Here is a quote I read in the window of a chocolate shop: “Nine people out of ten like chocolate. The tenth is lying”. If you are one of the nine (or then tenth!) you may be asking yourself whether you can have chocolate on the low FODMAP diet. The answer is both yes and no.
Chocolate and cocoa powder do contain oligosaccharides, one of the FODMAP groups. If you look at the nutrition facts label, you will see that it contains a small amount of fiber. Oligosaccharides are prebiotic fibers that have beneficial effects on our gut. However, humans lack the enzyme that splits the carbohydrate units into single sugars, and we cannot absorb them. This means that the undigested oligosaccharides travel to the large intestine where they are fermented by our gut bacteria. They are literally their ‘fast food’.
Whereas in most people this does not cause much trouble, people with IBS are more sensitive to the gas production that occurs as a result of the bacterial fermentation and, even at small doses, these carbohydrates may cause symptoms of bloating, excess gas and abdominal pain.
That was the ‘bad news’. And I do have ‘good news’: at small doses, chocolate and cocoa powder can be tolerated by people with IBS and are allowed even in the strict phase of the low FODMAP diet.
Monash University analyzed the oligosaccharide content of chocolate and cocoa powder and determined that a “green” serving, which is their way of designating a serving size that is low enough in FODMAPs that can be tolerated, is:
- 1 oz. (30 g) of dark chocolate
- 2 heaping teaspoons (10 g) of cocoa powder
That’s quite reassuring as 30 grams of dark chocolate is a generous portion (130 to 170 calories for semi-sweet to 60 or 70% chocolate) and allow you to enjoy a chocolate dessert now and then. And 2 heaping teaspoons of cocoa powder make a nice cup of hot cocoa with either lactose-free or almond milk.
Another reason to not overindulge in chocolate is that it is high in fat (about 7-12 g per ounce) and, in some people with IBS, high-fat loads lead to gastrointestinal distress.
Bottom line: stay away from milk chocolate (unless you already passed the lactose challenge), look for semi-sweet or dark chocolate with lower amounts of fiber (1-2 grams per 1-oz. serving – the higher the cacao %, the higher the fiber will be), and keep your portions small.
This Valentine’s Day, skip the asparagus (high in FODMAPs) and try these Mayan Chocolate Truffles. They are low in FODMAPs (at the specified serving), lactose-free, easy to prepare, and most important of all, delicious!
Mayan Chocolate Truffles
6 oz. 60% chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
¼ plus 1/8 cups unsweetened almond milk
½ teaspoon agar agar
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder to coat truffles
1. In a glass or stainless-steel mixing bowl, toss chopped chocolate with the cinnamon, chili powder, and salt.
2. Heat up the almond milk over low to moderate heat; when the almond milk is hot, stir in the agar agar and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat off.
3. Pour almond milk over the chopped chocolate and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is thoroughly melted and the mixture becomes thick and uniform.
4. Transfer the mixture to a plate lined with parchment paper and, with the help of a spatula, shape into a rectangle about ½-inch thick. Make sure to have enough parchment that you can fold it over and cover the chocolate. Refrigerate until it hardens, at least 30 minutes.
5. After the chocolate has hardened, remove it, unmold it from the parchment paper, set it on a cutting board and cut it into 24 squares (they won’t be perfect but that’s ok, in fact, it makes the truffles look rustic).
6. Put the cacao powder on a plate and toss the chunks until partially, if not fully, coated.
Yield : 24 truffles (1 serving = up to 4 truffles)
Storage: Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Author: Antonella Dewell, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Natural Chef