Calcium Supplements: How to Choose the Best One for You

By The Captain August 4, 2020


Calcium is an essential mineral for the human body, serving many important functions such as bone health, cardiovascular health, muscle contraction, the transmission of information via the nervous system, and so on. It is the most plentiful essential mineral in our bodies, most of it stored in bones and teeth.

Diet is the best way to secure your calcium intake and most of the calcium in the American diet comes from dairy products. Can’t help but remember my mother’s mantra, “milk makes healthy bones”. When your diet alone cannot provide the necessary amounts of calcium, you can also opt for calcium supplements.

Choosing the right calcium supplement might be challenging, especially with so many products on the market, but before dealing with this matter, let’s make sure we know everything there is to know about calcium in general.


The benefits of calcium

First of all, we need calcium to build bones and keep them strong and healthy. Apart from the bones, the heart, muscles and nervous system require calcium as well to run smoothly.

According to a 2010 study, “adequate calcium throughout life, as part of a well-balanced diet, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis”. For more on this subject, check out Osteoporosis: Surprising Causes and Effective Ways to Fight It.

Other studies suggested that there’s a positive connection between calcium intake and the risk of kidney stones. In combination with vitamin D which helps absorb minerals, calcium has been found to help reduce the risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and various types of cancer such as prostate cancer. Further research is required, however, in this respect.


Calcium requirements

The amount of calcium each person needs mainly depends on age and sex. The Food and Nutrition Board established the RDAs for the amounts of calcium required for healthy people.

Calcium: Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults
Men Daily RDA Daily upper limit
19-50 years 1,000 mg 2,500 mg
51-70 years 1,000 mg 2,000 mg
71 and older 1,200 mg 2,000 mg
Women Daily RDA Daily upper limit
19-50 years 1,000 mg 2,500 mg
51 and older 1,200 mg 2,000 mg


Where should you get your calcium from?

Your body cannot make calcium, so you must get it through other sources. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods. … Foods in nutrient-dense forms contain essential vitamins and minerals and also dietary fiber and other naturally occurring substances that may have positive health effects. In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise may be consumed in less-than-recommended amounts.”

Calcium can be procured from various foods, such as:

  • Dairy products, such as cheese, milk and yogurt
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli and kale
  • Calcium-fortified foods and drinks, such as tofu, soy products, cereal and fruit juices
  • Fish with edible soft bones, such as sardines and canned salmon


Who should consider calcium supplements?

If you have a healthy and balanced diet, you should be alright with your calcium intake. However, if you belong to one of these categories, you might need to include a calcium supplement in your diet:

  • Vegans
  • Lactose-intolerant or people with dairy allergies
  • People who consume large amounts of protein or sodium
  • Have osteoporosis
  • Suffer from certain bowel or digestive diseases that prevent you from absorbing calcium properly


Types of calcium supplements

When it comes to calcium supplements, you will probably see these two common forms mostly everywhere: calcium carbonate, which is 40 percent elemental calcium, and calcium citrate, which is 21 percent elemental calcium. Other types of calcium in supplements include calcium lactate, with 13 percent elemental calcium and calcium gluconate, with 9 percent elemental calcium.


How to choose the best calcium supplement for you

Many people opt for calcium carbonate because it’s less expensive and provides a higher amount of elemental calcium, without the need to take that many pills. This type of supplement is best taken with meals because it needs more stomach acid for absorption.

On the other hand, if you suffer from low stomach acid, the recommended supplement is calcium citrate. It absorbs faster, with or without the help of food.

Calcium supplements can be found in various forms such as pills, tablets, chews, liquids and powders. If you simply can’t swallow pills (I can’t do it for the life of me!), you should choose a form that makes the calcium supplementation process easier for you.

When it comes to tolerability, calcium citrate is known to cause less gas, bloating and constipation than calcium carbonate. In order to find the supplements that suits you best, you might need to try several products.

In terms of quality and price, due to the fact that there are various manufacturers, calcium supplements may have different costs. Calcium carbonate is usually cheaper than calcium citrate, but all in all, all supplements have to meet certain safety and quality criteria. Pay attention to the label to see the amount of elemental calcium in each supplement compared to the total weight of the entire capsule.

The most important thing when choosing a calcium supplement? Do not take anything without talking to your doctor first, especially if you are taking any prescription drugs or have an underlying condition.

That being said, here’s our top 4 calcium supplements:

Top 4 calcium supplements

Nature Made Calcium

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This supplement provides 750 mg of calcium carbonate along with vitamin D and K, to support healthy bones and lower the risk of osteoporosis. It leaves no bad aftertaste and has no side effects, according to its manufacturers. It is gluten-free and certified by NSF International, which means it complies with strict standards. The tablet may be a little too big for some people to swallow.


Life Extension Calcium Citrate

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This product is manufactured by Life Extension, a company known for its high-quality products. It has no extra ingredients, which means you get 200 mg of pure calcium citrate, which absorbs quickly. More than that, it also has vitamin D which speeds up the absorption process and the capsules can also be taken by vegetarians.


NOW Supplements, Calcium & Magnesium

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This supplement provides a great ratio of calcium and magnesium to help you meet your daily recommended intake of both minerals. Unlike other supplements, it includes a combination of calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, and calcium ascorbate and offers 1,000 mg of calcium per serving. It is vegan, kosher and soy-free, which makes it perfect for many categories of people. The pills, however, are a bit larger than average.


Kirkland Signature’s Calcium

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These calcium gummies solve the problem when it comes to having difficulties swallowing. They are very palatable and provide 500 mg of calcium, along with vitamin D to facilitate absorption. The product has also been tested by the USP as well as a third-party, therefore it meets the quality and purity criteria.

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Wellness Captain