Is a Low FODMAP Diet a Lactose-Free Diet? 5 Tips to Get Enough Calcium

Published on: 08/14/2018

Is a Low FODMAP Diet a Dairy or Lactose-Free Diet?

It is a common misconception that a low FODMAP diet is dairy- or lactose-free. It can be (if you have established that you have lactose intolerance or a milk protein allergy) but it doesn’t have to. A low FODMAP diet needs to be low in lactose as this is one of the FODMAPs that may trigger symptoms in people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

If your body does not produce enough lactase – the enzyme that can split the lactose molecule into its single sugars (glucose and galactose) – the unabsorbed lactose attracts water and travels to the large intestine undigested. Our friendly bacteria ferment it there, leading to unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.

However, if you are avoiding all dairy products, getting enough calcium in your diet might be challenging (but not impossible). So, how can you make sure you get enough calcium on a low FODMAP diet? Here are a few tips.

5 Tips to Get Enough Calcium on a Low FODMAP Diet

1. Include some dairy products if you can

Small portions of certain dairy products, such as hard cheeses and cream cheese, contain minimal amounts of lactose and can be tolerated even by people with lactose intolerance. In addition, if you include lactose-free milk, yogurt, or kefir in your diet, it’s going to be easy to meet your calcium needs. If you don’t, no worries: it is feasible to get enough calcium in your diet even without eating dairy. Many other foods are high in calcium.

2. Eat low-FODMAP legumes

For instance, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) contain good amounts of calcium. Unlike what many people think, you don’t need to completely avoid them when following a low FODMAP diet. You can only safely eat small portions of canned chickpeas, lentils, and a few other beans. See the Monash FODMAP App for the most updated list.

On the other hand, soybeans and soymilk are high in FODMAP but edamame and firm, calcium-set tofu (drained) are excellent low-FODMAP sources of calcium. Look for varieties made with calcium sulfate. A 1/2 cup of tofu can provide as much calcium as a cup of milk (or more in some varieties). Try my Colorful Asian Tofu Stirfry Recipe.

3. Go fishing

Well, you don’t really need to go fishing yourself. But if you are a pescatarian, you can enjoy canned fish with bones, especially salmon and sardines. A 3.75-ounce can of sardines gives you as much calcium as a glass of milk. The bones are small and soft and are edible, so throw them on a salad for an easy lunch.

4. Don’t forget the nuts and seeds…

Almonds and Brazil nuts are high in calcium even at the low FODMAP serving of about 10 nuts. Nuts and seeds are also used to make non-dairy milk. In addition to almond milk, other low-FODMAP varieties are hemp and macadamia. In addition, most (but not all) non-dairy milk is fortified with calcium (and vitamin D).

You may already know that chia seeds are high in fiber, but this tiny seed is also high in calcium.

4. …and the vegetables!

Kale does not need a PR campaign as a superfood (one of its many benefits is that it is high in calcium) but the less-known Bok Choy certainly does! I love the baby variety, as it is very easy and fast to prep and cook. Moreover, other low-FODMAP vegetables like broccoli and collard greens, and to a lesser extent, okra, can considerably increase your calcium intake.

In summary, you don’t need to avoid all dairy products on a low FODMAP diet. But if you happen to for other reasons, there are plenty of foods that are naturally rich or fortified with calcium to help you meet your calcium requirements. If you are not sure you are meeting your calcium needs, I can help you maximize your intake without risking unpleasant symptoms.

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I’m a registered dietitian with a passion for helping women with IBS find their way back to eating without fear of painful gut symptoms and without unnecessary diet restrictions.

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