Three C’s – are they low FODMAP?

Posted by on Feb 2, 2012 in featured, General, Making books | 17 comments

Three C’s – are they low FODMAP?

Cocoa, Coconut, Chocolate… What do you think?  Do you eat these 3 delicious foods?  Have you been given any advice about them?

 As you may have noticed from my recipe collection, I love cocoa, coconut and definitely chocolate (my weakness).  It seems though, that there is some confusion out there about whether they fit into a low FODMAP diet.

I have heard your frustrations about the confusing information about what is or isn’t low FODMAP, that the information keeps changing, and how can you know what is accurate and up-to-date?  For what it’s worth, my advice is to check the source of any information carefully.  Is it based on sound research (there’s the nurse coming out in me)?  Anecdotal information can be helpful too, but it doesn’t always fit for everyone.

When I was writing The low FODMAP cookbook, I wanted to make sure my recipes were suitable and decided I needed to go to trusted source, the place where the FODMAP research is being done.  Can you imagine my surprise and excitement when I discovered that 10 minutes away from my home was the Eastern Health Clinical School, part of Monash University.  It was here where foods were being tested for FODMAP content, and it was here that the Low FODMAP Diet booklet had been published.  I was able to meet with the head of research, Dr Jane Muir, and I was given permission to use information printed in the Low FOMDAP Diet booklet and the offer to have my recipes reviewed.

Fast forward 1 year, The low FODMAP Cookbook is published, I’m still writing recipes to share here, but it seems that the confusion over some foods goes on.  So back to cocoa, coconut and chocolate: the official position based on Monash University research is they are all low FODMAP.

Now, I want to be clear that I am talking about FODMAPs specifically.  You may have been advised that certain foods could trigger irritable bowel syndrome, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a high FODMAP content.  Examples of this are caffeine, fatty foods and alcohol.  Early FODMAP food lists had coconut cream and milk in a high FODMAP category, although desiccated or shredded coconut was not mentioned (to my knowledge).  Later testing of coconut cream/milk found that the FODMAP content, or more specifically sorbitol, was so low that it was unlikely to be problematic for most people, and so it was removed from the high FODMAP list.  Cocoa and chocolate have never been listed as high in FODMAPs.  To make sure that it was ok to be offering up recipes containing cocoa, desiccated coconut and chocolate, last week I contacted Dr Jaci Barrett of Diet Solutions in Melbourne and a Monash University researcher.  Dr Barrett confirmed that they are fine to use.

A quick word on lactose…yes, I still cook and eat lactose-containing foods, even though I malabsorb lactose.  Not all people on a low FODMAP diet have lactose intolerance, and of those that do, many can still tolerate small amounts the, equivalent of 1/3 cup milk.  I have found this to be true for me.  If there is a lactose-free product available, eg milk and cream, I will suggest it in a recipe.  It is probably worth mentioning that not all dairy is high in lactose.  For the occasional times I wish to consume lactose I keep lactase supplements handy.  I am not suggesting we should all use a lactase supplement all the time; simply they are my back-up when I need it.


Cheers to you all,




  1. I have a FODMAP list which says that coconut milk/cream is high in fructose and therefore needs to be limited. Is this correct?
    Thank you.

  2. Hi Lyn, according to Monash University’s latest food testing information, coconut milk/cream is not high in fructose. If your information is dated earlier than November 2010 it is not based on the most recent data.
    I have not had a problems after eating coconut milk/cream. I have heard some say they do. For those who still prefer an alternative I have suggested evaporated milk or reduced fat cream (lactose free if required) with 1/2 teaspoon coconut essence. Just be sure to cook this very gently to avoid splitting.

  3. Thank you for clearing this up – really helpful!

  4. Thanks for your sound, scientific advice. You are a lifeline for those of us trying to make sense of all of the “Do’s and Don’ts” of the FODMAP diet. Your comment about “other foods” triggering IBS symptoms was also helpful – I think sometimes I forget that there are multiple issues at play when eating food.

    Thanks again.

  5. Hi Natalie, I’ve been trying to get some clarification on the coconut cream/milk issue so thank you for sharing your knowledge. I’ve just discovered your website and book (while looking for said coconut info) and I’m looking forward to reading more. Cheers from Sydney!

  6. I want to ask you about two other C’s: Coffee and Chanterelle mushrooms. I have heard that coffee has fructans in it, do you know if this is true? I’ve also been told that button mushrooms have mannitol in them and I was wondering if this is also true for Chanterelle mushrooms? (They are my favourites!).

    • Hi Raggydoll, coffee has not be tested BUT it is low sugar so therefore is likely to be low in FODMAPs. However, coffee can be high in chemicals that may cause problems.
      Only button mushrooms have been tested and, yes, they are high mannitol (sugar polyol).

  7. Hi Natalie, I’ve just received your book. Thank you so much for your work, I’ll be having buckwheat pancakes and spelt pizza very soon!

    I have a question about milk chocolate. Logically if you’re lactose intolerant, it will not be suitable, but I assume that many of us can take it in small quantities. Since your blog post differentiates cocoa and chocolate, does that mean that milk chocolate should be alright?

    • A little milk chocolate is probably fine. It just depends on the degree of lactose intolerance. If in doubt, go for dark chocolate or even a dairy free chocolate.

  8. I was given a low-FODMAP diet by my Dr. today. It’s all new to me, so I need as much advice as I can get. So far, it seems that your site will prove to be helpful. Thanks for taking the time to pass the info on to others.

  9. Your site rocks! Thanks so much.

  10. Can you clarify the use of garlic and onion? I am aware that these are considered high in fodmaps, but I just found a cookbook supposedly good for those with fodmap sensitivity and many recipes include garlic.

    Any instructions for using garlic infused oil as a substitute? And any way to substitute for onions? So many recipes with flavor are based on these two ingredients.

    • Hi Bob,

      You are correct that both onion and garlic are high in FODMAPs, more specifically fructans.
      Some people do tolerate small amounts of garlic, eg 1 clove per dish that serves 4-6 pepople.
      To be on the safe side it is recommended to flavour oil that you are cooking with with garlic and onion, then remove the garlic and onion and continue cooking with that oil. This is done by slicing garlic and onion into largish pieces and warm them gently in oil for a few minutes without browning. Garlic infused oil is also available commercially. Flavouring oil in this way is safe as fructans are not fat soluble and therefore will not remain in the oil.
      To replace the texture of onion in a dish I often use a finely chopped stick of celery sauteed in the flavoured oil.

  11. My son was recently diagnosed with fructose malabsorption and I took a class on the diet. The information they have is very up to date. In fact the dietician had just went to a conference in Australia to stay up to date with the latest research in this area. I was told that coconut was the WORST thing. Over and over they said, absolutely no coconut because its SO high in fructose.

    • Hi Melissa,
      I know there is so much conflicting information out there. I have checked again with the head of research at Monash University to assure you of up-to-date information. Here is her response:
      “…there is some sorbitol in coconut milk, there is no fructose, but I am still not sure about fructans and we need to test this…”
      If you were told the information about coconut was based on “Australian research” it is likely to be from an early publication that has since been updated.
      If/when there are some more test results on coconut I will let everyone know. Until then enjoy coconut if you don’t think it causes a problem, give it a miss if you think it does.
      Cheers, Nat

  12. I have discovered, with much trial and error, that coconut milk/cream work for me but dessicated coconut does not … so even my beloved bounty bars are off the menu :( not to mention ANZACS! … thanks for putting up the most up to date research, really appreciate it. And the suggestion of coconut essence … experimentation and substitution take time but it’s great when we can all share our results eg last year i made White Christmas for the first time in around 5 years, I hadn’t been able to work out how to work around the dairy (I’m casein allergic) and dessicated coconut issues … then had the brain wave to try dried coconut milk powder- which worked an absolutely treat! So, for those who can tolerate the cream/milk consider swapping out milk products and swapping in either dried or reconstituted coconut milk powder – it’s a winner!

    • That is interesting, Lisa, that coconut milk/cream are ok for you but not desiccated. I had a bit of a hunt around and read that many people substitute almond meal or oats that have been blitzed in the food processor for disiccated coconut; a bit of coconut milk powder could still provide the flavour. Perhaps that would work with ANZACs so you don’t have to miss out!
      I agree…let’s all keep sharing our food sub. ideas :)

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