Is Chocolate Low FODMAP?
One of the most common questions I get from my clients when they are just starting a low FODMAP diet is: “Can I have chocolate?” I don’t need to tell you how relieved they are to hear me say: “Yes, you can!”. But with some caution. Many people with IBS at this time of year are looking around blogs and websites in search of a low-FODMAP chocolate treat recipe to prepare for Valentine’s Day. Here are some important facts to know about chocolate that will allow you to eat chocolate without risking any gut symptoms.
5 Things To Know About Chocolate and the Low FODMAP Diet
1. Keep it small and keep it dark
There are two reasons why chocolate may be a trigger for people with IBS: the FODMAPs (either lactose or oligosaccharides); and its high-fat content: when eaten in excess, fat can affect gut motility and lead to gastrointestinal symptoms. Keeping the portions small, will take care of both. Monash University tested chocolate and found that these kinds are low in FODMAP (at the specified amounts, per meal or snack):
- Dark chocolate – which in the US could be either semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (30 grams or 1 ounce)
- 85% chocolate (20 grams or 2/3 of an ounce).
- Milk chocolate only in small portions (20 grams or 2/3 of an ounce).
Whether you are following the low FODMAP diet or not, 20-30 grams of chocolate are a generous portion, enough to savor a large piece of pure chocolate or eat a dessert made with it. Try my Italian Hot Chocolate.
2. If it is white, it’s not chocolate…but you can have it too
We talked about dark and milk chocolate, so what about white chocolate? Strictly speaking, it is not chocolate as it does not contain any cocoa solids. White chocolate is a mixture of cocoa butter (the fat from the cocoa bean), lecithin, milk products, sugar, and vanilla. In addition, some brands don’t even use cocoa butter and opt for inexpensive vegetable oils. These products don’t have the rich flavor and mouthfeel of white chocolate made with cocoa butter. The good news is that you can still have it. Just limit white chocolate to the low-FODMAP serving size of 25 grams (1 scant ounce).
3. Cocoa/cacao powder is allowed as well
Monash University calls it “cacao” powder but it is the same as cocoa powder. Although the two terms may be used interchangeably, if you see “raw cacao” on the label, that means the product comes from cocoa beans that have not been roasted. The process of roasting the beans allows them to develop the full chocolate flavor and gives them some sweetness. Raw cacao tends to be slightly more bitter but retains more of the antioxidants (see below) that are partially destroyed by heat. You can enjoy up to a tablespoon (8 grams) of unsweetened cocoa powder in one sitting while on the low FODMAP diet. My favorite ways to use it are in my Spiced Hot Cocoa and Cocoa Chia Pudding.
4. Chocolate can be good for us (in moderation)
I’m sure some of you would agree with me that chocolate should be its own food group. Jokes aside, in moderation, and in its pure form, chocolate can be a healthy way to satisfy that sweet tooth, as it comes with a nutritional punch. The cacao bean and its products contain:
- Iron – an important mineral that people on the low FODMAP diet sometimes may not get enough of
- Tryptophan – an amino acid our body uses to make serotonin, a chemical that makes our body relax (ever wonder why eating chocolate makes you feel good?)
- Antioxidants (flavonols) – phytochemicals that may have some heart-protective and anti-cancer properties. Both the antioxidants and the oligosaccharides in chocolate are also prebiotics and feed our good gut bugs, keeping our gut and us healthy. Antioxidants can be destroyed by heat so you won’t find that many in, let’s say, a brownie. The best way to get them is to eat dark chocolate on its own or use unsweetened cocoa/cacao powder.
In summary, chocolate can be enjoyed on a low FODMAP diet, with some attention to portion sizes and types. Even if you know you can tolerate more than the low FODMAP serving sizes, keep in mind that chocolate is still high in calories (130-170 calories per ounce of dark chocolate) and products made with it may be high in added sugar. Happy Valentine’s Day!
If you are still struggling with IBS symptoms such as bloating, gas, and unpredictable bathroom habits, I can help!
Let’s work together
Book a free IBS Clarity Call today!
Published February 11, 2020. Updated February 2nd, 2013.