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The low FODMAP diet and calcium

The low FODMAP diet and calcium

by FoodMaestro | 1 June 2016

By: Hannah Hunter, a HCPC registered dietitian trained in FODMAPs at King's College London

Whenever you make changes to your diet, it follows naturally that your intake of different nutrients will also be affected. Researchers have found that people on a low FODMAP diet tend to have lower intakes of calcium, likely due to restricting dairy products containing lactose.

As well as being important for healthy teeth and bones, calcium is involved in many important functions in the body, such as blood clotting, hormone production, muscle contractions and nerve signalling. Calcium is stored in your bones and your body is very good at maintaining the level in your blood so that it is available to use. If your dietary intake is too low, over time your calcium stores will be depleted, which can lead to thinning of the bones and osteoporosis. Your requirements will also be higher if you have certain conditions such as coeliac disease or Crohn’s disease and if you are breastfeeding or post-menopausal.

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) has a useful fact sheet that shows how much calcium you need and how to achieve this through your diet. Some foods in this leaflet are high in FODMAPs, so we have provided a few ideas of calcium rich foods below and how to find them using the FODMAP by FM app

1. Low lactose dairy products

Some dairy foods are naturally low in lactose and therefore suitable for the low FODMAP diet. For instance, hard cheeses such cheddar, edam, mozzarella, and parmesan contain minimal lactose. Most people will also tolerate up to 50ml (2tbsp) of normal milk, yoghurt or cottage cheese. Search within FODMAP app “Dairy- cheese” category to find suitable cheeses. 

2. Lactose free dairy

Lactose intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose into simpler sugars. Some dairy products have lactase added and therefore are low FODMAP. These can be found easily by selecting “Lactose Free Dairy” from the ready made Low FODMAP Lists section. 

3. Fortified milk alternatives

Many suitable dairy alternatives are available, including milks made from rice, nuts (almond/ hazelnut), oats, soya (60ml maximum), and coconut (125ml maximum). Ensure that the milk you choose has added calcium, as these are not natural sources and remember that organic varieties do not usually  have added calcium. Search for suitable milk alternatives by selecting the “Dairy” category and choosing “Non-dairy milk”. 

4. Tofu

Many varieties of tofu contain calcium sulphate or calcium chloride, which is added to help it to set. This makes tofu an excellent source of calcium, as well as a good source of protein. Remember to check on the ingredients list that the firming agent used is calcium based. For example, the Cauldron Organic Smoked Tofu would be suitable and the ingredients tab is useful to show this. 

5. Fish with edible bones

Small fish such as whitebait and certain tinned fish such as sardines and salmon have edible bones and are therefore good sources of calcium. Avoid whitebait cooked in wheat flour and tinned fish with sauces containing onion or garlic. Selecting FoodMaestro’s “Tinned” category, choosing “Fish” and typing “Sardines” into the search bar reveals over 50 different types of suitable products. 

If your intake of dietary calcium is inadequate, then you may need calcium supplements. Speak to your GP, Dietitian or hospital Consultant for individual advice.

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