Watermelon often appears on low FODMAP “do not eat” lists, but what about other melons? It’s true that watermelons are pretty bad for low FODMAPers. But what about its melon cousin, honeydew? Does honeydew deserve a bad rep, too? Or is this just a case of guilt by association?
Honeydew is not low FODMAP at normal serving sizes, due to excess fructose. One medium wedge of honeydew melon contains .45 grams of excess fructose, while one half cup of diced honeydew contains .23 grams. Both of these exceed the low FODMAP guideline of .15 grams of excess fructose per serving.
In addition, honeydew, like watermelon, contains two other FODMAPs: fructans and polyols. However, it seems that the fructan and polyol content of honeydew falls within low FODMAP guidelines. So, if you’re not sensitive to fructose, honeydew could be a possibility for you, despite having three FODMAPs.
FODMAP Content in Honeydew Melon
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As mentioned, honeydew melon has three types of FODMAPs: fructose, fructans and polyols. Fortunately, the amount of fructans and polyols in honeydew meet low FODMAP standards. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for fructose.
The presence of fructose isn’t what actually determines if a food is high or low FODMAP. Instead, it’s the amount of fructose compared to glucose that matters.
If a food has more glucose than fructose, we say it has no excess fructose. If a food has more fructose than glucose, we say it has excess fructose. It’s the amount of excess fructose that determines whether a food is low FODMAP.
Unfortunately, normal servings of fresh honeydew, such as a medium wedge or a half cup of cut fruit, have excess fructose. The table below lists the glucose, fructose and excess fructose values for honeydew melon at different serving sizes.
Glucose, Fructose and Excess Fructose in Fresh Honeydew
|1 wedge, medium||4.29||4.74||.45|
|1/2 c, diced||2.28||2.51||.23|
|1/2 c, balls||2.37||2.62||.25|
Published low FODMAP guidelines state that a food should have less than .40 grams of excess fructose per serving. However, if other FODMAPs are present in the food, it should have less than .15 grams of excess fructose.2
Since small amounts of both fructans and polyols are found in honeydew, I used the lower number as the excess fructose threshold. As shown in the table above, honeydew exceeds published low FODMAP guidelines for excess fructose.
The good news is that people who aren’t sensitive to fructose can probably still enjoy honeydew, even though it has other FODMAPs. That’s because the fructan and polyol content in honeydew melon is within the safe guidelines set by low FODMAP researchers.
Fructan Content in Honeydew
Fructan is the short name for fructooligosaccharides, one of the “Os” in FODMAP. If you think “fructan” sounds a bit like “fructose,” you’re right. Fructans are basically chains of fructose molecules with a glucose molecule on the end. However, fructose is a sugar, while fructans are classified as a fiber.3
There’s some debate about fructan levels in honeydew. One study I found states that the Monash app classifies honeydew as medium FODMAP due to fructan content. But that same study also cites another report that found honeydew is low for all FODMAPs.4
Concern about fructan content in food is relatively recent, so there’s not a lot of scientific research on fructans that naturally occur in foods. Fortunately, more food composition studies are starting to include data on fructooligosaccharides.
The next section describes how I estimated fructan content of honeydew based on publicly available studies.
Fructan Content in Fresh Honeydew
First, I looked for scientific studies on the fructan content of fruits. I found some studies that list fructose and polyol content in honeydew, but only one study that specifically listed fructooligosaccharide content.
According to this study, honeydew has an average of .09 grams of fructans per 100 grams of fruit.5 100 grams is the standard measure used in food composition tests and is about 3.5 US ounces.
Second, I used the average fructan value to create estimates of fructan content of fresh honeydew at different serving sizes. I figured out the amount of fructan per ounce, then multiplied this by typical serving sizes, using data from the USDA’s FoodData Central Database.6
Estimated Fructan Content in Fresh Honeydew Melon
|1 wedge, medium||5.6 ounces||.14|
|1/2 c, diced||3.0 ounces||.08|
|1/2 c, balls||3.2 ounces||.08|
|10 balls||4.9 ounces||.12|
The recommended low FODMAP fructan intake for fruit is .20 grams per serving or less.2 As shown in the table, normal serving sizes of fresh honeydew melon fall well below this standard. So, fructan content in honeydew shouldn’t an issue if you’re eating low FODMAP. But, as always, you need to test your individual tolerance.
The third FODMAP in honeydew is polyols. Here, too, honeydew falls below published FODMAP guidelines.
Polyol Content in Honeydew Melon
Polyols like xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol are found in many foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. They’re also called sugar alcohols and are used in processed foods, like chewing gum and ice cream. Since these contain sugar alcohols and not actual sugar, the products are often advertised as “sugar free” or “no sugar added.”7
Polyols are thought to create digestive issues in some people. However, since polyols are often found with other FODMAPs, it’s difficult to isolate their particular effects.8,7 Moreover, polyols aren’t usually tested in food composition studies. Because of this, it’s often difficult to find data on the polyol content of foods.
Unfortunately, honeydew isn’t included in many FODMAP studies. I was able to find just one study that specifically discussed the polyol content of honeydew melon. You can read more about that below.
Methodology for Estimating Sorbitol Content in Honeydew
First, as with fructan content, I looked for scientific reports that specifically discussed sorbitol content of fresh honeydew melon.
The best report on the subject I found is actually the one cited earlier. This report states that the sorbitol content of fresh honeydew averages .08 grams per 100 grams of fruit.5
Second, also as above, I used the average sorbitol value to create estimates of sorbitol content of fresh honeydew at different serving sizes. I calculated the amount of sorbitol per ounce, then multiplied this by typical serving sizes provided by the USDA.
Estimated Sorbitol Content in Honeydew
|1 slice, medium||5.6 ounces||.13|
|1/2 c, diced||3.0 ounces||.07|
|1/2 c, balls||3.2 ounces||.07|
|10 balls||4.9 ounces||.11|
Low FODMAP guidelines suggest keeping polyol content to less than .20 grams per serving.2 As shown in this table, normal servings of honeydew meet this standard. In fact, they all fall well below .20 grams per serving.
So, if you’re not sensitive to the fructose or fructans in honeydew, it appears this can go on your list of “good” fruits. Just remember serving size. If you eat more than standard serving sizes, you may go over FODMAP guidelines for fructans and polyols, even though these are found in low amounts in honeydew.
Final Thoughts on Whether Honeydew is Low FODMAP
Truthfully, there’s not a lot of research on the FODMAP content of honeydew melon. There is reliable data on honeydew’s fructose content, but not much agreement on the fructan and polyol content of this fruit.
At present, it seems clear enough that honeydew contains excess fructose at normal serving sizes. And, there’s some data to support the idea that honeydew has small amounts of fructans and polyols, ones that fall below published FODMAP guidelines.
Hopefully more research will be done soon to clarify the real FODMAP content of honeydew. In the meantime, if you’re not sensitive to fructose, you may want to give honeydew melon a try. There aren’t many fruits that fit on a low FODMAP eating plan, so if you like honeydew, it’s worth testing your tolerance.
You could also give cantaloupe a try. There’s no excess fructose in most normal sized servings of cantaloupe. At present, there’s no data to show cantaloupe contains fructans or polyols, either. So if you’re not sold on honeydew, cantaloupe could be a good alternative.
About the Author
Amanda Coleman, PhD, studies food culture and teaches a popular Food and Society course. Years of digestive problems led her to live low FODMAP. Now she uses her research and analysis skills to help others understand FODMAP essentials, so they can lead better, healthier lives.