I think I need a calcium supplement. Which ones are best?

Calcium is an important part of a healthy meal plan. It has numerous functions such as building and maintaining bone and teeth health, aids in nerve transmission, and helps to regulate the heart’s rhythm. We need to make sure we are getting enough every day in order to reduce our risk of weak or brittle bones. Men and women require ~1,000-1,200 mg per day.

The two main forms of calcium supplements are calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. The calcium citrate contains approximately 21 percent of elemental calcium and the calcium carbonate contains around 40 percent of elemental calcium. This is important because the elemental calcium is the actual amount of calcium that is in the supplement (which our body absorbs to strengthen our bones). Because calcium carbonate contains the most elemental calcium (and is the cheapest) it is a popular consumer choice. However, the calcium carbonate can be very constipating so make sure you are drinking plenty of fluid along with this supplement. Calcium citrate does not contain as much elemental calcium as the carbonate, however, it is absorbed equally well when taken with or without food and is a form recommended for individuals with low stomach acid (more common in individuals 50 and older, or if taking stomach acid blockers), inflammatory bowel disease or absorption disorders.

Calcium can be found in a variety of places in the diet so no need to solely focus on taking supplements. For example, you can get approximately 415 mg of calcium in yogurt and ~380 mg in fortified orange juice. Various fortified cereals are also a good source of calcium along with cheddar cheese (305 mg), tofu (253 mg), and cottage cheese (138 mg). Your kids will likely not be excited about sardines, but they too are a good source of calcium (324 mg). Other sources that have calcium are salmon, instant breakfast drinks, pudding, kale, and turnip greens.

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