Getting adequate amount of Calcium on a low FODMAP diet

Calcium is an essential major mineral that plays critical roles in the body. It is mostly associated with bone health; however, it performs other functions in the body necessary for growth and development.

About 99% of the calcium is stored in bones and teeth supporting their structure, but the remaining 1% is very important in maintaining overall health and is found in the blood and soft tissues. Calcium is needed for muscle function, information exchange between the brain and other parts of the body via nerves, blood clotting, hormone production and maintaining normal pH balance in the body.

Our body maintains normal calcium levels in the blood and muscles all the time and uses calcium stored in bones and teeth to keep the readings in normal range.

Calcium is an essential nutrient that the body cannot make, thus it should be obtained from the diet. Inadequate calcium intake may lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis, the weakening of the bones and low bone density mass, which can result in easy bone fractures.

The amount of daily calcium intake depends on your age and gender. Look at the table below to find out how much calcium you need a day.

GenderAgeDaily calcium requirement
Adults (both men and women)19-50 years old1000mg  
Adult men51-70 years old1000mg  
Adult women51-70 years old1200mg  
Adults (both men and women)71 years old and older1200mg  

The amount of calcium absorption depends on your body needs. If your calcium needs are high, such as in postmenopausal women, the absorption increases in the small intestine; if your body doesn’t need much calcium, the absorption diminishes. In fact, our body can only absorb 500mg of calcium at one time or 30% of calcium consumed from foods. Therefore, if you are thinking to take a calcium supplement because you don’t eat dairy products, it may not be as effective as eating adequate amounts of calcium-rich foods throughout day. 

Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, are the most common sources of calcium in people’s diets. The amounts of calcium in dairy products are listed below:

FoodServing sizeAmount of calcium per serving
Yogurt, plain, low fat8 oz425 mg
Mozzarella, part skim1.5 oz333mg
Cheddar cheese1.5 oz307mg
Milk, non-fat1 cup299mg
Milk, reduced fat (2% milk fat)1 cup293mg
Milk, buttermilk, lowfat1 cup284mg
Milk, whole (3.25% milk fat)1 cup276mg
Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat,1 cup138mg
Source: National Institute of Health

Dairy is not the only source of calcium. Green leafy vegetables, fish and fortified products, such as bread and cereals, are also high in calcium and can be added to the diet to get a recommended daily amount.

Table below lists the amounts of Calcium in non-dairy products:

FoodServing sizeAmount of calcium per serving
Orange juice, calcium fortified1 cup349mg
Sardines, canned in oil, with bones3oz325mg
Soymilk, calcium fortified1 cup299mg
Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate½ cup253mg
Salmon, pink, canned, solids with bone,3oz181mg
Turnip greens, fresh, boiled½ cup99mg
Kale, fresh, cooked1 cup94mg
Chia seeds1 Tablespoon76mg
Chinese cabbage (bok choy), raw1 cup74mg
Bread, white1 slice73mg
Kale, raw, chopped1 cup24mg
Broccoli, raw½ cup21mg
Source: National Institute of Health

Some people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) may be sensitive to lactose, a carbohydrate found in dairy products, which causes them to experience gastrointestinal issues, such as bloating, excessive gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea and/or constipation. Elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet limits the intake of lactose which reduces the amount of calcium in the diet. Many people restrict all the dairy products to avoid an adverse reaction; however, low FODMAP diet is not a lactose-free diet, some lactose intake is allowed. Examples of dairy products that are also low in FODMAPs are lactose-free milk and yogurt, Swiss cheese, Brie cheese, cheddar cheese, Colby style cheese and other cheeses.

Including non-dairy sources of high calcium foods daily, such as those mentioned above, will also help to decrease the risk of developing adverse conditions, such as bone loss. When you lose your bone mass, you can’t grow it back.

Here are 5 foods that are high in calcium and can be included on a low FODMAP diet:

1.Canned fish with bones

Fish is naturally low in FODMAPs since it is made from protein, thus consuming canned fish with bones 2-3 times per week will help to increase the intake of calcium. Fish also contains anti-inflammatory omega-3, which can be beneficial for people with IBS.

2. Green leafy vegetables

Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, bok choy or collard greens, are low in FODMAP and can be used in stir fries, smoothies, salads and other dishes. They are also a great source of many minerals and vitamins needed for the body to function properly.

3. Tofu

Hard tofu is another way to increase calcium intake in the diet, and it can be sautéed, baked, stir fried, used in salads and smoothies, and even added to soups. Soft tofu is high in FODMAP and needs to be excluded from the diet.

4. Lactose-free milk and milk alternatives

Low FODMAP diet is not dairy free and drinking lactose-free milk is allowed. In addition, many nut milks, such as almond and macadamia milks, and other milk alternatives, such as rice, hemp, or oat milks are available on the market and can be substituted for cow’s milk. These milk alternatives naturally don’t contain calcium; however, they are fortified by manufacturers to increase the amount of calcium in people’s diet.

5. Fortified foods

Many people do not consume adequate amount of calcium daily, therefore, fortification of different foods helps consumers to achieve the required amount. Some popular foods that are fortified with calcium include bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, tortillas or juice and can be eaten daily.

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