Thursday, 5 March 2015

Debunking the myth behind SUPERFOODS

By Dr Jane Varney

We've had many queries regarding the FODMAP content of coconut water, kale and chia seeds? These are just some of the many foods in the long line of so-called ‘superfoods’ to hit the supermarket shelves. 

But how healthy are they really? And are they low in FODMAPs?




Coconut water is marketed as a natural sports drink; its advocates claiming it will do everything from aiding weight loss, to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, slowing down the ageing process and curing hangovers. Many of these claims are over blown and the consensus of dietitians is that many such benefits can be obtained from whole foods, at a fraction of the price. A small (100ml) serve of coconut water should be tolerated on a low FODMAP diet, however larger serves (>250ml) contain levels of fructans and sorbitol that may trigger symptoms. 


Crazy about Kale? Well you’re not alone! Another so-called, ‘superfood’, how healthy is kale really, and is it suitable on a low FODMAP diet? Nutrition-wise, kale comes in trumps. This leafy green, cruciferous vegetable is high in fibre, low in kilojoules and packed full of nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium and a range of antioxidants. So, yes, kale certainly is healthy. This said, many other cruciferous vegetables (such as cabbage, bok choy, broccoli and brussels sprouts) have similar nutritional attributes, so including the whole range of these in your diet is the best plan. FODMAP wise, kale also gets the green light. A 1 cup serve of chopped kale (137g) is low in FODMAPs and should be tolerated by most people with IBS. 


What about chia seeds? Chia seeds have their origins in Central and South America, however, their recent rise to fame (and superfood status) has seen them now grown in Australia. Chia seeds certainly are packed full of nutrition. Chia seeds are high in protein, omega 3 fatty acids, fibre and antioxidants. For those with coeliac disease, the good news is that they’re also gluten free. So chia certainly ticks a lot of good nutrition boxes. FODMAP wise, chia seeds also get the green light. A 2 tablespoon serve of chia seeds is low in FODMAPs and should be tolerated by most people with IBS. This said, our anecdotal experience tells us that some people with IBS do not tolerate chia seeds well. The best idea is to include a small quantity of chia seeds in your diet and, over a couple of days, monitor symptoms. 


The take-home message: there is no such thing as a ‘superfood’, just a ‘super diet’. Eating a varied, mostly plant based diet that includes small quantities of lean meat, chicken and fish; whole grains; low fat dairy products, and limited quantities highly processed foods, is more likely to bring optimal healthy than a diet including a small range of ‘superfoods’ purchased at a premium price. 


Many of the claims about ‘superfoods’ are over blown and not backed by science, and while some super foods are indeed healthy and low in FODMAPs, similar nutritional benefits can be obtained from other similar foods, at a fraction of the price.


29 comments:

  1. Thank you for the information, I have been missing kale very much. Could you please clarify the serving of kale is 1 c. cooked, or 1 c. raw- as those are very different quantities!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Michelle, we have analysed kale as 1 cup raw.

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  2. Hi, love your recipies, especially the vegetarian ones.

    On another note, a friend showed me a cookbook by a lady called
    Lola Berry. I'd never heard of her before, but she has many "Fructose Free" labelled recipes in her new cookbook...and many of them have onion and garlic!!

    I was shocked and contacted her about this major error but she kindly wrote back and said she didn't mean the recipes were fructose-free, which is not the issue as any FMer would know..

    Any label stating a product is Fructose Friendly would give anybody the impression that by eating the product you should not get grief and I was disappointed to see a food writer responding like a politician!

    Are you able to somehow warn people about unqualified people producing recipies that will make fructose malabsorbers like myself quite ill?

    It would be awful for a non FMer to prepare a sumptous meal for a FMer friend using recipies from this ladys' book, and making their friend ill!

    Cheers Kerryn

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  3. Correction: I meant to say Lola Berry has many "Fructose Friendly" labelled recipes in her book.

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  4. Thanks for the info. Just wondering if you have any idea about "Chia Pods" and where they sit from a FODMAPs perspective?

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    1. We have not tested chia pods yet but chia seeds are "green" in the app at an intake of 2 tablespoons per sitting. Hence, you may have to watch the amount of Chia Pods that is consumed as these are made up of chia seeds (swollen up in water). In saying that, check to see that the fruit flavourings are suitable and that they aren't sweetened with fructose in the products that are lightly sweetened. Otherwise, they are a great high fibre snack!

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  5. Hi I've recently done a paleo-style health challenge and coconu,t kale and chia were big items. Good to know they have the green light! I would also like to know if coconut flour and coconut sugar are low FODMAP? Dates often come up as a healthy sugar substitute too. Is it known if different varieties of dates are lower in FODMAPs than others, ie medjool? And also wondering if palm sugar is the same thing as coconut sugar? If so it may be a cheaper alternative. Thanks for any advice you may have!

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    1. Hi CreativeCommunications, thanks for your query.

      Monash has not measured the FODMAP content of either coconut sugar or coconut flour. We suggest you include these foods in small quantities over 2-3 days and monitor symptoms. If tolerated, then they are ok to include.

      Coconut sugar is different to palm sugar; the former is made
      from coconut palm and later comes from date palm.

      We have tested the FODMAP content of the common date and they are very high FODMAP (1/2 serve - 2 dates 'red')

      Kindly,
      The Monash University Low FODMAP team

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  6. Hi, I would like to know if you've tested the coconut oil and if it is low FODMAP.
    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Laura, yes we have, coconut oil is low FODMAP. This is listed in our app and our booklet. If you haven't hear about our app yet, please see this link: http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/iphone-app.html

      The app is a tool we use to deliver research based information to the general public & all proceeds goes back into further research. Thanks for your support.

      The Monash University Low FODMAP team

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  7. I've been wondering about kale... but was too scared to try it.
    Not anymore

    thank you

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    Replies
    1. No problems, glad to hear this blog post was helpful to you!
      Kindly, Emily

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  8. Another good article about superfoods. You give some new information for me.

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  9. great tips Thank you for this information. It is really informative and helpful for the people. Chia Seeds

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  10. Hi. I'm wondering if you have any knowledge about sprouted seeds and legumes?

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  11. Please would you let me know if Cavolo Nero variety of Kale is low fodmap?

    I've also been wondering about Chinese Cabbage?

    thanks!

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  12. Several of our patients on a low FODMAP diet report "fodmap symptoms" from eating kale. Could it be that something is missing in terms of what should be included as a FODMAP? Other possible explanations for reactions to kale?

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  13. Hi, dates are high in what exactly? Thank you

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  14. Hi , dates are high in fructans or fructose? Thank you

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    Replies
    1. Hi Amira,

      They're high in fructans.

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  15. I would love it if you would test coconut flour, as it is in many alternative recipes! Including one I just saw for chocolate 'bliss balls' which is low FODMAP except for the coconut flour question mark...

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  16. What about hemp seeds and hemp protein? They are very popular in Denmark.

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  17. If I sweetened an apple pie with glucose powder instead of sugar, would I be able to eat it if I am on a FODMAP diet?

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    Replies
    1. Hi there, this blog post might help to answer your question: http://bit.ly/1WvWU5Y

      Best wishes, The Monash FODMAP team

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    2. Isn't apple high fodmap? So that would rule out apple pie no matter what you use as a sweetener?

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  18. FODMAPS has been amazing for me, I am now virtually symptom free after many years of issues and pain. I am scared to reintroduce! Chia seeds always seem to cause me problems and I have heard this from other people.... Not sure why if they are LOWFOD could it be something to do with the swelling as they are digested?

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  19. FODMAPS have really made a huge and positive impact on my daughter's health. I would like to include A Vogel biosnacky easy sprouting seeds into her diet. Are these low FODMAP? Thanks in advance.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Gisrus,

      Unfortunately we haven't tested this food therefore cannot comment on it's FODMAP content. If you'd like to test your own tolerance, please see this blog post: http://fodmapmonash.blogspot.com.au/2016/01/testing-your-tolerance-to-untested-foods.html

      All the best,
      Monash FODMAP.

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  20. I used to tolerate chia seeds fine but lately I've been terrible with them. As I've been following the low FODMAP diet and gluten free diet, I seem to be even more sensitive to FODMAPs! Anything that is high in soluble fibre like Chia seeds tend to draw in a low of water into my stools. Same with dark chocolate, as the caffeine has been speeding up transit time - upsetting! I'm not sure whether it is because I am more aware of FODMAPs but I have definitely been more sensitive in the last year.

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