The Low FODMAP Diet for Beginners – A Resource Package

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Leek Chimichurri – Low FODMAP, Gluten Free & Vegan

Leek Chimichurri - Low FODMAP, Gluten Free and Vegan, fructose malabsorption, irritable bowel syndrome, healthy, low carb

When we moved into our new house in February just been, there was a run-down little veggie patch by the front door. I looked at it in dismay – I had just left behind the gorgeous wooden planter box that Ev built for me the year before at our last rental – and then proceeded to ignore it every time I walked by it. The box was cheap plastic, the soil full of weeds and the dried out remnants of what was once a zucchini plant were splayed out on a trellis.

After a couple of weeks, I looked at the “garden” tab of the house folder the previous owners had left us and got a little shock. Apparently, the veggie patch was full of leeks, chives and kale. Yum. I checked the garden again and there were the leeks and chives, hidden among the weeds; no kale, though, it obviously hadn’t made it through the winter. There was one problem, though. There was grass growing up throughout the chives and the leeks were apparently planted next to some small agapanthus, whose leaves look a lot like a leek but are not edible. Why on earth? Anyway, it was still February, so these hardy little plants hadn’t begun to flower yet. I was reasonably confident that I could tell them apart from the bulb/lack of bulb (agapanthus vs leek) but, to be sure, I wanted to see the flowers.

Finally, the leeks and agapanthus flowered a week ago and last weekend we decided it was time to get rid of the sad little veggie patch and replace it with a lawn, instead. Unfortunately, our backyard is surrounded by pine trees and gets very little sunlight, so I understand why they chose the front yard for the veggie garden – I just wouldn’t have done it in quite the same way. Also, because our backyard gets basically no sunlight, the “lawn” is about 95% weeds, so we’re going for a forest/path/hidden surprise backyard with shade loving plants and we want to get as much lawn out of the front yard as possible. But I digress. Even after ditching the leeks that were growing so close to the agapanthus that they were intertwined (and all the chives, because they were thoroughly knotted together with grass and nobody had time to sort that mess out), we had a sink-full of leeks. I’m not even kidding, our extra deep, double-sized kitchen sink was overflowing.

This wasn’t even half of what we kept, which was half of what was there. Please excuse the weeds, the garden is a work in progress.

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What on earth could we do with so many leeks? It’s warming up, so it’s no longer really soup weather and simply processing the leeks and freezing them seemed like a cop out. A few weeks ago we had watched an episode of No Reservations (Anthony Bourdain’s show) and they had dipped leeks into chimichurri. Why not make leeks into chimichurri, instead?

Chimichurri is a very versatile sauce. It’s primary use is for grilling meats but you can use it as a dipping sauce, a condiment, a sandwich spread (mixed with mayo – yum!), a pasta sauce, a salad dressing, to spice up omelettes and add flavour to mashed potatoes. You can also use it as a base from which to build an entirely new sauce. It’s definitely handy to have around, as it allows you to cut some corners during dinner prep – I won’t say no to that!

FODMAP Notes

  1. Green leek tips are considered FODMAP friendly in 1 cup servings.
  2. Garlic olive oil must be made ahead of time and cooled, or it can be pre-bought. If you are buying garlic olive oil, make sure you choose an oil quality that is more suited to how you plan to use your chimichurri. For example, we grilled the chimichurri marinated beef kebabs we made, so a refined olive oil was more suited to this particular dish than if we had used the chimichurri as a dipping sauce, in which case extra virgin olive oil would have been fine (due to the heat resistance/smoke points of different oils).
  3. As all FODMAPpers are different, if you can tolerate a bit of actual garlic, feel free to replace the garlic olive oil with the same amount of olive oil plus 1-2 cloves of garlic, to taste.

Leek Chimichurri

Makes about 600 ml of sauce, depending on how firmly packed the leeks are.

  • 4 cups green leek tips
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup pre-made garlic olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional – 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes or fresh oregano

Place the garlic oil (or actual garlic if you can tolerate it), roughly chopped leek tips and red wine vinegar into the bowl of your food processor and blitz until combined. Add some salt and pepper (and the optional herbs if you like) and keep blitzing until smooth. Taste the chimichurri, then add in more salt and pepper (or garlic oil or red wine vinegar) to get the exact taste and consistency that you like. We like ours a little thicker, so feel free to add more oil if you see fit.

That’s it. It’s very simple. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks, or freeze for up to two months. It’s especially important to practise safe food handling if you’ve used an homemade infused oil, due to the risks of botulism that rise when infused oils are stored incorrectly/for too long. Store bought infused oils have been prepared in such a way that they have a much longer shelf life.

But please don’t let that put you off making chimichurri! The simple measure of freezing extra jars right away will keep the sauce safe for a couple of months. I know our batch won’t last longer than that, and it made 10 jars. It’s that good.

Here is our leek chimichurri, served with a yolk porn-worthy poached egg on top of polenta and wilted spinach. Simple, delicious and nourishing. The perfect meal.

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Meet Nicer Food’s Infused Olive Oils – Low FODMAP Flavour for your Dishes

low fodmap, nicer foods, garlic infused oil, fructose malabsorption, irritable bowel syndrome, IBS, gluten free, organic

About a month ago, Jesse and Kate Watson of Nicer Foods contacted me and asked me if I’d like to test drive their newest product. Given how much I liked their last effort (chocolate peanut butter flavoured protein bars, mmmmmmmm…….) I of course said yes. Please realise, though, that the opinions here are my own; even though they very generously sent me a full-sized version of each of the four flavours, I was not bound to give them a good review.

Firstly, 10 points to Gryffindor – I mean Nicer Foods – for great customer service; they have always replied promptly to my enquiries and these little beauties reached me just two days after I agreed to review them, in a well padded parcel.

For the uninitiated, the low FODMAP diet restricts garlic and onion, among other foods, based on their high quantities of fermentable carbohydrates, known as fructans (or fructooligosaccharides/FOS, part of the O group), which aren’t absorbed in the small intestine, so travel on into the colon, where your resident gut flora digest them, leading to gas production, bloating, cramps and altered bowel movements. You know, exactly what you want to read about in the review of a gourmet food product. Sorry.

For the less than savoury reasons mentioned above, those following the low FODMAP diet for relief of digestive complaints will eliminate garlic and onion varieties, which for some might seem like the end of the world for their taste buds. However, luckily for us, FODMAPs are water soluble, so foods like garlic and onion can be sauteed in oil until their flavours have seeped in, leaving the fructans behind. This means that oils infused with the essences of higher FODMAP foods can impart the flavour into your meals, without the FODMAPs. Sounds great and easy enough, right? Well, the down side to this is that you really shouldn’t store your homemade infused oils; you can make them but only if you plan to use them right there and then. Botulism, a potentially fatal bacterial infection, is caused by the food-borne bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which thrives in low oxygen, alkaline, warm environments – just like infused oils.

Personally, I’m not happy to risk a case of Botulism to have the convenience of homemade infused oils lying around and, while I’m happy to throw a couple of garlic cloves into simmering oil when I’m cooking, I most likely won’t be bothered when I am making a heat-free-prep meal, like dips or salad dressings.

So, what to do? Supermarkets and websites sell varieties of infused olive oils that we can take advantage of. But what makes Nicer Foods’ infused oils stand out from the crowd? Firstly (and most importantly), they are made with the intention of being completely FODMAP friendly, so you don’t have to worry about garlic or onion “juice” getting into the oils, like you do with others. Have you ever seen the garlic infused oils on the supermarket shelves that have bits of garlic sitting at the bottom? Chances are you may react to that particular oil – depending on how sensitive your gut is. Secondly, they taste great – more on that later – and thirdly, I’d happily support a family owned start up company over a chain-brand that probably doesn’t care as much about quality control and its customers.

So, to the oils!… Which are available online for purchase at Nicer Foods’ website for a reasonable price.

Shallot Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Great taste, a little strong but pleasant. It works wonders as a simple salad dressing with a pinch of sea salt or as part of a cooked meal. Just beware, though, that as it’s an “extra virgin olive oil,” (EVOO) I’d keep your heat low, so don’t use it while stir frying, or simply add it in at the end of the cooking process.

Meal ideas:

  • Salad dressing, with a pinch of sea salt and perhaps a dash of white wine vinegar.
  • Drizzle over your pasta of choice and throw on a few cherry tomatoes, some shredded basil and Parmesan cheese.
  • Onion replacement in hot meals, if used carefully – would work in combination with the garlic oil in any Italian or Mexican dishes that you wanted to try, such as this Bolognese sauce.
  • Jazz up your favourite low FODMAP dip recipes – this would go well in a roasted capsicum dip.

I like the shallot oil so much that it has earnt it’s own pouring spout. If I had to pick, it’d be my favourite.

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Garlic Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A pleasant and mild garlic flavour. I’ve tried store bought garlic oils before and some have had an obnoxious garlic taste but this one, thankfully, does not.

Meal Ideas:

  • Salad dressing (as above).
  • Use carefully in cooking, such as garlic free carnitas or Napoli sauce (after sauce has been reduced from the boiling point).
  • Whip up a delicious garlic infused guacamole.
  • Bake some spinach and Feta muffins, or mini quiches, using the garlic oil as part of the fat content, to spice up the flavour.

Pictured here in a green leek chimichurri sauce.

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Lemon Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Refreshingly zingy. I like the other oils a lot, too, as the steadily emptying bottles can attest – but this one speaks to my inner baker and dessert-aholic. The flavour reminds me of a lemon biscuit (cookie) that my Gran used to buy and that I now want to replicate. I wish it came in a bigger bottle!

Meal Ideas:

  • Drizzle over seafood as it’s removed from the heat.
  • Use it as part of a zesty summer salad dressing.
  • Use it as part of the fat component in a lemon-infused baked goods – I’m planning a recipe right now.

Basil Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Herby! I love the versatility of this oil. Good quality oil – as are all the others – that can be used in a variety of ways.

Meal Ideas:

  • Make an extreme basil pesto, or add it with a bit of the garlic oil to a spinach or kale pesto for some basil flavour when basil is out of season.
  • Drizzle it into a bowl of plain EVOO and Balsamic vinegar (which is low FODMAP in 1-2 tbsp. servings) and use it as a dip for your gluten free or FODMAP friendly bread for a simple appetiser.
  • For a super simple lunch or dinner, drizzle some over freshly cooked gluten free pasta, add in some chopped cherry toms and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and you’re done.

All in all I can safely say that I recommend these oils. The team at Nicer Foods has done a great job. The fresh flavours, combined with no ill reactions on my behalf, and a friend’s rave review of my shallot oil/sea salt salad dressing (“That’s all that was in the dressing?!”) makes this a win-win product in my books.

How to Manage your Irritable Bowel Syndrome with the Low FODMAP Diet

Hi guys, I’m really excited to announce that I was asked to write an article about fructose malabsorption for Suggestic, a website that deals with nutrition, food intolerances and restaurant suggestions. Well, apparently I was a little enthusiastic – I didn’t want to miss anything – so I needed to split the article in two. I have already shared part one, so here goes part two:

Last week I talked about fructose malabsorption, its link to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and the similarities it shares with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). This week, I will expand on the “fructose friendly” dietary management strategy for fructose malabsorption – the complete low FODMAP diet – that is gaining traction as the frontline dietary method for combating IBS symptoms.

IBS is generally understood as a long-term or recurrent disorder involving the function of your gastrointestinal system, usually due to imbalances of intestinal motility, function and sensation, leading to symptoms of digestive distress. It is a common occurrence in Western countries, with up to 30% of the population being affected at some point in their lives, women generally more-so than men.

What are FODMAPs?

FODMAPs” is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols and describes a group of readily fermentable carbohydrates that are not well absorbed in the small intestines of some people; if these carbohydrates are not broken down and/or transported through the intestinal wall and into your blood stream, they continue down into your colon, where the resident gut bacteria digest them, leading to a build-up of certain gases and short chain fatty acids, which can alter the water content of your large intestine. These products of fermentation are the causes for the wind, bloating, abdominal cramps/pain and altered bowel movements that you associate with your fructose malabsorption, lactose intolerance or IBS.

The list of FODMAPs includes:

  • Monosaccharides (single sugar units) – fructose (when consumed in excess of glucose) and galactose.
  • Disaccharides (double sugar units) – lactose.
  • Oligosaccharides (multiple sugar units) – fructans (FOS, inulin), galactans (galactooligosaccharides or GOS)
  • Polyols (sugar alcohols) – sorbitol, mannitol and other sweeteners ending in “-tol.” Some polyols, such as sorbitol and erythritol, have the added effect of decreasing the rate of fructose absorption in the small intestine even further when consumed in large enough amounts.

There are hydrogen/methane breath tests that can check whether you malabsorb fructose, lactose and/or sorbitol but the other FODMAPs must be properly eliminated and then tested with a reintroduction trial (outlined below) to know whether they are causing your symptoms…”

Read more at Suggestic.com

Once again, let me know what you guys think! I sincerely hope I didn’t miss anything out – I’m planning on writing more about the links between carbohydrate malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies soon, when I have some time over the holidays.

Thank you for taking the time to read it! Have a great weekend guys – and stay tuned for the easy to make chocolate peanut butter cookie ball recipe that’s very coming soon.

Natty xo.

Could Fructose Malabsorption be the Cause of your Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosis?

Hi guys, I’m really excited to announce that I was asked to write an article about fructose malabsorption for Suggestic, a website that deals with nutrition, food intolerances and restaurant suggestions. Well, apparently I was a little enthusiastic – I didn’t want to miss anything – so I needed to split the article in two. Here goes part one:

“So you’ve gone gluten free. You had coeliac disease ruled out first – as you should – but you still felt that wheat was a big trigger for your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). You feel better off wheat – less bloated, more energy – but you’re not quite 100 %. What could it be?

I’m sure that many of you have by now heard of the study behind the media storm that apparently refutes the existence of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). Gluten is a protein that is common to the grains wheat, barley and rye. Contrary to what many of those journalists would have you believe, the researchers did not say that people who identify with NCGS are imagining it; rather, that it might actually be a different component of wheat, other than gluten, or in combination with it, that is causing them to experience IBS-like symptoms, including digestive distress, bloating and others, such as fatigue.

What then could be the culprit behind your wheat-triggered IBS? The answer: it might be fructans (also known as fructooligosaccharides or FOS). Fructans coincidentally happen to be found in large enough amounts to cause symptoms in the gluten containing grains, which includes all varieties of wheat, barley and rye; and they, along with fructose, made my first year of university… let us just say, “interesting.”

Growing up, I always had a fussy gut. When I was going through the last two years of secondary school, it got a little worse but not bad enough for me to really take notice, other than joke about it with friends. It was not until I was in my first year of university that it really got going, dictating not only the parties I could go to but things as seemingly insignificant as which seat I would take in the lecture theatres and what I could wear (think room for bloating). Luckily, my mum had an eye on me and about half way through the year (after end of semester exams really took their toll on my IBS) she read an article about coeliac disease. Digestive distress, nausea, fatigue, brain fog… I ticked most of the boxes, however, I did not have active coeliac disease. My gastroenterologist (since retired) had a game plan though and the next thing I knew I was being sent off to have hydrogen/methane breath tests to check for both lactose and fructose malabsorption*.

I had heard of lactose intolerance before, but fructose malabsorption? Well, fructose malabsorption was my answer and explained why the gluten free diet that my GP had advised me to trial earlier had helped significantly – but not completely…”

Read more at Suggestic.com.

Let me know what you guys think and please share – as awareness of fructose malabsorption spreads, it is more likely that people will be correctly diagnosed and the variety of food choices for us will increase, both at restaurants and in supermarkets.

Read part two here.

Have a great night!

Natty xo.

Peach Crumble – Fructose Friendly, Gluten Free & Vegan

Peach Crumble - Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly, Gluten Free & Vegan

I thank my lucky stars quite often that polyols don’t seem to affect me. Avocados, blackberries, peaches… I can still eat them all in reasonable amounts without making myself sick. I think I’ve had to give up enough, without resorting to cutting out those, as well. Of course, I realise that others have had to cut out much more than I – one of the reasons that I am so thankful. No matter how bad you or I may have it, someone else is always worse off.

This peach crumble came about because it’s summer, peaches are in season, I needed a dessert that I could make ahead of time and forget about, and peaches are delicious! A little prep work the day before you need this dessert and you can keep it in the fridge until 45 minutes before you need to bake it (your baking dish, if glass or ceramic, will need time to get back to room temperature before baking or you’ll most likely have a shattered crumble on your hands).

Also, I apologise for the grainy photos, I was using my phone camera.

Notes:

  1. All peaches contain sorbitol in large enough amounts to be considered high FODMAP (according to Monash University) but Clingstone and Yellow peaches are low in FOS, GOS and fructose in servings of one peach. White peaches, on the other hand, contain enough FOS to get a high rating for that FODMAP, as well as sorbitol, in servings of one peach. So, if you only have issues fructans, Clingstone and Yellow peaches are safe; if you have issues with sorbitol, peaches are not advised. I would stick to one slice of this crumble, so as not to over-do the fruit portion of your FODMAP bucket.
  2. Almonds are considered low FODMAP in servings of 10 nuts and high in GOS in servings of 20 nuts. The crumble topping in a single serve of pie doesn’t contain that many almonds, so should be safe – unless of course you have separate issues to almonds.
  3. Desiccated coconut is considered low FODMAP in servings of 1/4 cup and a moderate rating (overall) in servings of 1/2 cup; any more than that and sorbitol becomes an issue.
  4. Pure maple syrup is low FODMAP, watch out for any added ingredients that may cause digestive issues, such as polyols.
  5. This crumble is low in excess fructose, fructans/FOS, GOS, mannitol and lactose. It is not low in sorbitol.

Peach Crumble

Serves 10.

Fruit Filling

  • 6 large ripe peaches (yellow or cling)
  • 1/4 cup castor sugar or 1/3 cup dextrose
  • 1 tbsp. potato or corn starch
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Crumble Topping

  • 1 1/4 cups almond meal
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1/3 cup white rice flour (or gluten free alternative)
  • 1/3 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

To peel the peaches, score four evenly spaced lines from top to bottom and place them in boiling water for 60 seconds, then strain them and dunk them into an ice bath for a further 60 seconds; the skins should peel right off. If all else fails, use a peeler.

Dice the peaches into bite-sized chunks (approx. 1.5-2 cm) and mix through the rest of the fruit filling ingredients, until well combined; dump the lot into a pie dish.

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To make the crumble topping, mix all the ingredients together, either by hand or in your food processor, until they begin to clump together. Easy! Cover the fruit evenly with the crumble mix and you’re ready to bake or store the pie before baking.

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When you are ready to bake it, pre-heat your oven to 180 C/350 F and bake the crumble for 55-60 minutes, when the peaches should have cooked until soft and the topping browned nicely. If you notice that the crumble is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a sheet of foil to prevent further browning.

If I am serving this as a hot dessert at a dinner party, I put it in the oven as dinner is served, so we have an hour to eat dinner and digest/chat before the crumble is ready to eat. Serve with vanilla ice cream (vegan or lactose free if required), vanilla bean custard, coconut yoghurt (vegan) or plain Greek yoghurt. Enjoy!

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Travel Series – Flying with Fructose Malabsorption

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I’m not a huge fan of flying. I’m not scared of it but I don’t find it enjoyable, either; long hours (15 hours between Melbourne and LAX) in cramped seating, recirculated air, mostly unsuitable foods and the bathrooms, if you can call them that, all add up to me not having a good time. I stress about connections until we make them and about whether our luggage will make it when we do.

We have had enough mishaps with changed departure gates, delayed planes and missing luggage (LAX is a disorganised hellhole) that Ev and I have become very adept at travelling light. The last time we went home to Australia, we got everything we needed for two weeks, including things for other people, in two carry on bags… and by “carry on” I mean the real carry on bags, not the giant suitcases that American based airlines let people take on and try in vain to cram into the overhead compartments, taking up space meant for everyone. Yes, that annoys me. If I’ve been responsible and packed my belongings into a small suitcase intended for overhead bins, perhaps with valuables in there, I am not impressed when I am told it HAS to be checked, because a 3/4 full plane has already run out of overhead storage. But I digress.

Some people truly do enjoy flying but for the rest of us, here’s how I manage eating with FM and dealing with potential symptoms while flying. It’s pretty appropriate timing, because Ev and I are going to spend the next week in Cabo, Mexico! We’ve been waiting for this holiday since we got back from Cabo last summer. As much as I prefer road trips and exploring different towns, not staying in the one place for too long, sometimes it’s nice to just go and veg out somewhere that is completely relaxing and not have to worry (so much) about the food. As I have said previously, for me, Mexico/Mexican food seems to be a safe bet if I eat plainly and avoid tropical fruits.

The other posts in the travel series can be found here.

I’m sure I’ll be posting photos of tropical paradise on my Instagram account, if you’d like to follow along.

Step 1: Plan ahead, Stress less

Most people don’t need to be told that stress can increase their IBS symptoms; I know I don’t. It’s not all in our heads, though. Research also demonstrates that the two coexist (see here and here), as the autonomic nervous system and certain hormones, which are triggered during times of stress, also act upon the gut.

To avoid stress related IBS and ensure as smooth a travel/flight experience as possible, plan ahead. Some things to consider are:

  • Book your flights as early as possible – cheaper flights means more money in your pocket and less concern about finances during your trip. It’s only a small matter but everything helps.
  • Have all your home-affairs in order well before you go, so you’re not panicking about getting emergency cash out for the house/dog-sitter or paying a last minute bill.
  • Pack early. This is something I can’t help but do, as it all adds to my excitement of going on holiday. It also means you won’t be up until 3 am the morning of your 8 am flight to finish packing your bags.
  • Check in online 24 hours before your flight, if you are able. This means that your seat is reserved on the flight, all you need to do is collect your boarding pass and check in your luggage.
  • Call the airline to ask what their menu will be and decide whether it will be safe for you. This is more important for long haul flights, as I’m pretty sure that standard fare on every flight under 3 hours is a bag of pretzels/mixed nuts and a soft drink/water. Actually, mixed nuts and water sounds fine, thanks. I’ll take that. Just make sure they’re unseasoned.
  • A few days before you fly, call the airline again and re-check your meal preference. I normally go for the gluten free meal and pick what I can from it, supplementing with food I’ve brought from home. The last time I flew between Melbourne and LAX I didn’t do this; my gluten free meal was a normal meal and my husband’s normal meal was vegan. No idea how that happened. What was worse – they don’t carry spares and everyone who had successfully ordered a gluten free meal had shown up for the flight. Which is why I was glad I’d also packed snacks…
  • Pack some non-perishable FODMAP friendly snacks; more on this later, just make sure you call the airline(s) and ask what you are able to take in carry on and what must be in checked baggage.

Step 2: Make some safe food flash cards

If you don’t speak the language, flash cards listing the ingredients you can and cannot consume in the language spoken by the airline/at the airport will help prevent a lot of confusion, if you decide to brave the food.

In fact, even if you do speak the local language, flash cards might still be a good idea as the idea of fructose malabsorption is still so novel that the apparently random list of ingredients that you cannot consume might overwhelm the staff and create an unwanted fuss.

Make sure the lists are clear and concise as to what you can and absolutely cannot consume.

Step 3: Eat plain before the plane

Each time I fly, I will eat plainly in the preceding week, for a few reasons:

  • I know that additional stress seems to set me off with foods I can normally tolerate, so why push boundaries?
  • I want to give my gut the week to calm down, as some foods cause delayed reactions that can last a few days. This way, if I do happen to react to something at the end of the second-to-last week before flying, I have seven days for it to pass.
  • If I am starting from a better place, in terms of my gut, then a small slip up won’t end up with such severe results as it would if my gut wasn’t terribly happy to begin with.
  • Do you want to have diarrhoea on a plane? Exactly.

Step 4: Pack your own food

This will not always be possible, due to customs regulations and such but if you are able, I highly recommend taking FODMAP friendly snack foods to tide you over during flights and layovers while you’re away.

Some ideas include:

  • A variety of foods for different meal times – who wants tuna for breakfast?
  • Non-perishable foods (or at least foods that will keep for a few days outside the fridge) are best.
  • Easily digestible foods that won’t tax your gut too much.
  • Pack the food in a freezer bag and take what you are allowed to inside your carry on luggage. Some carry on restrictions might prevent this, so put it on your list of questions to ask when you call ahead.

Examples of what I might pack:

  • FODMAP friendly veggies of your choice, such as carrot sticks, celery (if you can tolerate polyols), cucumber etc.
  • FODMAP friendly fruits, to a lesser extent, such as bananas and berries. These will need to be kept in a hard case, as they’ll bruise easily while travelling, so I generally wouldn’t bring them on a flight as they’re more likely to get squashed than on a road trip.
  • Muesli bars, like my strawberry pepita or fruit free bars. pictured below. Muffins are delicious but I find that they squash too easily.
  • Pre-packaged snacks, such as corn chips or rice cakes.

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Step 5: Be prepared for the worst

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, shit happens. Literally. While it’s not ideal, you can lessen its impact on your travel by planning for it. If you have an FM-ergency kit, your life will be a lot easier. (See what I did there? You can use it). Keep this in your carry on, you may need it on your flight as well as at your destination.

  • Analgesics to help with cramps – ibuprofen is a known gastric irritant, so I personally don’t use it but if it works for you then don’t stop. I prefer paracetamol (acetaminophen) to help ease cramps, which are not fun to have on a plane.
  • Dextrose/glucose tablets – to help offset any excess fructose that you may accidentally consume, using the co-transport method of absorption.
  • Any supplements that you take, such as a probiotic, digestive enzyme or multivitamin. It’s best not to disrupt your schedule, if possible.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Wet wipes/baby wipes, in case of an emergency cleaning situation.
  • Any other methods that you know work, such as Buscopan (I’m not saying it does work, it’s just an example). I would advise against using something you haven’t tried before, especially on a plane. It’s best to try those things out at home, beforehand, where you can crawl into a ball and feel sorry for yourself without upsetting the rest of the flight and your holiday.

I hope these guidelines help you fly and travel successfully, as they have me. If you think of anything that I should add, please let me know.

FODMAP Book Review: ‘Flavor Without FODMAPs – Love The Foods That Love You Back’ by Patsy Catsos

Title: Flavor Without FODMAPs – Love The Foods That Love You Back

Author: Patsy Catsos, MS RD LD

Published: February 2014

Format: Kindle and Paperback

I have used Patsy Catsos’ website, IBS – Free At Last! regularly over the few years, both for checking ingredients for recipes intended for this site as well as for personal FODMAP research. After moving to the USA, I had to take off my Aussie FODMAP hat and put on my American one; Patsy’s website helped tremendously with that. It’s a wealth or resources and knowledge, not just in the posts themselves but in the meticulous answers to questions that have been asked below the articles.

Having been diagnosed at 18 with fructose malabsorption, it’s safe to say I learnt to cook “fructose friendly” from the word go. However, we ate a fairly routine diet growing up (as both my parents also have issues with certain foods) and I didn’t learn much about new ingredients or spices and how to use them in my dishes until Ev and I began cooking for ourselves. So, even though I might have the FODMAPs diet down pat, I occasionally need inspiration for meals (who doesn’t?), not to mention a reliable source of information about an exotic (sounding) ingredient that I’ve come across, or even ideas on how to use new ingredients that I know to be low FODMAP.

Flavor Without FODMAPs has our backs. For those of you who are new to the FODMAP diet, either because you have been diagnosed with FM, lactose malabsorption or you’re just trying to sort out your IBS, the first part of the book highlights important issues such as these:

  • Foods high in FODMAPs are still healthy, just not agreeable to our digestive systems. You can eat them up to the point that they cause you digestive upset.
  • Patsy’s philosophy is that there is no one perfect diet for good health – I love this. So much.
  • She has also distinguished between gluten and the different FODMAPs and states that a low FODMAP diet is not meant to be a permanent way of life.

In addition to those points above, the first part of the book also contains detailed information on:

  • What FODMAPs actually are and how they cause digestive upset.
    • One of my gripes is that many people use the terms “fructose” and “FODMAP” interchangeably, especially in online support groups, which just causes confusion and quite often arguments. It’s nice to have the individual FODMAPs clarified here at the outset. Fructose is a FODMAP, but not all FODMAPs are fructose.
  • Information about an elimination diet.
  • Staples of a low FODMAP pantry.
  • How to read labels for FODMAPs.
  • Menu ideas.
  • How to create low FODMAP versions of your favourite recipes, with substitution ideas and guidelines.

The second part of the book is full of recipes, which are organised into sections of breads, breakfasts, beverages, appetisers, dressings and condiments, mains, sides, soups and desserts.

I don’t have the time – or the calorie budget! – to trial all of these recipes, so I decided to pick a few and go from there.

The recipes I selected were:

Zucchini Quinoa Muffins

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When I think of zucchini muffins, my head immediately goes down the savoury route as I grew up eating the zucchini and cheese bread that my mum used to make. These muffins are slightly sweetened – which is not my preference for zucchini muffins – but the notes of cinnamon and nutmeg pull it off and after I put “savoury” from my mind, I enjoyed them. Ev, who was completely new to the use of zucchini in baked goods, liked these muffins a lot. They easily lasted in the pantry in an airtight container for a week.

We agreed that there wasn’t an overpowering taste of zucchini, that they were moist and very fluffy and that one wasn’t enough.

Gazpacho

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I thought I’d try something new, here, as I have never had gazpacho before but I love tomato soup. I was a little hesitant at a cold tomato soup but my fears were soon put to rest after tasting it. It’s tangy and refreshing, light enough to have as an entree (appetiser for those in the USA) but it becomes a little heartier when you serve it with sour cream or plain yoghurt.

The gazpacho is also better the next day, as the flavours have had all night to mingle together and tone down the sharpness of the garlic infused oil.

Asian Cucumber Salad

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Each time we would go to the sushi restaurant near our old apartment, Ev and I would get the cucumber salad. The recipe in Flavor without FODMAPs is even better than the one we’d get at the sushi place, which was already really good. This salad, as Ev put it, is “make again” good. We had it with steak and mushrooms sauteed in butter (polyols aren’t an issue for me). Delicious.

All in all, I highly recommend Flavor without FODMAPs by Patsy Catsos as a comprehensive guide to cooking delicious low FODMAP meals that are appropriate for any skill level. It’s definitely worth the purchase.

Disclaimer: While I received a free Kindle copy of Flavor without FODMAPs to review, I do not benefit in any way from, or am in no way associated with Patsy Catsos, MS RD LD or her website – just an appreciative fan of her work.

Chia Seeds and Fructose Malabsorption

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Chia seeds (from the desert plant Salvia hispanica) have become quite mainstream in the health food world over the last couple of years. They have many touted health benefits, due to them being such nutrient dense little seeds.

The nutrient profile of chia seeds can be found here.

I am always wary of so called super-foods – are they really just a scam or is there some merit to the claims? Doing a quick Google search of “chia seeds health benefits,” the first response was the Huffington Post’s “10 Reasons to Add Chia Seeds to Your Diet.” Well, what a reliable source this must be! The reasons were:

  1. They are being researched as a potential treatment for type 2 diabetes.
  2. High in fibre.
  3. High in Omega 3 FA’s.
  4. Increase tooth and bone strength.
  5. High in manganese.
  6. High in phosphorous.
  7. High in protein.
  8. Fight belly fat.
  9. Get full faster.
  10. Improve heart health.

Stating that something is high in a certain nutrient is easy enough to check on – see the nutrient profile linked above – but numbers 1, 4, 8, 9 and 10 need a little more in-depth research, which I hope to cover below. Just because something sounds plausible, doesn’t mean the evidence is there to back it up.

Chia Seeds

High in:

Dietary fibre

  • Soluble fibre helps to slow  the passage of food through the digestive system, allowing greater absorption of nutrients.
  • Insoluble fibre provides bulk, absorbing water and easing the movement of food, including during defecation.
  • The RDI of fibre is 30 g/day for adult men and 25 g/day for adult women.
    • Chia seeds contain 34.4 g total dietary fibre in a 100 g sample, or 9.8 g/28 g (1 ounce).
  • Chia seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight when soaked in a liquid.
    • Many people claim that chia seeds can aid in weight loss, as they expand in the stomach, thus increasing the feeling of satiety. However, there are limited studies on the medical benefits of chia seeds and none have described an increased rate of weight loss, however plausible the hypothesis is.
  • The gelatinous outer layer that forms when chia seeds are exposed to liquid (they become “mucilaginous”) helps to bind the food together and slow its transport through the digestive tract, thus allowing more efficient absorption of nutrients and prevention of blood sugar spikes.
    • More stable blood sugar levels will lead to less hunger pangs and more constant energy levels, thus less sugar/food cravings – this lends plausibility to the Type II Diabetes treatment theory but it isn’t going to mean that a Type II diabetic can eat a dose of sugar along with some chia seeds and get away with it.
    • As the mucilaginous chia seeds can increase feelings of satiety, the claim of getting full faster does seem  accurate – however there are many factors that contribute to feeling hungry; a full stomach is only one and it can be hard to differentiate between low blood sugar and an empty stomach when all you can think about is being hungry. The speed with which you eat is another factor – the seeds need time to become mucilaginous and thus make your stomach feel fuller.
    • The link between chia seeds and fighting belly fat was also a weak one, as the article they cited didn’t even mention chia seeds – rather it stated that abdominal fat can be a precursor for insulin resistance, especially in women. Seeing as the article I linked above stated that NO studies have demonstrated that chia seeds have a direct link to weight loss, I think this claim is tenuous at best, for now at least. Who knows what further research will show?

Protein

  • Proteins are macromolecules that consist of chains of amino acids and perform many functions within a human (or any organism), such as enzymatic activity, DNA production and translation and acting as transporter molecules across cell membranes (GLUT-5 fructose transporters are a prime example).
  • Essential amino acids are amino acids that humans cannot synthesise themselves from scratch.
    • Chia seeds contain histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine.
  • Non-essential amino acids are amino acids that humans can produce endogenously, except in the case of an illness/genetic predisposition.
    • Chia seeds contain alanine, arginine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glycine, proline, tyrosine, serine.

Omega 3 FA’s

  • 55% of the fat content are Omega 3 FA’s.
  • Omega 3 FA’s are essential fatty acids (cannot be synthesised endogenously) and are vital for metabolic processes in humans.
  • Omega 3 FA’s may have a positive effect on systolic blood pressure, can stimulate blood circulation, increases the breakdown of fibrin (involved in clotting) and can reduce blood triglycerides, among other things (evidence here). However, a large intake can also increase LDL’s (so-called “bad” cholesterol) – however the LDL’s become larger and less atherogenic (prone to clotting).
    • One study suggested that the omega 3 FAs in chia seeds help to support cardiac health, however more extensive research is required.
    • Another study suggests that Omega 3 FA’s can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which can reduce the risk of “thrombotic infarction” (blood clot related strokes).
    • It seems that, given the link between omega 3 FA’s and cardiac health, and the high percentage of omega 3 in chia seeds, that this might turn out to be true – just remember that there is a difference between  preventing cardiac disease and dealing with it once you already have it. Omega 3 FA’s aren’t a magic pill to fix cardiac disease over night.

Omega 6 FA’s

  • 18% of the fat content are Omega 6 FA’s, which are present in a favourable ratio to Omega 3 FA’s (less).
  • Omega 6 FA’s convert to Omega 6 eicosanoids (signalling molecules), which play a crucial role in both inflammatory and immune system processes.
    • Some evidence suggests that the overly high ratio of Omega 6:Omega 3 FA’s in a modern Western diet can lead to pro-inflammatory conditions within the body – however, other evidence suggests that it the signalling proteins are acting in response to damage caused by modern exogenous toxins. Either way, it is generally agreed that the current average ratio of 15:1 is much too high, and should be minimised to at least 4:1, or even more optimally 1:1 to 1:4.

Calcium

  • Calcium is an important mineral for the human body; it supports bone growth and strength, can stimulate stomach acid production, can act as a buffer for other minerals in the blood, can help to control hypertension and plays a part in electrical activity within the body – among other uses (read more here).
  • The average human over 4 years old should consume at least 1000-1300 mg of calcium/day.
    • Chia seeds contain 631 mg of calcium in a 100 g sample, or 179 mg/28 g (ounce). For such a small seed, combined with a healthy diet this will easily allow you to maintain adequate calcium intake. However, there are more traditional ways of getting enough calcium and thus supporting healthy teeth and bones (which isn’t hard), such as a the “glass of milk, piece of cheese and a yoghurt” that was recommended when I was a kid. Pick whichever method works for you.

Boron

  • A trace mineral that aids in calcium absorption.

Manganese

  • Manganese is an essential mineral, and helps to promote good bone density while reducing anaemia and osteoarthritis, among other conditions (read more here).
  • There is no RDI for manganese but the adequate intake (AI) for adult men is 2.3 mg and for adult women is 1.8 mg. Pregnant women require 2.0 mg and breastfeeding women 2.6 mg.
    • Chia seeds contain 2.72 mg or manganese in a 100 g sample, or 0.772 mg/28 g (ounce).

Phosphorous

  • Phosphorous works with the B group vitamins to generate the energy that powers our cells, as well as being essential for bones and teeth, muscle contractions, nerve conduction and kidney health (read more here).
  • The RDI for a healthy adult is 700 mg/day, and you should not exceed 4000 mg/day (this reduces to 3000 mg/day after age 70, due to the increased chance of kidney malfunction).
    • Chia seeds contain 860 mg of phosphorous in a 100 g sample, or 244 mg/28 g (ounce).

B vitamins

  • B group vitamins are water soluble and play an important role in cellular energy production along with phosphorous, as well as preventing anaemia (read more here).
  • The B group vitamins in chia seeds include B-1 (thiamin), B-2 (riboflavin), B-3 (niacin), folate and B-12.

Antioxidants

  • Antioxidants do just what their name suggests – they prevent oxidation of molecules within the body.
  • Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals (unpaired valence electron for those who are interested), which in turn makes the molecule more likely to want to react with something else, as electrons like to be in pairs and an atom is happiest when its outer shell is full.
    • When oxidation reactions occur within cells, they can damage it or even cause cell death – thus it is good to have an adequate intake of antioxidants to maintain cell health.

Low in:

Cholesterol

  • Cholesterol is a member of the sterol family and is essential to bodily structures and functions such as cell membranes and steroid compounds, as well as being an atherosclerotic compound. It is either synthesised endogenously or obtained in our diet (read more here).
    • High density lipoproteins (HDL) or the so-called “good” cholesterol  carries cholesterol away from the arteries and back to liver, where it is eliminated from the body.
    • Low density lipoproteins (LDL) or the “bad” cholesterol carries cholesterol throughout the circulatory system – when too much is present, it can begin to build up along the lumens of blood vessels and form a plaque, along with some other compounds. This plaque hardens and narrows blood vessels, increasing the risk of cardiac disease, myocardial infarction and stroke.
  • There is so much contention surrounding cholesterol/hypercholesterolaemia and its management at the moment. There’s either the low fat/cholesterol intake approach (read more here) or the saturated fats are good/eat low carb approach (read more here and here). This is not the time to discuss the merits of either of those methods but if cholesterol in food worries you, you will be happy to know that chia seeds do not contain much.

Carbohydrates

  • They contain no sugars and 42.12 g/100 g carbohydrates by difference. Subtracting the 34.4 g/100 g of fibre, this leaves us with 7.72 g of carbohydrates other than fibre in a 100 g sample.
  • FODMAPs – low carb hints at this but obviously low FODMAP is good for the fructose malabsorbers out there. Patsy Catsos, of IBS – Free at Last fame, recommends them as a good source of fibre, with a serving size of no more than 2 tbsp. chia seeds per meal.

Sodium

  • Sodium (Na) is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many bodily functions, including electrical activity, metabolic processes, acid-base balance and maintaining blood plasma volume (read more here).
    • Too much sodium can lead to hypertension and an increased risk of cardiac disease and stroke.
  • The minimum requirement for sodium is 200-500 mg/day.
  • The RDI for sodium is a maximum of 2400 mg/day.
    • Chia seeds contain 16 mg of sodium in a 100 g sample, or 5 mg/28 g (ounce) – in other words, they are very low sodium.

Chia Seeds and Fructose Malabsorption

Chia seeds are a good source of fibre, even for those with FM, as there is no inulin or other FODMAP fibres present. A low fibre diet, which some FMers can fall into the trap of following, can lead to unformed stools, as there is nothing there to bind the waste together – Patsy Catsos recommends ground chia seeds as a good source of fibre to combat this.

For some with IBS as a separate issue to FM, the high fibre in chia seeds can cause problems – gurgly stomachs, stomach and gut cramps and constipation or diarrhoea to name a few. It’s the typical FM case of you need to try it yourself and see – which isn’t really an answer but it’s just something that we need to accept as part of our life. Fructose malabsorption is not as cut and dry as Coeliacs disease.

I have had no issues, luckily, so I can add chia seeds to my diet in a few ways:

  • Chia seed puddings – perfect for a breakfast or snack on the go.
  • Salads – replace the sesame seeds in this strawberry salad, or any salad.
  • Add them to homemade muesli bars.
  • Grind them and use them as a xanthan gum substitute in baking – I have not tried this personally.
  • Throw them into your breakfast muffins.

The Verdict

All in all, chia seeds are a great addition to your diet if you can tolerate them. They are packed full of many important nutrients, which in a reasonable serving size would help to maintain health.

Just don’t expect to eat chia seeds for one week and see the weight fall off/heart disease disappear and osteoarthritis improve if you aren’t also following a healthy eating and exercise plan – and even then it will take much longer than that. There is no such thing as a magic pill to fix all these problems and while chia seeds certainly contain the right components, they are by no means going to fix these issues if you aren’t using them in combination with a healthy lifestyle.

My motto: take everything with a grain of salt. Just not too much or you’ll increase your blood pressure. 🙂

The Best Recipe Websites I’ve Seen So Far…

We have all been down the road of trying to think of something new and exciting to cook for dinner. This isn’t purely a fruct mal issue, though those of us with intolerances do have to put a little more thought into what we cook/consume, especially when you’re just starting off on a new diet.

I remember it going something like this: “Oh, chicken schnitzel is quick and easy… wait, I can’t have bread crumbs. Okay then, a quick gluten free pasta dish with canned sauce it is. Shit, onions! Life sucks.” Note – since then I have found that I can tolerate onion if it is cooked til it dies, i.e. in a pot of bolognese left to simmer for 3 hours. Life is good again.

Lately, Ev and I have been attempting to buy as little as possible and to cook through our stock of canned and frozen foods. Our fridge and pantry are slowly becoming less cluttered, which is a good thing. We both hate clutter and looking at a disorganised fridge first thing in the morning just aggravated us. Plus it’s a good way to spring clean – hey, it’s spring in Australia! – our kitchen and to take stock of what we do and don’t use regularly. In times like this it’s very handy to use a website that lets you select an ingredient you need to use up and gives you meal suggestions. For people without intolerances, any recipe website out there (AllRecipes, BigOven etc.) will do the trick. I have accounts for both of them, as well as a Pinterest account and the like. The problem with any of these options is that we still have to read every recipe and manually filter or tweak those that contain high FODMAP foods. When you’re in a hurry, this isn’t really a feasible option.

However, two recipe websites have come to our rescue! I will list them in my preference order and give reasons as to why.

Yummly

I found Yummly fairly recently, and I’m glad I did. Create an account (which you can do through either Facebook or Google if you don’t want a new login) and go to your name in the top right of the screen, click on it and scroll down to “taste preferences.” Here you can choose from a list of diets – vegetarian, pescetarian etc. – and allergies – gluten free, wheat free, sulphite free etc. – to tailor the recipes you will be shown after you search. It doesn’t have a “FODMAP” option, I honestly wasn’t expecting it to but it does have something that I think is even better. It has a “Disliked Ingredients” column next to the “Diets” and “Allergies” columns, so you can put in any ingredient that you don’t want in the results of your search.

This is fantastic and it avoids the inevitable disappointment I would feel when I see a delicious image, only to find I can’t have half the ingredients in the sauce. It also allows you to tailor results to your diet’s specifications, so you don’t have to stick to a complete low FODMAP meal if only a couple of carbohydrates are triggers for you. Win-win!

Yummly Taste Preference

Yummly Taste Preference

Yummly Search

Yummly Search

Taste

Taste.com.au is easy to use and it has the benefit of having recipes that I am more likely to cook – being an Australian website it will of course have more recipes that I would find appealing than a US based site. We’re all “Western” civilisations but if you were to compare the meals cooked at a general restaurant in the two countries, there would be a fair bit of difference.

It does have a FODMAP section (use the search bar and type in FODMAP), which is great and it stands to reason that, as Monash University – the centre of FODMAP based research – is in Melbourne, AUS, an Aussie website would be among the first to have a recipe list for those of us following the diet. What I don’t like about this is that the term FODMAP eliminates everything – everyone with FM or the like knows that we are all different. As I said above, I can eat cooked onions, in addition to polyols and moderate amounts of galacto-oligosaccharides. Others can eat wheat in small amounts, or even tolerate some of the unsafe fruits. The ability to specifically tailor your search to your dietary requirements is why I prefer Yummly, even if I do have to spend a little bit of time typing them in manually.

Taste.com.au FODMAP Search

Taste.com.au FODMAP Search

Another downside to the FODMAP search on Taste is that we are relying on the recipe writer’s knowledge of FODMAPs. I know this sounds a little rich coming from a fructose friendly blogger but the first two recipes that I randomly clicked on had ingredients that wouldn’t be widely tolerated among the FODMAP community.

  • The Seafood Chowder recipe contained shallots, cream, chicken stock and recommended crusty French bread. While I know what I can tolerate after eight years of eating fructose friendly, as a beginner this would have confused me no end, as FF stock, lactose free cream and GF bread aren’t suggested; and nothing is mentioned about shallots only being tolerated by a few of us due to fructans.
  • The Greek Style Roast Lamb recipe, while nowhere near as bad as the chowder, does contain 1 crushed garlic clove in the oil marinade. I know I could tolerate one garlic clove over an entire lamb roast but not everyone else can.

I kept searching and other recipes would be suitable but, considering the above two recipes were listed quite near the top of the “Low FODMAP Collection,” I think that Taste needs to do some serious monitoring, or at the least have a disclaimer. But it’s a start in the right direction.

What I’m trying to say is that, we don’t know who has decreed that these recipes on Taste.com.au are low FODMAP. Clearly not all of them are, even though they could be modified – but my problem with the list is that low FODMAP implies low all FODMAPs and it should be safe and clearly labelled; and the point of having a FODMAP search option is so that we don’t have to modify the recipes! That’s why I think the Yummly option of listing individual ingredients as “disliked” is a brilliant way to be sure that the results you get will be edible.

Has anyone else found a good recipe search engine that caters to individual foods like Yummly does? Please list it below so we can all have a look!

Have a great weekend!