There seems to be a bit of confusion around how to use garlic safely on a low-FODMAP diet. This article looks at why garlic is a problem, and how you can safely add garlic flavour to your meals without causing tummy troubles.
Garlic contains fructo-oligosaccharides, which are commonly referred to as fructans. Fructans are short-chain carbohydrates and are found in foods like onions, garlic, wheat, rye, barley and artichokes. Humans do not have enzymes to break down fructans, which means they are malabsorbed in the small intestine and then fermented by the gut bacteria, leading to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. This is why eating garlic can result in unpleasant symptoms. It’s recommended that you remove garlic from your low-FODMAP diet during the elimination phase – the good news is you can test garlic in the reintroduction phase, to see if you can add small amounts back in.
How do you replace the garlic flavour while eating low FODMAP?
Garlic-infused oil is a tasty, safe replacement for garlic in low-FODMAP meals. The fructans present in garlic are only water soluble and not oil soluble. This means the garlic flavour transfers into the oil while the fructans stay trapped in the garlic cloves, as there is no water in the oil for them to leech into. According to Monash University, garlic-infused oil should be well tolerated by most people on a low-FODMAP diet.
Where do you find garlic-infused oil?
You can buy it from the oil section of the supermarket. Garlic-infused oil is relatively strong, so normally you won’t need to add too much to the recipe to get the flavour.
The second way to get garlic-infused oil is to make your own. You need to peel and cut the garlic into large pieces. You then fry the garlic in oil for 1–2 minutes over a low-to-medium heat, to transfer the flavour. Next, remove all the garlic (including any small fragments) from the pan before cooking the rest of your meal. It is important that you remove all the pieces of garlic from the pan, otherwise you will ingest higher levels of fructans. Then cook the rest of your meal in the oil.
Why can’t you just take out the garlic before you eat the meal?
Unfortunately, when you cook with garlic, the fructans can leech from the garlic into other parts of the meal, as they will dissolve in any water that is present in the other ingredients you are cooking. While not eating the garlic pieces will reduce your overall FODMAP load, it may not reduce it enough, as the fructans will have become infused in other parts of the meal. Therefore, in the elimination period you need to either avoid garlic, or use safe garlic-infused oil. After the reintroduction period, you might find you can tolerate leaving the garlic pieces in whole and then removing them before eating, but you need to test garlic in the reintroduction phase first.
Watch out for sneaky garlic!
Garlic is often added to processed foods like dips, spice mixes, chips and gravy. This means it is important to check food labels, and avoid any products that contain garlic-based ingredients. Watch out for ingredients listed as garlic, garlic powder and garlic salt. I use a lot of garlic-infused oil in my cooking and highly recommend it to boost flavour. However, if you are worried about making it yourself, stick to the store-bought garlic infused oils.
A word of warning!
Be careful if you are going to make and store your own garlic-infused oil. Garlic can contain a microorganism (bacterium) called Clostridium botulinum (C. bot), which can cause botulism. Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium. This bacteria strain is found in soil and thrives in low-oxygen environments, which means homemade oil can become contaminated with the bacteria.
Commercially-made garlic-infused oils are acidified to prevent bacterial growth during the production process, which means they can be stored at room temperature. But if you decide to make a batch of homemade garlic-infused oil, there are some steps you need to take to keep yourself safe:
Wash and dry the garlic thoroughly before cooking – dry using clean paper towels so you don’t transfer any additional bacteria.
Store the oil in a sterilised jar or bottle. Preheat your oven to 110°C. Wash the jar and jar lids in hot soapy water. Transfer them to a baking tray lined with a clean tea towel, placing the jar open-side up. Place in the oven for 25 minutes before removing.
Once cooked, fill your sterilised jar with garlic-infused oil and refrigerate immediately. Put a label on it with the date. Keep the oil in the fridge. You must use it within seven days.