Why do FODMAP lists differ?

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Question

I'm confused that your low FODMAP table includes vegetables, which are "don'ts" on other low FODMAP lists, such as cabbage and summer squash. Also, it doesn't include bananas, which are on all the "good" lists that I have seen. What is the explanation?

Answer

The Low FODMAP Diet was first developed by researchers at Monash University, in Melbourne, Australia. Unfortunately, there is no publicly accessible FODMAP database.

When we create a list of foods, we must use what we can patch together from a series of peer-reviewed, published papers by researchers at the Monash lab, each one with a slightly different focus (2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2017), along with a variety of other sources. As each new paper comes out, we adjust our teaching tools and edit our food lists accordingly.

New information is also being published continuously (but indirectly, without the actual raw data) via the Monash University low FODMAP app.

All this is to say that charts and tables can quickly become out of date.

Also, people who write different food lists and teaching tools sometimes make different decisions about what should be included on a low FODMAP diet, based on their clinical experience. And, Monash is located in Australia, so sometimes food ingredients are different there from other countries.

But, don't worry. Even with some inaccuracies and discrepancies, working with your dietician, if you lower the overall load of FODMAPs in your diet for a few weeks, you will find out what you need to know: whether a low FODMAP diet can help you manage your symptoms. 

Readers should also note that the chart in the article provides examples, but is not meant to be a complete list of high- and low-FODMAP foods, and it was based on my interpretation of the available FODMAP data as of the date of publication.

Regarding your specific questions, as of November 2017:

Cabbage: Cabbage was measured in Monash's FODMAP lab a few years ago and was found to be low in FODMAPs. I usually recommend by patients stick to 1/2 cup, based on my clinical experience, as some patients report they do not tolerate larger amounts.

Summer Squash: All types of summer squash tested are low in FODMAPs. However, because zucchini/courgette is a little higher in FODMAPs than the yellow-skinned summer squash, I suggest a limit of 1/2 cup for that type of summer squash.

Bananas: I have suggested a limit of 1/2 cup or 1/2 banana for years. Recently, bananas were reanalyzed at Monash's FODMAP lab and riper bananas were found to be somewhat higher in FODMAPs than greener bananas, the opposite of some older information that had been published by another lab. In my practice, I am sticking with 1/2 cup or 1/2 small for both ripe and unripe bananas.

— Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN, LD
Medical Nutrition Therapist and Author
Portland, ME

 

Points to Remember

The “Low FODMAP diet” is not a “No FODMAP diet” and it is not a “lifetime diet.”

The Low FODMAP diet is a process, not a list of foods.

A wide number of health benefits have been attributed to some FODMAPs.

The Low FODMAP diet requires the expert guidance of a dietician trained in the area.

The dietician will advise which foods (and how much) can be gradually re-introduced into your diet.

 

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