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Sweeteners and FODMAPs

Sucrose--good old table sugar--is one of the few allowed sweeteners on the elimination phase of the FODMAPS diet. In an effort to be more specific, more exotic or healthier-sounding, manufacturers use a great many different words on the food label that all mean essentially the same thing: sucrose. Here is a list of allowed sugar names you might see in recipes or the ingredients section of a food label:


Which syrups are OK for low-FODMAP diets?

Which syrups are OK for low-FODMAP diets?

  • sugar
  • brown sugar
  • cane sugar
  • confectioner's sugar
  • granulated sugar
  • superfine sugar
  • naturally milled organic sugar
  • sugar syrup
  • cane syrup
  • evaporated milled cane juice
  • organic cane syrup
  • organic sugar
  • beet sugar
  • bar sugar
  • berry sugar
  • castor sugar
  • icing sugar
  • refined sugar
  • cane juice crystals
  • raw sugar crystals

Sweeteners that are suitable for a low FODMAP diet, like sucrose, must contain at least as much glucose as fructose. Fructose absorption works best when fructose is paired with an equal amount of glucose. Trying to absorb excess fructose is like trying to pedal a bicycle with just one foot. Not efficient! Even under the best of circumstances, there is a limit to how fast a person can absorb fructose, so even if sweetened with a suitable sweetener, your treat shouldn't have more than 40 grams of sugar per serving during the elimination phase of the diet.

Other low-FODMAP sweeteners include stevia, glucose, dextrose, rice malt syrup (AU), 100% pure maple syrup and corn syrup. Unlike high-fructose corn syrup, regular corn syrup is mostly glucose.

Sweeteners that are not recommended for a low-FODMAP diet include honey, high-fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose and agave. The latest syrup to come to my attention, yakon syrup, does not appear suitable. Although I haven't seen a full nutrient analysis, purveyors of yakon syrup say that it is high in fructo-oligosaccharides (a FODMAP), so we'll go ahead and put that one on the no list.

I do not agree with others who have written that clover honey is suitable for a low FODMAP diet. The data I've seen show that clover honey may be lower in excess fructose than other types of honey, but it still does not make the cut for a list of low-FODMAP sweeteners.

Molasses has not been analyzed for FODMAPs at Monash University but older data in the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference suggest it has excess fructose. No data has been published on brown rice syrup from the United States.

I used to think that erythritol was OK for low-FODMAP diets because it is well absorbed compared to other sugar alcohols. But recent studies have shown it interferes with fructose absorption, so I no longer recommend it for the elimination phase of the diet.

Other non-nutritive sweeteners, such as saccharine, aspartame, and sucralose are not FODMAPs. Why would I "allow" them on an IBS diet? IBS--Free at Last! is not about creating a comprehensive list of every single thing in the universe you should avoid because it might trigger your IBS symptoms. It has a particular focus: finding out whether or not FODMAPs in your diet are contributing to your IBS symptoms. So while I do not go so far as to recommend these ingredients, I can say that if they do bother you, it is not because they contain FODMAPs.

Updated 3/31/2016