Cream Cheese: A Low FODMAP Option?

Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Aaron

In recent years, the low FODMAP diet has gained popularity as an effective solution to manage symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders. As a result, many people are seeking information about which foods are suitable for this diet.

One question that frequently arises is whether cream cheese is low FODMAP.

In this article, we will delve into this topic, exploring the compatibility of cream cheese with the low FODMAP diet and providing insights into other related questions.

Is Cream Cheese Low FODMAP?

Lactose is the sugar found in milk and milk products, making it a disaccharide and part of the FODMAP group.

Cream cheese typically contains lactose because it is made from milk or cream. However, the lactose content in cream cheese is generally quite low, as much of the lactose is removed during the cheese-making process.

For further verification, we turn to the findings of Monash University, a leading institution in FODMAP research.

According to Monash FODMAP paid App, cream cheese is considered low FODMAP in small serving sizes of up to 2 tablespoons (40g).

However, consuming larger amounts can lead to increased FODMAP content and may trigger symptoms in sensitive individuals.

It is important to note that individual tolerance to lactose and other FODMAPs can vary. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that lactose content varies among different cream cheese brands.

Some brands may contain lower lactose levels, making them unsuitable for those following a strict low FODMAP diet. Therefore, it is always essential to check the label and ingredients list for lactose content before purchasing.

Popular brands of cream cheese offer lactose-free versions.

Alternative Low FODMAP Cheese Options

If you’re following a low FODMAP diet and concerned about the lactose content in cream cheese, there are alternative options available. These include:

  1. Lactose-free cream cheese: Several brands offer lactose-free cream cheese made with lactase enzyme, which breaks down lactose into more easily digestible sugars. This can be a suitable choice for those who are lactose intolerant or following a strict low FODMAP diet.
  2. Strained Greek yogurt or labneh: These options are made by straining regular yogurt to remove most of the whey and lactose, resulting in a thick, creamy, and low FODMAP product that can be used as a substitute for cream cheese.
  3. Aged and hard cheeses: Cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, and feta have minimal lactose content due to the aging process, making them low FODMAP options. However, these cheeses have different flavors and textures than cream cheese, so they may not be suitable as direct substitutes in all recipes.

Several recipes featuring cream cheese as a low FODMAP ingredient can be found online. Some popular options include:

  • Low FODMAP Cream Cheese Pie Crust link: Made with gluten-free flour and lactose-free cream cheese, this pie crust is a delicious option for those following a low FODMAP diet.
  • Low FODMAP Cream Cheese Frosting link: This frosting is a fantastic topping for cakes, cupcakes, and other delectable treats. It is made using lactose-free butter and cream cheese.
  • Low FODMAP Carrot Cake link: Lactose-free cream cheese frosting on the sweet spiced cake.

Can I eat cheesecake on a low FODMAP diet?

Traditional cheesecake recipes often contain high FODMAP ingredients, such as cream cheese, sour cream, and graham cracker crust. However, it is possible to make a low FODMAP cheesecake by using lactose-free cream cheese or strained Greek yogurt, gluten-free crust, and a low FODMAP sweetener like maple syrup or stevia.

Are other dairy products low FODMAP?

Some dairy products are low FODMAP, while others are not. Lactose is the primary FODMAP found in dairy products, so lactose-free or low-lactose options are generally suitable for a low FODMAP diet. Examples include lactose-free milk, hard cheeses, and lactose-free yogurt. It’s essential to check the ingredients and serving sizes for dairy products to ensure they fit within the low FODMAP guidelines.

What other low FODMAP spreads can I use instead of cream cheese?

If you’re looking for low FODMAP alternatives to cream cheese, consider the following spreads:

  1. Almond butter: Almond butter is a nut-based spread that is low in FODMAPs and can be used as a substitute for cream cheese. It is also a good source of healthy fats, proteins, and essential nutrients.
  2. Sunflower seed butter: Sunflower seed butter is another low FODMAP option that can be used as a spread or in recipes. It is rich in healthy fats, proteins, and vitamins.
  3. Lactose-free sour cream: Lactose-free sour cream is a suitable alternative for those who enjoy the tangy flavor of cream cheese. It can be used as a spread or in recipes that call for cream cheese.
  4. Hummus (in moderation): While chickpeas are considered high FODMAP, a small serving of hummus (about 2 tablespoons) can be included in a low FODMAP diet. Opt for a homemade version or a store-bought option without garlic and onion to ensure it fits within the dietary guidelines.

Look for the Food Label

When following a low FODMAP diet, it’s essential to be aware of the carbohydrate content in the foods you consume.

A low total carbohydrate on a food label does not necessarily mean the product is low FODMAP. Although FODMAPs are a type of carbohydrate, not all carbohydrates are FODMAPs. A product with low total carbohydrates might still contain high FODMAP ingredients.

Here are some steps to help you navigate nutrition labels effectively:

  1. Locate the Nutrition Facts panel: Typically found on the side or back of packaged food products, this label provides essential information about the ingredients, serving size, and nutrient content.
  2. Identify the carbohydrate section: Within the Nutrition Facts panel, look for the section that lists the total carbohydrate content per serving. This section often includes information about dietary fiber, sugars, and added sugars.
  3. Check for high FODMAP ingredients: In addition to the carbohydrate content, review the ingredients list for potential high FODMAP components such as fructose, lactose, inulin, or sugar alcohols (e.g., sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol). Others such as sweeteners (honey, corn syrup, agrave), onion, garlic, wheat, barley, and rye.
  4. Compare products: When shopping for low FODMAP alternatives, compare the carbohydrate content and ingredient lists of various products. Opt for those with lower FODMAP ingredients and overall carbohydrate content.
  5. Monitor your serving size: Be mindful of the serving size listed on the nutrition facts label, as consuming larger portions may inadvertently increase your FODMAP intake, potentially leading to gastrointestinal symptoms.

By following these actionable steps and paying close attention to the carbohydrate content and ingredients listed on nutrition fact labels, you can make informed choices that align with your low FODMAP dietary needs and help maintain optimal gastrointestinal health.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese: Carbohydrate Content (by lactose)

The carbohydrate content is a good reference for lactose which is linked to fodmap. Below are carbohydrates data for different varieties of Philadelphia cream cheese (1 ounce or 28 grams) obtained via the USDA FoodData Central:

  • Original – 1 gram
  • Fat-Free – 2.6 grams
  • Spread – 1.8 grams
  • CoolWhip Frosting – 12.6 grams
  • Whipped – 2.6 grams
  • Reduced-Fat – 2.7 grams
  • 1/3 Reduced-Fat – 1.8 grams
  • Chipotle – 2.7 grams
  • Honey Spread – 2.7 grams
  • Black Cherry Spread – 4.4 grams
  • Chive & Onion – 1.8 grams
  • Garlic & Herb – 2.7 grams
  • Peach Spread – 6.2 grams
  • Strawberry Spread – 4.4 grams
  • Blueberry Spread – 5.3 grams
  • Pineapple Spread – 4.4 grams
  • Garden Vegetable Spread – 1.8 grams
  • Honey Butter Spread – 3.5 grams
  • Honey Pecan Spread – 5.2 grams
  • Pumpkin Spice Spread – 4.4 grams
  • Smoked Salmon Spread – 1.8 grams
  • Spicy Jalapeno Spread – 2.7 grams
  • Spinach & Artichoke Dips – 2.8 grams
  • Mixed Berry Whipped Spread – 6.4 grams
  • Brown Sugar & Cinnamon – 6.9 grams
  • Black Bean & Corn Dips – 2.8 grams
  • Neufchatel – 1 gram
  • Chocolate Spread – 8.9 grams

Most are in the range of about 1-2 grams. Some flavors such as chocolate, blueberry, honey pecan, brown sugar & cinnamon are higher in carbs.

To ensure you’re making appropriate low FODMAP choices, always check the ingredients list, use resources like the Monash University FODMAP Diet App or the FODMAP Friendly App, and consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist with experience in the low FODMAP diet for guidance.

Sum up

Essentially, cream cheese can be included in a low FODMAP diet, as long as the recommended serving size of 2 tablespoons (40 grams) is followed.

However, it is essential to be mindful of the lactose content in different brands and choose lactose-free options if necessary. There are also alternative low FODMAP cheese options and spreads available for those seeking variety or a more suitable option for their specific needs.

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