What Are Fructans? Everything You Need To Know About These Soluble Food Fibers

Fructans exist in abundance across the different types of food. It is, therefore, possible that you have been ingesting fructans on a daily basis without realizing it. Fructan can be found in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.

In most cases, the human body can tolerate fructan. However, in a few cases, people complain of digestive issues every time they eat foods high in this inulin fiber. According to research findings, fructan might be to blame for incessant gastrointestinal issues and food intolerance. Other studies have shown that many people think they are intolerant to gluten when fructan is the problem.

People who ever complain of abdominal pain, bloating or gas should consider reducing their fructan intake. In this write-up, we shall discuss all-about fructan and the foods in which it is commonly found.

What Are Fructans?

At the very basic, fructans are a carbohydrate type consisting of a series of chains of fructose molecules. Fructans comprise two types of soluble fiber: inulin and oligofructose. These are naturally occurring food ingredients frequently found at various percentages in dietary foods.

They exist in vegetables and fruits such as ripe bananas, garlic, artichokes, and onions as well as some types of grains and cereals. In an effort to increase the fiber content of processed foods, manufacturers sometimes add fructan.

The human body does not produce an enzyme to digest fructans. These inulin carbohydrates are never fully broken down and absorbed by the body but are fermented when they move down the gut where bacteria abound.

Generally, soluble fiber related to fructans has numerous benefits to human health. A diet that includes high amounts of fiber can protect you against obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal disorders, and coronary heart disease.

Fiber also promotes regularity in bowel movements, support satiety, and prevents constipation. Since foods containing high levels of fiber leave you feeling filled for longer, they help control appetite and hence aid weight loss.

They also have a positive effect on the body because of their probiotic, immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties, helping to prevent hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, osteoporosis and even colon cancer by reducing the risk of developing polyps.

According to a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in May 2005, oligofructose can act as a prebiotic, thereby helping to increase the number of beneficial probiotic bacteria in your digestive tract. This can help in treating and preventing frequent occurrences of certain types of diarrhea.

Another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2006 indicates that you may also experience a greater sense of satiety and less hunger after eating foods containing oligofructose.

Inulin offers health benefits as well, possibly by improving immune function, minimizing your risk of colon cancer, promoting the absorption of calcium and magnesium, and lowering your triglyceride and cholesterol levels, as reported in an article published in the British Journal of Nutrition in April 2005.

However, fructans are known to have a number of adverse effects on human health. Of course, some people can eat foods rich in fructan and come out just fine. In those who are sensitive to fructan, constipation, pain, diarrhea, and bloating are common issues.

Fructans and Gluten

Fructans and Gluten

The two are not one and the same thing. While fructans fall among the carbohydrates, gluten is a protein, mainly sourced from cereals. People with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease often experience gluten intolerance which is characterized by gas, fatigue, diarrhea, and loss of bone mass.

However, new evidence suggests that what many thought to be gluten sensitivity symptoms may come as a result of the inability to digest fructans. After all, many of the foods that contain gluten also have a high fructan content that mimics the symptoms of gluten allergy.

There is yet to be created a standard diagnosis for gluten sensitivity. People with gluten sensitivity, however, often feel relief when they reduce their gluten intake. It is not clear if that is due to reduced gluten intake or cutting on the number of fructans.

Several research studies have, however, established that increasing the intake of fructans can result in severe cases of irritable bowel syndrome. What that means is that reducing the number of fructans you ingest can bring the relief you have been yearning for.

Fructan Intolerance

Although a very common condition, intolerance to fructans is hard to diagnose and manage. Mostly, physicians use breath tests to diagnose fructan intolerance. Here the gases produced when one consumes fructans are measured.

Knowing the symptoms of fructan intolerance is key to arriving at the correct diagnosis. The following are some of the signs that you have a fructan intolerance:

•Stomach pain

•Bloating

•Gas

•Diarrhea

•Constipation

•Nausea

•Abdominal discomfort

•Cramps

Individuals who suffer from any of these symptoms are advised to reduce their intake of fructans. You may want to determine if you are sensitive to fructans through a fructan elimination diet.

Which foods are high in Fructans?

Which foods are high in Fructans?

Bread baked with Inulin

The best way to get over fructan intolerance is making changes to your diet. You need to eliminate foods with a high content of fructans from your diet. With time, you will be able to avoid the unpleasant effects it has on your digestive system and get the desired relief.

The following are some of the major food groups that contain high levels of fructans:

•Grains and bread made from wheat, barley, rye, and spelt.

•Vegetables such as artichokes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, fennel, garlic, leeks, onions, peas, and shallots.

•Fruits such as grapefruit, nectarines, persimmon fruit, ripe bananas, watermelon, and white peaches.
•Nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashew nuts, and pistachios.

•Legumes like dried chickpeas, dried lentils, dried beans, and soybeans.

•Others including instant coffee, chicory coffee, chamomile tea, fiber-rich foods, and those with high-inulin content.

Low Fructan Diet

Instead of continuing to suffer the devastating effect of a diet laden with fructans, you should consider foods that are easy for the body to digest and absorb. It is best to start by eliminating the troublesome foods and reintroducing them gradually to know which one affects you most.

To avoid the effects of fructans, the following are some of the foods that you should consider eating:

•Meats, poultry or seafood in the form of beef, chicken, canned tuna, fresh fish, lamb, and turkey.

•Bread and grains like sorghum, rice, quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat, and arrowroots.

•Vegetables such as bell peppers, cauliflower, celery, carrots, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, olives, mushrooms, olives, potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, Swiss chard, rutabaga, watercress, yams, zucchini, and sweet potatoes.

•Fruits like avocado, lemon, guava, grapes, clementines, cantaloupe, blueberries, kiwi, lime, mandarin oranges, oranges, passion fruit, papaya, raspberries, tamarind fruit, and strawberries.

•Nuts and seeds including walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, macadamia nuts, and peanuts.

•Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, beans, and tempeh.

•Other foods including regular tea and coffee.

It is possible that you are not sensitive to fructans. That essentially means that you can freely eat fructan rich foods and enjoy their benefits without worrying about any adverse effects. If you have gastrointestinal issues, you need to eliminate fructan rich foods from your diet.