Onion, Garlic and the Low FODMAP diet
Updated: Jun 4
Onion and garlic can be a major issue if you are suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Sometimes just taking out onion and garlic is enough to manage symptoms.
Both onion and garlic are rich in FODMAPs- fructans (which is like long chain fructose). Unlike many other high FODMAP foods, there is no safe dose specified by Monash University in their Low FODMAP app.
Almost total removal of onion and garlic is an important part of the low FODMAP diet in getting on top of your IBS symptoms.
Luckily, there are some very easy ways of replacing onion and garlic without sacrificing the taste.
1. Garlic (and onion) infused oil
Garlic or onion infused oil (eg Cobram Estate) can be used where you would normally use garlic or onion. Not only is this oil just as flavoursome, the fructans which would normally cause digestive irritation are not oil soluble, meaning only the oil or garlic flavour is infused into the oil but not the fructans.
Frequently people ask if they can use this method of infusing onion or garlic in their home cooked meal then fishing it out before eating. Unfortunately, the fructans will leach out into the meal along with the flavour as they are water soluble and likely to cause upset your gut.
2. Spring onion and leek (but only the green tips)
Although these vegetables are usually a red flag on a low FODMAP diet, the green parts are low in fructans and can provide that great onion taste without the gut side effects.
Cooking tip: use 1 cup of diced green leek leaves or spring onion tips to replace 1 onion.
3. Asafoetida Powder(also known as Hing powder)
This pungent spice is available from Indian Spice markets. Only a pinch is required to provide a delicious onion flavour without the associated IBS symptoms.
Add a small pinch to oil and fry for 15-20 seconds before adding other spices to help decrease the strong smell.
This powder may contain small amounts of wheat which is only a problem if you have Coeliac disease.
Hint: try not to smell the powder at close range- it smells awful but works really well in meals to impart that 'oniony' flavour!
4. Swap onion/garlic for herbs and spices
Most herbs and spices can be liberally added to meals as they are low in FODMAPs. Great options include cumin, coriander, fresh ginger, dried chilli flakes, basil and oregano and for a real edge a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper.
When choosing your herbs and spices ensure that there is no added onion and garlic, eg. curry powder can sometimes have onion and garlic added as an ingredient (always read labels!!).
Other great alternatives include pepper & salt (although minimal salt use is better for overall health). Red wine, gravy, olive oil and lemon/lime juice are also flavoursome and can easily be added to add a boost to meals.
Once you get the hang of it, replacing onion and garlic with other flavours will become second nature.
Skill Up in Avoiding Onion & Garlic
Besides getting the onion/garlic flavour- knowing how to dodge onion and garlic in foods requires a bit of label reading skills and knowing what questions to ask when eating out.
Watch out for Hidden Garlic
Onion and garlic can be hidden in foods such as stock cubes, chicken salt, many sauces (including pasta sauces and curry sauces and pastes), savoury snacks such as flavoured chips, gluten free foods (eg gluten free pies) as well as pre-prepared meals and café food.
Even if the amount of onion and garlic found in these foods is small, it is often enough to cause reactions in many people.
In this case it is important to read labels of suspected foods, use recommended or Low FODMAP certified brands for low onion/garlic alternatives and when eating out ask to be onion and garlic free.
Garlic & Onion Free Foods
These days there are so many tasty low FODMAP alternatives that are onion and garlic free:
Massels stock- low FODMAP certified (take care, not all Masses stocks are certified Low FODMAP- catches a few people out)
Low FODMAP certified pasta sauces ( eg Simply Wize pasta sauces)
Low FODMAP simmer sauces eg FODMAPPED for you!
Onion & garlic free sausages such as 'Coles better for you onion and garlic chipolatas'… and a great deal more!
Label Reading for Onion & Garlic
Watch out for onion or garlic listed in the ingredient list. Also watch out for the following words which mean onion or garlic:
dehydrated vegetables (this will usually include onion)
SPICES or FLAVOURINGS- these are not considered an issue, as any added onion or garlic is usually in extremely very small amounts.
Always ask for foods that are free from onion or garlic- use normal salt instead of seasoned or chicken salt on chips, avoid wet dishes such as curries where onion and garlic are very likely added and be wary of salad dressings and sauces/gravies- ask for these on the side.
Honing your onion and garlic skills is central to help manage your IBS symptoms.
If you find you have been FODMAPPED (get IBS symptoms) look for what you have been eating in the last 24 hours and keep a keen eye for any onion or garlic that may have slipped in though sauces, or any food products you have bought.
If this is a one off you can just move on, but if you have a pattern of having gut issues, talking to a FODMAP trained Dietitian specialist is highly recommended.
Give me a call on 0412 586 836 if you feel you need some help controlling your gut issues.