Eating for Healthier Bones
When we think about coeliac disease, we automatically think gut. So many of us have had all the fun of bloating, tummy upsets, going too often or not often enough, and everything in between. Although not everyone gets the tummy symptoms, coeliac disease is really seen as a disease of digestion. But although it may start in your gut, it doesn’t end there. Long-term problems of coeliac disease can include issues with fertility, anaemia and, most importantly, bone health.
Did you know that people with coeliac disease are more likely to develop osteoporosis? Osteoporosis is when the bones become weaker and are more likely to break or fracture. Good nutrition and weight bearing exercise are essential to having strong, healthy bones. A brisk walk and a healthy diet are an amazing combination.
Why do people with coeliac disease get more osteoporosis?
Coeliac disease can make it harder for your body to absorb essential bone nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. If it took a long time for you to be diagnosed, your bones may have been without the right building blocks for years. After diagnosis, following a strict gluten-free diet makes it much easier for your body to start absorbing your food again and this is brilliant for your bones. However, you still need to take extra care with some nutrients and we take a look at what you need to do below…
We all know that we need calcium for strong, healthy bones but where is the best place to get it?
The calcium in milk, yoghurt and cheese is easily absorbed by your body and is the best place to get the calcium you need. You will also get calcium from plant milks that have calcium added. Check the label to make sure that soya, almond or other plant-based drinks have calcium added in the ingredient list. Tinned sardines are a great source of calcium as well.
You need to get 3 to 4 servings of calcium-rich foods everyday. 1 serving is:
200mls of milk (1 glass)
200mls of calcium fortified soya milk (1 glass)
1 pot of yoghurt (125g)
30g of hard cheese like cheddar (this is the size of your two thumbs)
½ tin of sardines
Aim to have 3-4 foods from this list everyday – you can have a glass of milk with meals, pour milk over your breakfast cereal and have a milky coffee like a cappuccino. Yoghurt makes a great snack or dessert – and don’t worry about the sugar – the sugar in plain yoghurt is the natural milk sugar that we don’t need to limit and even fruit yoghurts are safe to have. If you do go for the caramel-toffee-crisp-crunch dessert-type yoghurt there will be a lot of sugar but ordinary yoghurts are no problem at all.
Green Vegetables are not great for calcium…
Although green vegetables do have calcium, they do not have enough in a serving to cover you for what you need. You would have to eat 16 servings of broccoli per day to get the calcium you need or around 7 bags of rocket per day! You can certainly add these foods in but don’t count them for calcium – make sure you get your milk or fortified soya milk as well.
Vitamin D helps you to absorb the calcium that you need. Without vitamin D it is very difficult for calcium to get into your body. We are supposed to get vitamin D from the sun but Ireland is not famous for its sunny weather! Foods that are good sources of vitamin D are oily fish like salmon and mackerel as well as eggs. However, unless you are eating a LOT of these foods, you will still not get enough. People with Coeliac Disease do need to take a vitamin D supplement of 5 micrograms per day.
What about exercise?
Weight-bearing exercise encourages your body to build and maintain healthy bones. Any exercise that carries weight will help – brisk walking, Pilates, yoga, lifting weights (they don’t have to be huge!), going to the gym, and rowing are all great exercises to do.
Try to do some exercise everyday – a walk, some weights, a run, whatever you like. If you are not fit, take your time. It’s okay to start with 5 or 10 minutes and work up. Aim to get 30 minutes most days and remember that it doesn’t have to be all together – 10 minutes 3 times a day will still really help your bones.
Mini Breakfast Smoothie
This is a great way to get calcium and fruit into children. Let children make up their own versions of this to find one they really like.
- 100g of raspberries or blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- ½ banana
- 1 pot of natural or fruit yoghurt (about 125g)
- 100mls pure orange juice
Put everything in a blender and pulse until smooth. You can also use a soup blender for this.
A note on sugar: Don’t worry about the sugar in this. Small amounts of fruit juice (up to 150mls) are allowed once a day and the sugar in the natural yoghurt and fruit is not added so doesn’t count in sugars that you need to limit.
288mg of calcium (36% of the RDA)
61mg Vitamin C (75% of the RDA)
9.2g of protein
4g of fat
2.4g saturated fat
34g sugar (all natural sugar, no added sugars)
0.29g salt (all natural, none added)
Serves 2 for lunch
Hard cheese like cheddar is a great source of calcium. It is very useful if someone is lactose intolerant s it has low levels of lactose.
- 100g tin of tuna in brine
- 1 small tin of sweet corn, drained
- 4 slices of gluten free bread, lightly toasted
- 1 dessertspoon mayonnaise
- Black pepper
- 60g cheddar cheese, grated
Pre-heat the grill.
Mix the tuna, sweet corn and mayonnaise together in a bowl. Season with some black pepper. Divide the mixture between the 4 slices of bread and sprinkle over the cheddar cheese. Pop under the grill for 2-4 minutes until the cheese is melting nicely. Remove carefully from the grill and enjoy with some side salad or an apple.
8.1g saturated fat
314mg calcium (40% of the RDA)