The Guide to FODMAP Friendly Sugars and Sweeteners

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Grilled Tofu Salad – Fructose Friendly, Gluten Free & Vegan

Grilled Tofu Salad

I love warm salads. They are the perfect spring or autumn meal; not too heavy to weigh you down but just warm and hearty enough for the season.

They are also very quick and easy to make for a weeknight dinner. Thirty minutes or less? Yes, please!

Notes:

  1. Balsamic vinegar has been listed as both safe and unsafe, depending where you look. Monash University lists 1 tbsp. as safe and 2 tbsp. as containing moderate levels of fructose. Most balsamic vinegars are actually flavoured wine vinegars, so it’s hard to tell whether the authentic balsamic vinegar or the imitations are being referred to. At any rate most people aren’t buying the real deal, they’d be much too expensive to cook with except on very special occasions. I can tolerate 2 tbsp. of the imitation balsamic vinegar that I buy.
  2. Butter is very low lactose, as during production the water-soluble sugar was removed along with the buttermilk.
  3. Cherry tomatoes are considered low FODMAP in half cup servings, according to Monash University.
  4. Mushrooms are considered by Monash University to be high in mannitol and have moderate FOS in one cup servings. Different mushroom varieties have different levels of FODMAPs and I can tolerate the less than half cup serving of button mushrooms in this dish, as polyols do not affect me and the FOS has been reduced enough for my tolerance levels.
  5. Green chives are low in FODMAPs, just make sure you don’t use the white root portion.

Grilled Tofu Salad

Serves 2.

  • 2 cups loosely packed spinach, de-stemmed
  • 225 g/8 oz extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup cherry or vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
  • 3/4 cup button mushrooms, diced
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. minced green chives
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or whole
  • 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary
  • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 + 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter or dairy free equivalent (vegan option such as coconut butter or Nuttelex etc)
  • 2 tbsp. flax seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. each of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper

Slice the tofu so that it is approx. 2 cm thick and wrap it in paper towel, then sandwich it between two chopping boards and place something on top to lightly press it down. This will squeeze much of the fluid out of the tofu. Leave it like that for 20 minutes; in the meantime, prepare the vegetables.

Seal the surface of your a fry pan, then unwrap and fry the tofu for about 4 minutes on each side, until crisp and golden brown. Divide the spinach leaves between two plates or pasta bowls and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the oil and your choice of normal or vegan butter over a medium-high heat and then put in the garlic; let it simmer for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Next, lower the heat to medium and saute the mushrooms until they have softened considerably and begun to release liquid, then throw in the rosemary and first 2 tbsp. of chives. After a minute, add in the tomatoes, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and stir until heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

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The vegetables should be done at about the same time as the tofu, so divide the vegetables between the two servings (place on top of the spinach) and then take the tofu off the heat and  slice it into strips. Place the tofu on top of the vegetables and sprinkle with remaining chives and flax seeds (optional but I like the crunch). The flax seeds aren’t pictured below.

Serve immediately, so that the vegetables and tofu are still warmed through.

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Baked Peach in Puff Pastry – Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Baked Peach in Puff Pastry

While looking through the masses of photos I have taken of meals that we’ve cooked, doing a bit of a sort out to see if I’d missed posting anything – I had, quite a few things actually – I came across this peach dessert. While I love autumn/winter weather, I do miss the cheap and plentiful fruit that is available over spring and summer and looking at this just made me sigh. During the winter I have to survive on bananas and oranges, which get very boring after a while. Seeing all of those beautiful, shiny apples just rubs it in even more!

Towards the end of summer, I had a couple of peaches that needed to go. I was about to slice them into wedges and whip some cream when I remembered that I had some puff pastry left over in the fridge, which reminded me of this post on ‘The Orgasmic Chef’ that I had seen a few weeks earlier. After quickly informing Ev that dessert would be in about 30 minutes, rather than straight away, I whipped out the pastry and began rolling.

Notes:

  1. The pastry contains butter, thus a little bit of lactose.
  2. Peaches contain polyols, so if you malabsorb those then this won’t be suitable. If you are like me and only have to worry about fructose/fructans then go right ahead.

Baked Peach in Puff Pastry

  • About a 1/3 cup sized lump of gluten free puff pastry – sorry for the dodgy measurement!
  • 2 whole, fresh peaches – I prefer yellow
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. dextrose/castor sugar
  • 1 tsp. groung nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cloves

Preheat the oven to 190 C/375 F.

Roll the pastry out until it’s about 5 mm thick and slice it into four quarters. Slice the peaches in half and remove the stone; if you would like to, you can peel the peach but I was in a hurry to eat dessert!

Place each peach half flat side down on a chopping board and cover it with the puff pastry. Smoosh the joins together so that the peach’s curved part is completely enveloped and trim the excess from the edges. Repeat for all for peach halves.

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Sprinkle the spice/sugar mix on a plate and gently pick up the covered peach half and place it on the plate to coat the bottom in the spices before carefully placing it on a lined baking tray. Do this for all four peach halves before sprinkling the left over spice mix on top of the pastry.

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Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the pastry is completely cooked and a light golden brown. Let the peaches cool for about 10 minutes before moving them to the serving dishes with a spatula – to prevent them from slipping out of the pastry shells. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or vanilla bean custard… and enjoy! I think the simplicity of this dessert adds to its deliciousness and value. They also taste just as good reheated the next day.

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The FODMAP content of coconut-based products

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Is coconut high in FODMAPs? There is so much confusion out there, even now.

Many websites still say that coconut is indeed high in FODMAPs – according to www.lowfodmap.com this is “pre-2010” research – while others say no. Throw in all of us having our say and clogging up the airwaves of peer-reviewed research with personal complaints about symptomatic foods and no wonder people are confused. We’re all guilty of it. In fact, I’m planning to have a little whinge later on… but hopefully what I write first will help to clear things up.

Coconut Products

Coconut Flesh is the white layer of the fruit, just inside the husk. It is comprised of cellular layers of endosperm that deposit throughout the fruit’s development. It can be eaten fresh, desiccated or toasted, among other ways.

  • FODMAP rating (fresh) – low in 1 cup serves.
  • FODMAP rating (Desiccated/dry and unsweetened) – low in 1/4 cup serves, 1/2 cup serves contain moderate amounts of the polyol sorbitol.

Coconut Milk or Cream is made when you process the coconut flesh with water and strain it. Less water gives a thicker cream, more water produces a thinner milk.

  • FODMAP rating (milk) – low in 1/2 cup serves.

Coconut Oil is typically extracted by cold-pressing coconut flesh. As it is an oil, it contains no carbs, so it is low FODMAP.

  • FODMAP rating – low/safe.

Coconut Sugar is made from the sap of the coconut palm. Monash has not tested it, but it is reportedly high in inulin, a type of fructo-oligosaccharide, so it should be consumed with caution after the elimination period is over. For more information, read this post about sugars and sweeteners suitable for the low FODMAP diet.

  • FODMAP rating – unknown.

Coconut Water is what pours out of the coconut when you pierce it. It contains 6.0 g of “sugars” per cup of liquid. It is quite refreshing and contains many vitamins and minerals, however, it does contain varying amounts of different FODMAPs.

  • FODMAP rating – 100 ml is low FODMAP, 250 ml is high in the sorbitol and contains moderate amounts of oligosaccharides.

The Research

In an attempt to make sense of all the conflicting information available, I tabulated all the weight estimates of sugars in coconut that I could find, as well as Monash University’s more recent additions. There weren’t too many that were reputable sources – most were health websites spouting who knows what – and of those that seemed reliable, only one broke the sugars down into their different types.

I used a few sources to create the following table, from which it appears that coconut in unsweetened forms is in fact a safe food in terms of fructose, with fructose not in excess of glucose, which has more recently been backed up by Monash University. Fructans were never mentioned, until very recently; they seem to only be an issue in coconut water. The polyol sorbitol comes into play in coconut flesh. Monash doesn’t release the exact grams of a FODMAP per 100 g, though it does use the traffic light system to visually represent a food’s safety.

Those who are malabsorb fructose should still monitor their coconut intake, as over consumption of the polyol sorbitol can further inhibit fructose absorption in the small intestine, leading to increased symptoms of fruct mal/IBS. This is important to note even if you aren’t sensitive to sorbitol alone.

Coconut Table of FODMAP Content

My Whinge

I can eat a moderate amount of unsweetened coconut flesh in its fresh or desiccated form and not have a reaction. I haven’t tested a large amount of the flesh before, mostly because I haven’t come across a situation in which I would want/need to gorge myself on coconut. My situation with coconut flesh seems to fit with Monash University’s research (link above) that lists a moderate amount of coconut flesh as low FODMAP. As for coconut water, as long as it’s not mixed with anything I can’t have, then I can drink 200 ml without issue, though I don’t do it often, as it’s expensive!

Coconut milk/cream is low FODMAP in serving sizes up to 1/2 cup, at which point sorbitol becomes an issue, for those that malabsorb it – I do not. Coconut cream is made by processing the flesh in a blender – the more water you add, the thinner it will become and you will eventually reach “milk.”

Here is my problem with coconut milk: I get stomach aches within an hour of consuming it but the low fat version doesn’t affect me. I have no idea why. I am not sensitive to sorbitol (blackberries, cherries) but full cream coconut milk makes me double over. The Finish Food Composition Database also lists coconut milk as having 1:1 glucose and fructose, so it shouldn’t set off fructose malabsorbers unless you have enough to overwhelm the co-transport system, which at lot. Maybe there are fructans present? Who knows. I would like to.

If anyone out there has a theory about coconut milk, I’d love to hear it. I’m currently about to test freshly made coconut cream, to see if it is potentially the canning process, or perhaps the can lining, that is causing my symptoms. Or maybe it’s the higher fat content rather than the saccharides present.

UPDATE: A bout of gastritis last year led me to see a nutritionist, who diagnosed me with low stomach acid. After being put on a vitamin, mineral and probiotic regimen for 6 months, my stomach acid levels have increased and my ability to digest fatty and high protein foods has improved dramatically, so I can now tolerate 1/2 cup of full fat coconut cream; I haven’t eaten any more, as it’s so calorie dense and filling I haven’t needed or wanted to. Thanks, Sharon! I promise to write more about this at some point!

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I’m not a dietitian and I didn’t participate in any of the research, so I’m not in a place to judge whether coconut is or isn’t low FODMAP – however, Monash University is a reputable source, who’s reports fit with the Finish Food Composition Database’s list of carbohydrates that are present in coconut.

What have your experiences with coconut flesh and cream/milk been?

Title image credit to: http://pixabay.com/en/users/Lebensmittelfotos-13/