So you've been keeping your resolution to consume a more plant-based diet, but find yourself belching, bloated, gassy and having frequent diarrhea. Before you give up and reach for that bag of chips, know that you might be sensitive to high fructose fruits and vegetables. Learn which are high in the substance, and eliminate them to alleviate digestive issues caused by fructose.
The Root of the Issue
It might surprise you to know that a plant-based diet can actually make you feel worse if you have a fructose intolerance. Science is just beginning to study why some people have an intolerance to this 6-carbon monosaccharide molecule, which causes symptoms so severe in some people that they may be mistakenly diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For those who are sensitive to high fructose fruits and vegetables, quality of life is severely affected; symptoms include abdominal pain due to bloating and gas, and the person is often limited to activities that take place close to a restroom.
Fruits High in Fructose
Having fructose intolerance doesn't mean you have to give up fruit altogether. Some fruits are low in fructose. This might sound counter-intuitive, as fructose is commonly called "fruit sugar." However, low-fructose fruits to focus on include avocado, bananas, cantaloupe, cranberries, lemon, lime, mandarin orange, pineapple and strawberries. Avoid concentrated sources of fructose such as dried fruits, fruit juices of any kind, and canned fruits that are packaged in water or syrup.
Veggies Have Fructose, Too
If you've ever disliked eating broccoli, artichokes, asparagus or okra, you'll be delighted to know that they're high-fructose foods — so it's best for your health to pass them by if you suffer from fructose intolerance. Low-fructose alternatives are plentiful if you're trying to eat your greens. Go for kale, bok choy, spinach and turnip greens. Lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are also low in fructose, but you might wish to avoid them if you're having trouble with abdominal gas.
As you might guess, tomatoes and sweet red peppers are abound with fructose. You can substitute plum tomatoes and green peppers for these foods. Other high-fructose vegetables are okra, mushrooms and peas. Parsnips, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, carrots and winter squash are hearty alternatives without the heavy fructose load.
Finally, instead of using high-fructose onions, leeks and shallots to add flavor to a dish, opt for low-fructose chives.
Other Plant Sources of Fructose
Avoid wheat — one of the major fructose foods — and any products made with it. This includes foods such as pasta, couscous or wheat bread. Products made with corn, oats, rice, rye or quinoa provide lower-fructose alternatives, as long as they aren't sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Tofu and legumes are low in fructose, but can also cause intestinal gas.
Use a FODMAP and Fructose List
Fructose might not be the only culprit giving you gas, bloating, diarrhea and other abdominal discomfort. Foods containing FODMAP — an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols — include more than fructose foods. Galactan, an oligosaccharde found in beans, lentils and chickpeas, can cause digestive symptoms. Lactose, a disaccharide found in milk, can cause similar issues. Polyols are present in apples, apricots and blackberries, as well as sweeteners such as xylitol, mannitol and sorbitol.
In a 2018 study published in the Nutrire Journal, 74 percent of participating patients diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome enjoyed improvement of their symptoms after eliminating FODMAP-rich foods for four to six weeks. Each subgroup of food was reintroduced, one at a time, to help individuals target which categories of foods were problematic for them. Study authors recommend anyone undertaking this process to do so under the supervision of a dietitian to avoid potential nutritional deficiencies.
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Dietary fructose intolerance, fructan intolerance and FODMAPs
- Biomed Central Nutrire Journal: Low-FODMAP diet in the management of irritable bowel syndrome
- Seattle Children's Hospital: Low-Fructose Food Choices
- UW Health: Fructose-Restricted Diet
- Our Everyday Life: A Plant-Based Diet Plan