If you’re following a low FODMAP elimination diet for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), opting for low FODMAP candy and chocolate may significantly help prevent unwanted IBS symptoms. (This golden nugget is pretty useful to know during special occasions like birthdays, Halloween, and the holidays!)
But given the dysfunctional dynamic between IBS and sugar from a holistic health standpoint, most mainstream candy (even the low FODMAP stuff) isn’t usually “gut healthy” if you’re hoping to go beyond symptom management on your gut-healing journey.
In this article I’ll share a round-up of what I believe are the healthiest candies for gut health (and why), speaking as a holistic-minded gut health dietitian, functional nutritionist, and former IBS sufferer.
Disclaimer: This post contains general information, not meant to replace dietary advice. And the information provided in this article is not exhaustive! Make sure you’re working with a FODMAP-informed gut health dietitian nutritionist to receive custom advice tailored to your individual needs!
Affiliate disclosure: This article contains affiliate links (marked with a * symbol). As an Amazon Associate, I will make a small commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you!
Table of Contents
What makes candy and chocolate high or low FODMAP?
For the most part, it’s the type(s) of sugar and sweeteners in candy that determines whether a candy will be high or low in FODMAPs (aka “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols”).
- As a quick refresher, FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are most likely to ferment in the gut, and/or pull water into the colon, triggering IBS symptoms like gas, bloating, cramps, and/or diarrhea.
Wheat (enriched all purpose flour) and milk are also high FODMAP ingredients to look out for.
So the lower the FODMAP content of the ingredients in candy, the more likely a candy is to be low FODMAP.
Common high FODMAP sugars and sweeteners in candy
Examples of high FODMAP sweeteners commonly found in candy can include high fructose corn syrup, fructose, honey, xylitol, and high quantities of coconut palm sugar.
Common low FODMAP sweeteners in candy
The most common types of low FODMAP sweeteners in candy include, but aren’t limited to:
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Cane sugar
- Cassava syrup
- Corn syrup
- Date sugar (up to 15 grams)
- Evaporated cane juice
- Evaporated cane syrup
- Invert sugar
- Invert syrup
- Maple syrup / maple sugar
- Sucralose (Splenda)
(Get my full low-down on low FODMAP sweeteners here!)
What makes candy and chocolate IBS-friendly and gut-healthy?
From a symptom management standpoint, low FODMAP candy is usually a safer option for IBS sufferers – but it’s not that simple!
In the context of candy, it isn’t really necessary to stick exclusively to low FODMAP candy unless you have a fructose intolerance (since the majority of high FODMAP sweeteners contain fructose).
- An exception would be sugar alcohols (like xylitol) which are high FODMAP but not high in fructose.
On the other hand, “low FODMAP” isn’t always enough of a parameter to make a candy gut-healthy or IBS-friendly.
For example, while corn syrup is low in FODMAPs, it could still worsen IBS for folks with a candida overgrowth, dysbiosis, and/or an underlying corn sensitivity,
So, NOT all low FODMAP sweeteners are beneficial for IBS, from a holistic health standpoint!
If your IBS is rooted in candida overgrowth and/or dysbiosis (like the majority of my private practice clients), you may also want to consider candy made with Paleo sweeteners.
- Paleo sweeteners (like honey, cassava syrup, dates, and maple syrup) exist in nature. They seem to be more beneficial for the gut microbiome (your unique ecosystem of microbes in your gut) compared to their more processed counterparts (like corn syrup, Splenda/”sucralose”, and even white sugar).
On the other hand, if you have what you THINK is IBS-D, but you’re actually dealing with something like a sucrose intolerance, you may actually find that low FODMAP candy (which is very high in sucrose) will make you feel WORSE!
- If you have a sucrose intolerance, you’re best off looking for low sucrose candy sweetened with only high-fructose sweeteners like honey, agave nectar, or non-nutritive sweeteners free of sucrose (like monk fruit or stevia leaf extract).
(FYI – There are DOZENS of possible root causes of IBS, going far beyond the scope of this article. If you’d like some extra guidance cracking your code, we spend a few weeks discussing this in Module 1 of my online course, the Complete Gut Repair Roadmap!)
In a nutshell, candy is ultimately more IBS-friendly and gut-healthy if it meets the following criteria:
- More natural and less processed
- Low in added sugar
- Low or free of your unique food/chemical sensitivities and food intolerance triggers
The best low FODMAP candy and chocolates for IBS (list)
There are boatloads of low FODMAP candy options out there – but most people don’t realize that mainstream candy is made with stuff that will feed and exacerbate dysbiosis, as mentioned earlier.
Below is a list of my favorite low FODMAP candy and chocolate on the market (as of Halloween season 2023), based on a combination of the above criteria as well as my research using the Monash University FODMAP App.
(While I’m not endorsing added cane sugar as a health food, it’s one of those scenarios where there are very limited options within low FODMAP parameters, so we need to pick our battles!) 😉
You’ll notice I’ve chosen to feature low FODMAP candy that is made with less added sugar overall, less processed sugar, and more organic, natural ingredients compared to conventional alternatives.
Low FODMAP chocolate
Chocolate with peanut butter cups / nut butter / sunflower seed butter
Low FODMAP Gummies
Candy, chocolate, and IBS: Other factors to consider
Keep in mind one size doesn’t fit all, so I’m not guaranteeing that you’ll be able to tolerate anything on this list. But hopefully it can give you some guidance and a framework around what to start looking for in candy!
Generally speaking, the less added sugar and the less refined sugar/chemicals in your candy and chocolate, the better for your gut and immune system on a physical level.
But it’s also important to consider your mental health. Where can you be flexible while still achieving your health goals? Where would you like to draw the line? What does moderation look like for you? You get to decide, my friend!
There are also a few other factors to consider, like:
- Sucrose intolerance: do you have congenital sucrase-isomaltase deficiency (CSID) or an acquired sucrose intolerance? If so, you’ll need to lean more on low sucrose, high fructose candy.
- Histamine intolerance (chocolate is a high-histamine food, and it’s hit-or-miss for folks with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and histamine intolerance)
- Sulfur intolerance (chocolate also contains significant quantities of sulfur, so isn’t suitable for people with hydrogen sulfide SIBO)
- Tyramine restriction (if you’re taking a Monoamine Oxidase inhibitor / MAOI medication, you’ll need to avoid chocolate)
- Caffeine sensitivity (chocolate contains caffeine)
- Disordered eating (IBS and eating disorders can be complex. Make sure you’re making choices that support a healthy relationship with food!)
- Food allergies and sensitivities (i.e. do you have a corn sensitivity? If so, you’ll need to look out for corn-derived ingredients)
Nutrition and gut health are complex, so I just wanted to share examples of why one size doesn’t fit all!
Frequently asked questions
What’s the best chocolate for IBS and gut health?
From a holistic and functional nutrition standpoint, the best types of chocolate candy for IBS and gut health would generally be any type made with natural, minimally processed sweeteners and which align with your bio-individual needs.
This is because natural sweeteners (like Paleo sweeteners) are less likely to feed dysbiotic (unhealthy) gut microbes (fructose/sucrose intolerances aside), and they’re also more likely to feed beneficial microbes in the gut.
I love the following chocolates (which aren’t all low FODMAP but they’re sweetened with Paleo sweeteners like cassava syrup, raw honey, and coconut sugar):
- Honey Mama’s chocolate*
- UNREAL dark chocolate coconut bars*
- Heavenly Organics honey patties*
- Raaka chocolate*
- HU chocolate*
- Dr. Bronner’s chocolate*
- Eating Evolved chocolate*
Is chocolate low FODMAP?
It depends! Cocoa powder and cacao powder (the main ingredients in chocolate) are inherently low FODMAP.
However, commercially-made chocolate can contain any type of sweeteners, milk, or other additives which may or may not be low FODMAP.
Make sure you’re reading the ingredient list and/or checking a FODMAP app to know for sure.
Is dark chocolate low FODMAP?
Dark chocolate is more likely to be low FODMAP compared to milk chocolate (since the lactose in milk is a FODMAP).
However, this doesn’t mean you’re in the clear! Dark chocolate can still be sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, erythritol, and/or other high FODMAP ingredients.
Is candy corn gluten free?
Yes! Candy corn is 100% gluten free – even the stuff that is more conventional. But this doesn’t mean it’s IBS friendly!
My favorite candy corn for IBS is Yum Earth’s organic candy corn.
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- Beans and IBS: Expert Advice on Enjoying Low FODMAP Beans & Legumes
- Expert Guidance on Finding & Choosing a Low FODMAP Bread
- 50+ Tasty Low FODMAP Snacks for IBS
- What’s the Best Milk for IBS Sufferers?
- IBS and Sugar – A Holistic Perspective
- Spilling the Tea on Splenda (Sucralose) and IBS
- Honey for IBS: The Pros & Cons
- Are Stevia and IBS Compatible?
- Monk Fruit and IBS
- Is Maple Syrup Low FODMAP? (Expert Advice on Maple Syrup and IBS)
While low FODMAP candy and chocolate is a nice framework to start, it doesn’t necessarily address the root cause of your IBS.
If your low FODMAP candy is sweetened with corn syrup or regular sugar, it could be doing more harm than good for your gut microbiome.
This is where natural, minimally processed sweeteners (like raw honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar) can make great options. So the best candy and chocolate for IBS could be considered a fusion of Paleo and low FODMAP. But it really depends on your bio-individuality.
(Do you have a fructose intolerance? If so, you should steer clear of candy sweetened with large quantities of honey! Or if you have a sucrose intolerance, cane sugar, maple, and coconut sugar are not your friends.) 😉
The key is to find your “sweet spot’ (pun intended) by going with whatever types of natural sweeteners you tolerate best.
Refer to the lists provided in this article as much as you’d like, but please note this list is not exhaustive by any means. There are lots of wonderful companies out there nowadays!
Do your research, try them out, and make sure you’re always looking at the ingredient list before trying something new to minimize the chances of an adverse reaction.
Vote with your dollar to support the candy and chocolate companies you love most.
Lastly, make sure you’re also listening to your body and working with a gut health dietitian (as needed) for custom guidance!
If you’d like to learn more about how to navigate IBS from a holistic root-cause approach, let’s stay in touch! Download a copy of my free gut health nutrition guide (5 Common IBS Diet Mistake to Avoid When Healing Your Gut) to join my email list and get weekly tips & inspiration.
XO – Jenna