Gluten-free calcium rich foods are essential for people who are living with gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Calcium is vital to health bones, pregnancy, nerve function, and more. And not getting enough calcium on a gluten-free diet can lead to a world of trouble.
So let’s talk about why calcium is important for celiac, gluten-free foods that have calcium, and gluten-free calcium-rich recipes to make to increase intake.
Gluten-free calcium-rich foods are important for celiac disease because people with celiac are at high risk of depleted calcium stores. This is directly linked to bone health complications with celiac disease.
Additionally, it’s common to see lactose intolerance in celiac disease. This causes many celiacs to avoid dairy products, and thus avoid a huge source of calcium in their diet, making calcium even more important.
Furthermore, calcium is essential for women’s health with celiac, bone health, healthy celiac pregnancy, nerve function, muscle function, maintaining healthy teeth, and more. Additionally, your blood needs a certain amount of calcium in it in order to maintain homeostasis. Your body prioritizes homeostasis in your blood over maintaining calcium storage in your bones.
This leads us to how celiac impacts calcium absorption and status…
Calcium-rich gluten-free foods are essential with celiac disease because active celiac disease can impair calcium absorption.
This is because when a celiac eats gluten, the duodenum portion of the small intestine is damaged. The duodenum is a key absorption site for calcium, iron, magnesium, and other nutrients. If this site is damaged, then it’s hard for the body to absorb enough calcium.
If the body is not absorbing enough calcium, it will pull calcium from your bones to maintain homeostasis in the blood. This can result in bone density complications.
Additionally, the duodenum is the key site for vitamin D absorption too. Thus, this damage could lead to vitamin D deficiency with celiac disease. And so, it is important to note as vitamin D assists in calcium absorption. Further straining the body’s ability to access dietary calcium.
Because celiac disease makes it hard for the body to uptake calcium, gluten-free calcium-rich foods are essential to a balanced celiac diet. This means a gluten-free diet including dairy products, calcium-fortified foods, dark leafy greens, and certain fruits like figs, papayas, and oranges can help boost your calcium intake. Sesame, flax, and chia seeds also have some calcium in them.
It’s also important to note that both fat and vitamin D help boost calcium absorption. Eating a combination of foods that contain these nutrients can be powerful.
You might also consider taking a gluten-free calcium supplement to further support your calcium status.
Gluten-free calcium-fortified foods can be another great way to improve your calcium intake. Calcium-fortified foods include non-dairy milk alternatives (think soy or almond milk), orange juice, and some cereals.
Be careful with fortified cereals, as some say they are gluten-free but are not suitable for celiac. A perfect example of this would be cheerios, as they contain oats but no gluten-free certification (learn more about the celiac safety of oats here).
Some gluten-free fortified cereals include Kix, Rice Chex, and Corn Chex.
Recipes rich in calcium will be recipes that feature gluten-free calcium-rich foods. Remember, these products generally include milk and non-dairy milk alternatives, dark leafy greens, figs, papayas, oranges, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds. Of note, some legumes like beans, almonds, and peanuts have calcium in them too.
Kicking the list off right with gluten-free calcium-rich breakfast recipes.
Looking for some gluten-free lunches and dinners full of calcium-packed foods? Here are some of my calcium filled favorites:
Gluten-free calcium supplements can be helpful for those struggling to eat enough calcium on a gluten-free diet. It also can be helpful for those who need supplementation to support their bone density.
Keep in mind that calcium supplements should only be used if needed. In general, food sources are safer when it comes to calcium intake.
There are two common calcium supplements, calcium carbonate, and calcium citrate.
Calcium carbonate may not be as effective if you have low stomach acid. Additionally, it often causes more side effects than calcium citrate.
If you and your healthcare team decide supplementation is the right route for you, remember, absorption of calcium supplements is usually better if taken with food.
If you are having symptoms, consider discussing with your healthcare team about switching the type of calcium or taking smaller doses throughout the day.
Also, know that many antiacid products in drug stores use calcium carbonate to alleviate heartburn. So you may be getting calcium from these products as well and that should be considered when considering a calcium supplement.
If you’re looking for a gluten-free calcium supplement, pure encapsulations is certified gluten-free by GFCO and has a calcium citrate option.
Looking to increase your calcium intake without gluten or dairy. A lot of the breakfast cereals and some enriched wheat flours are fortified with calcium. This makes some calcium sources off-limits for those who are gluten-free.
On top of that, dairy products, one of the largest calcium-rich food groups, are eliminated when dairy-free. Further making getting enough calcium without gluten or dairy a challenge.
However, if planned right, you can totally follow a gluten-free and dairy-free diet that provides enough calcium. In general, you want to incorporate fortified non-dairy milk alternatives, orange juice, oranges, figs, dark leafy greens, legumes, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds into your diet. If you can pair those foods with plant-based sources of vitamin D and fat, you’re in even better waters.
Need help balancing a gluten-free diet? Work with a celiac dietitian to make sure you’re eating to heal, address nutrient deficiencies, and feel better.
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