Following a low FODMAP diet is challenging. While keeping track of some of the foods to avoid isn’t too hard, there are simply too many potential trigger foods for most people to remember. Also, there are many processed foods where problem ingredients lurk under the surface and aren’t very easy to spot. Because of that, knowing which foods are low FODMAP (and which aren’t) isn’t always as straightforward as it might seem.
To make things easier, I recommend that my clients use the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app to keep track of which foods they can eat safely. I believe that it’s essential for anyone who’s getting started on a low FODMAP diet. It’s also why I have the app installed on my phone and consider it an indispensable tool in keeping my own IBS symptoms at bay.
But hang on a minute, I hear you say… why can’t you just download a list of foods from the internet instead of paying for an app? What does the app do that’s so special?
Well that’s what I’m going to explain in this article. Here are 10 reasons to include the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app as part of your low FODMAP tool kit.
1. The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app is the most accurate and up-to-date resource available.
As far as medical therapeutic diets go, the low FODMAP diet is still in its infancy. As every month goes by, new scientific research is done that gives us more information about FODMAPs, how they affect the body, and the foods that contain them. For that reason, any resource that was prepared a year or more ago is out of date. In fact, resources prepared less than 6 months ago might have inaccuracies too. This really is a fast moving field of research.
The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app is based on the research done by scientists at Monash University, who are continually testing new foods in their laboratory. This takes a considerable amount of time and resources, which is why we are still learning about new foods all the time. They simply haven’t been able to test everything yet.
The good thing is that after you buy the app, you’ll receive updates with newly tested foods at no extra cost. These days though you won’t be notified when more foods are added, they’ll simply be there when you next open the app. So make sure you thoroughly check the food lists on the app every now and again to make sure you haven’t missed something new.
2. The database is being extended to include more International foods.
The food testing for FODMAPs began with Australian foods because Monash University is located in Melbourne, Australia. That’s why there’s more Australian foods in there than there is for any other country. But this is changing.
The Monash researchers have been testing foods from other countries and there are now ‘Country Specific Foods’ listed for Denmark, Sri Lanka, Norway, New Zealand and the United States (as well as Australia). In fact, when the researchers go overseas for conferences, they buy some of the local foods, pack them in their suitcases and bring them back for testing. Now that’s dedication!
But even if you don’t live in one of these countries, most of the food lists will still be useful to you because the research team initially put their efforts into testing wholefoods. That means that most of the ingredients you use in recipes will have been tested.
3. The app goes everywhere that you go (so long as you remember your phone).
One of the best things about having the app installed on your phone is that it’s with you whenever you have your phone. Since most of us always have our phones, you’ll always have information about low FODMAP foods at your fingertips. It’s like having a nutritionist in your pocket.
This accessibility means that you have everything you need when you’re grocery shopping, eating out at a restaurant or café, or having a meal at someone else’s home. If instead you relied on a book or a printed list, you’d have to remember to grab it whenever you left the house. I’m sure I’d forget it and leave it at home most of the time, which would get annoying very quickly.
4. The app uses a neat traffic light system to make things super easy.
With the aim of making things easy for you, the app uses a simple colour-coded traffic light system that’s very easy to negotiate:
- Red means that a food is high FODMAP and unsuitable for most people.
- Amber means that a food is moderate FODMAP and possibly safe depending on your tolerance levels.
- Green means that a food is low FODMAP and should be safe for most people.
When you’re first starting out, all you have to do is quickly glance at the traffic lights and focus on the green items that are most likely to be safe for you. Very simple!
5. You can see whether there are safe allowances of potentially problematic foods.
This is one of my favourite things about the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app. Because FODMAPs are naturally present in many foods, but are present in varying amounts, it’s not possible to simply eliminate all FODMAPs from your diet. Instead, the aim is to decrease the FODMAPs in your meal below a safe threshold. So while some foods must be completely avoided because they’re too high in FODMAPs, there are many foods that you can safely eat smaller portions of.
But how do you find this out? Well the app has a cool little trick for this. When you click on the Guide section, you’ll see a list of foods, each of which has a traffic light beside it. Now here’s the trick… when you click on that food it takes you to another screen that shows serving size that may have green lights instead of red or amber.
For instance, for avocado there are three serving sizes listed; one is green, one is amber and one is red. But if you had only looked at the first screen where avocado was listed amongst the other fruits, you would have thought that you couldn’t have any avocado at all. Note: have a look at the image below for cherries to see an example of this extra screen.
6. Once you learn your tolerance levels, you can use the detailed traffic lights to decide which foods are safe for you.
FODMAPs aren’t an all or none thing. Some people are quite sensitive to all FODMAPs, especially when first starting the diet, but most people have variable sensitivity to the different types of FODMAPs. That means that you may only need to restrict two or three types of FODMAPs, yet can happily eat foods containing the FODMAPs that you’re not sensitive to. This is something you’ll discover when you begin the reintroduction phase.
For instance, a regular serving of cherries (6 cherries) has a red light for excess fructose and an amber light for polyols. But a half serving of cherries (3 cherries) has an amber light for excess fructose and a green light for polyols. What this means is that if you discovered that you were sensitive to polyols but weren’t sensitive to excess fructose, you could safely enjoy half a serve of cherries because the fructose warning light isn’t relevant to you.
7. There’s an inbuilt filter to make screening for tolerance levels even easier.
When you click on the Guide section, you’ll notice in the very top right hand corner that there’s a button that says ‘Filters’. The screen you see after clicking on ‘Filters’ lets you set your sensitivity for the different types of FODMAPs – none, medium, or high. Once this is done, the food lists change so that the items which are unsuitable for your tolerances are greyed out. You can still click on those items for further information, but they don’t stand out when you’re quickly skimming the app.
8. It also has recipes, meal plans, a shopping list and a symptom diary.
If you’re stuck for ideas on what to prepare for each meal, there’s some recipes to get you started. You can also use the app to plan your meals and your shopping list. And there’s a symptom diary that you can use too. You’ll find these under the Recipes, Shopping and Trial tabs.
Note: I know that many people do use these features and find them quite helpful, but I haven’t personally used them. That’s because I’m a notepad and pen kind of girl when it comes to writing lists and taking notes.
9. It comes with introductory information about what the low FODMAP diet is.
Getting your head around the low FODMAP diet isn’t easy, which makes explaining it to other people a little difficult. When you first start following the diet, all you really care about is which foods are safe to eat right now. But it is good to also have an understanding of what FODMAPs are and how they affect the body.
To help you out with this, the app includes an information ‘booklet’ in the About section. There’s also information included on reading labels, menus and going shopping. There is a lot in there, so it’s good to read while sitting down with a cuppa.
10. When you purchase the app, you support further research into the low FODMAP diet.
As I mentioned in point 1, food testing requires a lot of time and resources. That means money. To help out with this, the profits from the app go back into the research that Monash University does on the low FODMAP diet. This research may be testing new foods or conducting clinical trials to learn more about FODMAPs and IBS. So even if points 1 through 9 didn’t convince you the app was worth the cost, you can think of your purchase as a charitable donation that will benefit you in the future.
But what if you don’t have a device that the Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app works on?
The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app is available for both Android and iphone, which should cover most people’s needs. But if you don’t have a suitable mobile device, or aren’t very comfortable using them, you can buy a book from Monash University instead. It is hardcopy though, not an ebook, which means that you have to order it and wait for a couple of weeks for it to be delivered. The other catch is that because it’s a printed book, it won’t be updated with newly tested foods when the app is updated. Also, while they do publish a new edition of the book roughly every year, you won’t automatically receive updates for free.
Follow this link for the Android version of The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app.
Follow this link for the iphone version of The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet app.
Follow this link to purchase a copy of the book.
Please note: I am not affiliated with the makers of the Monash University Low FODMAP app, nor do I receive any income or benefit from recommending your use of the app (or the book if you choose that option instead).
Image source: Images were supplied by Monash University and used with permission.