Yield to the almighty onion

Today is Tuesday and that means it is Tip Tuesday for those on the low FODMAP diet.

Providing some real time tips for you in light and fun way. 

TAKE CAUTION!  This is posted for your safety!! 🙂


So…what’s the deal with onions?  They seem to be the biggest trigger for most people with IBS.  Onions are a member of the fructan family.  Fructans, also known as oligosaccharides, are the “O” in FODMAPs.  Fructans can be termed:  fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), oligofructose or inulin depending on the chain length of the carb, or the number of sugars held together in the fructan molecule. The longer chain fructans are termed inulin.

First, let me say, onions, for the 80-85 % of people without IBS, are not the bad guys.  Fructans are well known to increase healthy intestinal bacteria, increase calcium absorption, maintain the intestinal mucosal barrier, and reduce risk of colon cancer.  

But for those with IBS, onions are a well-known dietary symptom trigger.  

Because of the health benefits of fructans, staying on the low FODMAP diet indefinitely is not recommended. More research is needed to look at the impact of staying on the low FODMAP long term.

Fructans range from l-o-n-g carbohydrates chains to small carbohydrate chains;  tolerance may be variable depending on the number of carbs strung together.  We know that FODMAPs with the smallest amount of carbs have the greatest osmotic effects (bring water into the intestine.); we also know that the smaller the FODMAP the faster it tends to ferment.  Onions tend to have a smaller number of chains of carbs –even compared to garlic–so perhaps this is why I see less tolerance to onion in my patients.

So what about onions for FODMAPers…

Onions are everywhere. Lurking in our foods and hidden in our food labels. They seem to like to go undercover.  Do not approach them, stay on marked trails! If provoked or attacked by an onion, always try to fight back… with the low FODMAP diet, of course!

Tips to avoid onions while on the FODMAP elimination diet:

  • Look for the term natural flavors in your ingredient list, this can denote onion or garlic, especially if the food is a savory or salty item.
  • Leek, onion, shallots will contain fructans so limit them during the elimination phase.
  • Onion powder, minced onion, onion salt are concentrated onion (fructan) sources so avoid while on the elimination phase of the diet.

Enjoy the onion flavor while on your FODMAP elimination phase by trying the following:

  • Use the green part of scallions (green onion), green part of leeks, or chopped chives to your favorite recipes which have acceptable FODMAP amounts.
  • Add a dash of asafoetida powder (just a scant amount) to impart onion flavor in your dish.  Use gluten free asafoetida powder, if you are following a gluten free diet.
  • Saute onions in olive oil to infuse flavor, remove onions and use flavored oil immediately for the dish you are preparing. {Fructans are water-soluble so will not leach into the oil}.

Did you know In America, most of the fructans in the typical American diet come from wheat? Next, comes onion! Chicory root –added to so many foods and supplements is a fructan too! Be on the lookout for this sneaky additive in your ingredient lists.  I have recently found chicory root in yogurts, granola bars, calcium supplements and probiotics.

Have you found chicory root lurking in any unusual places?



42 replies on “Yield to the almighty onion

  • Bethany Mason

    Hi Kate. Your blog is very helpful. I’m on day 2 of the Fodmap elimination diet. Two questions: I’m intimidated about eating out. I’ll be going on a trip around week six of my diet. Any pointers on eating out? Also, I’m looking for a probiotic supplement that I can take during the diet. Any ideas? The one I’m on has FOS. 🙁 thanks!

  • Jackie

    I found chicory root – inulin – in canned whipped cream! Unfortunately…after I had consumed it….:(

  • Sarah

    Thanks for the ideas on cooking onion in oil trick to adding flavor. I am finding that leaving out raw & powdered onions helps so much with symptoms but I truly love onion flavor. This give me a way to have yummy food but not all the symptoms.

  • Jo

    There’s inulin in my favorite nondairy yogurt! Almost all nondairy yogurts are made from soy or other not-too-gut-friendly ingredients and/or they have inappropriate additives. It’s extremely disappointing. I look forward to the day when food manufacturer’s have a far greater awareness of FODMAPs and make products that suit the needs of people with functional bowel disorders.

    • Jill

      Have you tried Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Yogurts? I found I was able to tolerate the Vanilla and Plain on the elimination phase. For obvious reasons avoid the honey flavored one. Read the labels on Blueberry and Strawberry and test for yourself. I had issues with them and found I had to add fruit to my plain or vanilla if I wanted fruity lactose free yogurt. Good luck to you.

  • Rachel

    I’m *still* on the search for an onion-free chicken stock. The best I found was where it was listed towards the end of the list of ingredients as opposed to being amongst the first 3 ingredients. I thought I found the answer with Massel chicken stock cubes (onion and garlic free!) only to find out it’s only available in Australia at Coles! I was tempted to just have them shipped until I saw the $68 international parcel charge!

  • Phyllis s

    You say ” Do not approach them, stay on marked trails! ”

    But you also say “Because of the health benefits of fructans, staying on the low FODMAP diet indefinitely is not recommended. More research is needed to look at the impact of staying on the low FODMAP long term.”

    If I eat these kinds of foods I suffer sever intestinal upset – gas, bloating, diarrhea – it is complete misery and ruins my quality of life.

    So what is a person supposed to do exactly?

    • katescarlata

      Phyllis, the goal is to do the elimination phase avoiding onions THEN go through the reintroduction process and try to ideally add back small amounts of the tolerable FODMAPs. While on the low FODMAP diet elimination phase–“do not approach the onions”–then when doing the reintroduction phase see if you may possibly add back small amounts of garlic or white sourdough bread–you don’t have to add back onions if you don’t tolerate them–there are other sources of fructans. Quality of life, of course, needs to be factored in…finding your personal tolerance level is key.

      • Paul

        I have been on the low fodmap diet for over a year now. I still don’t feel well but when I try to reintroduce hi-fodmap foods I suffer.

        Any idea what risks I’m taking continuing this diet, will it ruin my body and in what ways?

  • Mary

    Hi Kate,

    I’ve seen inulin in many probiotics and it is very hard to find a probiotic that does not contain FOS. Can people on low FODMAP diets safely take a probiotic?

    The Specific Carbohydrate Diet website lists some probiotics that do not contain these substances but I’m not sure if those probiotics contain live cultures or not,


  • Madeline Lander

    Kate, could you help me out with two issues:
    1. What about dairy products? My list says avoid milk and milk products yet allows several cheeses other than soft cheese such as cottage cheese, ricotta cheese and marscapone. What about other cheeses such as American cheese, cheddar, grated parmesan? Is butter okay or should we use non-dairy margarine?
    2. I see that garlic infused olive oil is okay. Does that mean garlic flavored olive oil is acceptable?
    Thanks for your great advice.

    • katescarlata

      Madeline: The low FODMAP diet is NOT a dairy free diet…but rather incorporates low lactose dairy foods–allowable would be lactose free milk and lactose free cottage cheese. American, Cheddar and grated parmesan are all low lactose. Butter only has a trace of lactose so is allowable as well. Garlic infuse oil is fine. Not sure about garlic extract used in garlic flavored oils. Would stick w/ a nice infused oil like Boyajian brand–if you can find this garlic oil in the area you live in. Whole foods tends to carry it.

      • Jill

        I found International Collections Garlic Flavored Oil worked well for me. I still think true garlic is a problem for me, which is hard since it’s in everything, especially since I love Italian food. Going to Italian restaurants is the most difficult thing in the world for me. I’m going to give it another fair shot to be sure that’s the problem. At least I know when I’m at home I can get my garlic flavor in my oil. Good luck to all struggling to get that great garlic flavor.

    • katescarlata

      I think you are thinking the Tuscany broth–but that does contain natural flavor. A client of mine called the company and was told the natural flavor was onion. That doesn’t mean it might not be tolerated by some people. If you are using this broth and it doesn’t bother you–then perhaps it’s not enough to pose a problem for you. Remember–tolerance to FODMAPs varies person to person.

  • BethB

    Love the mean onion graphic! : ) My chicken salad used to contain onions and apples, and I couldn’t imagine it without those foods. I switched to the green part of green onions, red grapes halves and some sunflower seeds for a little more crunch, plus a small amount of celery since the Monash app gives the green light for 1/4 cup, and it was delicious. I had found quite a few recipes on line with those or similar ingredients, all with varying amounts, so just added until it seemed right.

  • Gigi

    This is extremely helpful. A few questions:

    Do leeks whites, green onion bulbs, or shallots have longer or shorter chains of carbohydrates? I am able to tolerate smaller amounts of garlic, so I’d like to experiment carefully with some of these others. Perhaps the yellow part of the green onions?

    Are sugar alcohols also not oil soluble? Could I get a little mushroom flavoring out of a mushroom by sautéing it and letting my lucky husband eat the actual fungus?

    A little tip for you, in return. A dash of asafoetida smells much better and much more oniony if it is lightly sautéed in butter before adding it to food. Only a tiny amount of butter is needed. The rest of your sautéing fat can be olive oil, or whatever you like.

    • katescarlata

      According to Muir et al J Agric Food Chem 2007, the order largest to smallest chains–garlic, leek bulb, artichoke-globe, Artichoke-Jerusalem, shallots, onion–white then brown then Spanish

  • Gigi

    Many thanks.

    I see from googling that mannitol is soluble in oil, but hardly at all in water. So perhaps I shall slice mushrooms, sauté them in oil, press out the oil, and then use the remaining mushrooms? It’s a little daunting to be using yourself as an experimental subject.

  • Jan

    Hi Kate,
    Your blog is very useful. I have found chicory root in a number of herbal teas.You are so right that it lurks in unlikely places!

  • Leigh

    Hi Kate,

    Getting so much from your blog and other materials — thank you! I am confused about coconut milk. Your shopping list says it’s okay as do other lists. But then some other lists say no. A recent Monash posting says coconut water is high FODMAP. Thanks for any coconut, and coconut milk, advice!

    • katescarlata

      Leigh, old data on food analysis had coconut milk as high FODMAP- Monash app has 1/2 cup coconut milk as green lighted and a little less than 1/2 cup of coconut water as green lighted. It’s all in the portion size!

  • Rhiannon

    Hi Katie :

    I have found chicory root and/or inulin in many herbal teas and instant coffees.

    Other thing I’m wondering about are—
    —chia seeds
    —-pea protein isolate.

    Someone told me that these contain FODMAPS, and are a no-no, but I cannot find them on any of the FODMAP lists. Can you help?

  • Bethany Mason

    Hi Kate. I’m reposting in case you missed mine before. I’m on day 4 now of the elimination diet. Finding onion and garlic in SO many things! here is my previous post with questions:
    Hi Kate. Your blog is very helpful. I’m on day 2 of the Fodmap elimination diet. Two questions: I’m intimidated about eating out. I’ll be going on a trip around week six of my diet. Any pointers on eating out? Also, I’m looking for a probiotic supplement that I can take during the diet. Any ideas? The one I’m on has FOS. 🙁 thanks!

  • gdp

    I was so disappointed to find my favourite evening drink (caffeine free “Caro”) is made up of Malted Barley, Roasted Barley, Rye and Chicory root…

    Not meant to be ~ for me!

  • Mary

    It is very difficult to find a bottled spaghetti sauce without garlic or onion. I was using Prego Veggie Smart Smooth and Supple, but recently the ingredients started to show onion and garlic towards the bottom of the ingredient list. Any suggestions for spaghetti sauce?

      • Jo

        That’s awesome to know about, Kate! And it looks like it might be available at my local store. I’m really psyched about trying this. Thanks so much!

  • Debbie

    Hi Kate, I find your blog very informative! I have found inulin in many items such as whipped topping energy bars and cereal. I enjoy using garlic infused olive oil to impart that yummy flavor into my meals at home and was wondering if it would be safe to use mushroom infused oil as well? Thanks

  • Phil Paroian

    Hi Kate;

    First of all, a very sincere thank you for all the great tips and recipes. One request though: Is it possible to publish nutritional information per serving size for your recipes? Or am I just missing it? I have type 1 diabetes and while I’m pretty good at doing “sum of the parts” estimates from recipes, nutritional information (cal, carbs, fat, fibre) would be extremely helpful to me. Thanks!


    • katescarlata

      Thanks Phil –glad you stopped by. I agree with type 1 diabetes understanding the carb and fiber in food/ recipes can be very helpful. But…I have decided not to provide nutritional data on my recipes at this time for a number of reasons. I believe that we have become a nation that focuses too much on numbers, calories vs. health; fear of fat grams, food phobia, rather than listening to our body–or simply enjoying food and eating what nourishes us. I appreciate that some individuals will desire this info and I know there are many blogs out there that provide it. It’s just not my personal direction for this blog.

  • Linda

    Thanks for this blog, it’s a lifesaver!

    I just wanted to mention a weird place I found chicory root: Starbucks smoothies! I checked to be certain the type of soy and everything they had was okay, and as far as I could determine it was. But after I had one I felt AWFUL so I read the ingredients again, only to see that I’d not noticed the chicory as I’d been so focused on the soy.

    Finding what I can have at Starbucks has been a real challenge (I know the ideal is to avoid it, but I am a sinner). If you could do an article about acceptable FODMAP drinks/foods from Starbucks, I would love you forever. Well, I think I already do, but you know… 🙂

  • Phil

    Hello! Just discovered your site after starting the low FODMAP diet a week ago. The onion part is killing me!

    In reading labels, I often see, ‘spices’ listed. I’ve been avoiding anything with that because of the chance of onion or garlic. Does this seem reasonable? What do manufacturers mean when they write ‘spices’?

    • katescarlata

      Phil, in the US it is my understanding that onion or garlic would not be included in the term ‘spices’. But natural flavor, yes–it could be onion/garlic in savory foods.

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