in FODMAPs – these are sugar alcohols found naturally in fruits and vegetables and also in sugar-free products (xylitol, sorbitol, isomalt, maltitol, mannitol).

As you can see there are many reasons to be mindful of the impact of sugar on your gut, body and mind.

fodmap sugar sweeteners guide

Sources for this article include: