Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.
Is rhubarb low FODMAP? FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols. These are carbohydrates and sugar alcohols poorly absorbed in the small intestine, for various reasons.
The idea behind the low FODMAP diet is that removing foods high in poorly absorbed carbohydrates from the diet can reduce symptoms associated with IBS and other digestive disorders.
A low FODMAP diet is a dietary approach to managing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive disorders. Irritable bowel syndrome affects between 7 and 15% of the population and can cause distressing digestive symptoms that can be improved or worsened through diet.
Low FODMAP May Help Digestive Symptoms
If you have irritable bowel syndrome, your doctor might recommend a low FODMAP diet. Many studies show that a diet low in FODMAPs improves the symptoms of IBS in at least 30% of people with this condition.
Choosing low FODMAP foods is also beneficial for people with other digestive disorders or sensitive to FODMAPs. Common symptoms people experience with IBS include gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
If you enjoy rhubarb, you might wonder about its FODMAP content and whether you can eat it if you’re following a low FODMAP diet. First, let’s look at what rhubarb is and how and why people eat it.
How People Eat Rhubarb
Rhubarb is a vegetable, sometimes referred to as a fruit, that belongs to the Buckwheat family. With a long, stalky stem with vibrant reddish-pink color and a subtle tart taste, it’s popular in dessert and other sweet treats. Rhubarb tastes better when combined with recipes as it's a bit tart if you eat in isolation.
People often use rhubarb as an ingredient in pies, jams, jellies, and sauces because of its unique flavor profile Raw or cooked rhubarb has a subtle tart taste, like lemons. Yet it’s high in natural sugars, giving it a unique combination of sweet and tart.
Rhubarb Contains Oxalates
The stems of rhubarb are the edible part of the plant, and all other parts of the rhubarb plant contain oxalates, especially the leaves. Oxalates are naturally occurring substances found in some plants.
When you consume foods high in oxalates, they can bind to calcium and form crystals that can cause pain and inflammation if they get stuck in the joints or kidneys. People with a history of kidney stones shouldn’t consume foods high in oxalates, like rhubarb.
Eating the leaves, due to their high oxalate content, can cause digestive upset, and if you consume large quantities, kidney failure and nervous system issues such as twitching muscles. But about the FODMAP content of rhubarb? Is it a problem?
What is the FODMAP Content of Rhubarb?
Rhubarb has a low FODMAP content, meaning most people who follow a low-FODMAP diet shouldn’t experience worsening of their IBS symptoms if they eat it. Most dietitians won’t recommend that people with IBS or sensitive to FODMAPs avoid rhubarb. However, everyone reacts to foods a little differently.
Despite its low FODMAP content, you may react to some other component in rhubarb. So, take note of how you feel after eating it. If you have digestive issues, it’s helpful to keep a food diary of what you eat and how different foods affect you.
Also, talk to your physician about the type of diet you should follow based on your health history. If they recommend a low FODMAP diet, you can download lists of low FODMAP foods from reputable medical sites online.
Low-FODMAP Rhubarb Contains Other Nutrients
Rhubarb is a good source of vitamin A, C, and K and contains significant quantities of calcium and potassium. Although it has a high natural sugar content, it contains fiber to help reduce the rise in blood sugar that comes from eating carbohydrates.
So, rhubarb is a good source of nutrients but has the downside of being high in oxalates, which can reduce nutrient absorption. That’s why it’s best to eat rhubarb in moderation.
Rhubarb is not known to be a high-FODMAP food. So, it’s unlikely to worsen IBS symptoms but everyone has a different food sensitivities. See how rhubarb affects you!
- Altobelli E, Del Negro V, Angeletti PM, Latella G. Low-FODMAP Diet Improves Irritable Bowel Syndrome Symptoms: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2017 Aug 26;9(9):940. doi: 10.3390/nu9090940. PMID: 28846594; PMCID: PMC5622700.
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- "FODMAP Diet: What You Need to Know | Johns Hopkins Medicine." https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/fodmap-diet-what-you-need-to-know.