After you scan a product, there is quite a lot happening behind the scenes before you get your result. This post takes you through our methodology for estimating the FODMAP content of a product and provides further context on our decision-making process.
If you’re looking for more clarity on a result in particular, check out How to interpret green, yellow, and red results.
Our methodology for classifying products
The Low FODMAP Diet aims to restrict various foods that are known to cause digestive issues in certain people. The acronym gives us more insight into what type of foods to restrict.
Oligosaccharides (wheat, rye, legumes, onion, garlic)
Disaccaharides (milk, yogurt, soft cheeses)
Monosaccharides (figs, mangos, honey, agave)
Polyols (sugar alcohols, low-calorie sweeteners)
For each label you scan, Spoonful searches through that product’s ingredients, highlighting any ingredients that are high or moderate in FODMAPs at 1 serving. This is the first step.
Products with no known trigger ingredients are colored green, while products with potential moderate or high FODMAPs are colored yellow and red respectively.
Any ingredient we flag has been checked and double-checked by our international team of Registered Dietitians who specialize in working with low FODMAP patients in their country.
Can products be classified by their ingredients?
Unlike many other eating plans, low FODMAP is not a strict eat-this-not-that diet. As many who read this know, eating low FODMAP is all about managing portion sizes and limiting the intake of certain trigger foods.
The only way to definitively classify something as low FODMAP is through lab testing. So can we really make a call on packaged products by looking at the ingredients label?
The short answer is yes — most of the time. But there are edge cases, so let’s discuss them now.
Products with moderate or high FODMAP ingredients that are still Low FODMAP
Foods like ketchup, sriracha and almondmilk have all tested low FODMAP at manageable serving sizes despite having high FODMAP ingredients like onion, garlic and almond. This is because these trigger ingredients are used in such small quantities per serving that the product as a whole is considered safe.
Over time, we have trained the Spoonful App to identify these edge cases and override the initial yellow or red classification.
Moderate or high FODMAP products with only low FODMAP ingredients
It makes sense that products like almondmilk are considered low FODMAP – most almondmilks contain only 3-5 almonds per serving. But how can a product be considered high FODMAP if its comprised of only low-FODMAP ingredients?
Let’s look at orange juice. While a single serving of oranges is low FODMAP, orange juice contains lots of oranges and can oftentimes be high in fructose depending on the processing. Fresh orange juice has a lower FODMAP load than reconstituted juice, but we still recommend limiting your intake.
Lactose free milk and low FODMAP cheeses
As many who follow the diet know, “milk” in plain form is high FODMAP, but there are a few exceptions. When milk appears on a product labeled “lactose free” (containing the lactase enzymes), we do not flag it.
There are also a number of low FODMAP cheeses that list milk as an ingredient. This is because the lactose content in milk is often reduced to safe FODMAP levels during the cheese-making process. We account for this in the app by not flagging milk if it is listed on a low FODMAP cheese label. This means you can find plenty of great cheeses to choose from on the Discover feed!
Moderate or High FODMAP Ingredients that Follow 2% or Less Statements
Remember, the low FODMAP diet does not deal in absolutes. This means that most ingredients listed after a “Contains 2% of Less” statement are present in a small enough quantity to be considered low FODMAP.
This in mind, we do not flag high or moderate FODMAP ingredients listed after 2% or less statements. The only exceptions to this rule are garlic, onion, chicory, and inulin — these ingredients can trigger IBS symptoms even when present in small quantities.
Helping you make practical, informed decisions
No matter what, our goal is to help you, the low-FODMAP eater, find tasty, compliant food wherever you shop. And while we recognize that no product is 100% safe unless lab tested, we must contend with the reality that there are simply not enough lab-certified products in our supermarkets.
As eaters, we must also contend with the highly nuanced and ever-changing nature of the low-FODMAP diet, which is why Spoonful is constantly updating our trigger list. This, and all of our product pursuits, is to make sure you feel confident, supported, and in control as you move through the diet.
If you have questions or concerns regarding our methodology or how we classify foods, feel free to drop us a line at email@example.com.