Last modified on January 21st, 2023
A Guide to the Best Calcium Supplements
We all need calcium, yet many of us don’t get enough. There are also so many different types of calcium supplements available that it can be challenging to know where to start looking for the right one.
Do you need a calcium supplement at all?
What Is Calcium?
Calcium is a mineral that helps build our bones and keep them strong and healthy. Beyond that, calcium has other important functions for our health.
For example, calcium is used by the blood for clotting, and it helps our heart beat and our muscles contract.
We regularly lose calcium throughout the day in different ways. For example, we lose calcium through our skin, hair, and nails, as well as urine, feces, and sweat.
Our body doesn’t produce its own calcium, so it’s important to get it from dietary sources and in some cases, perhaps take a calcium supplement.
If you’re not consuming as much calcium as your body requires, it takes it from your bones. That can lead to weak bones and bone breakage.
How Much Calcium Do You Need?
How much calcium do we need per day? It depends on your sex and your age.
- Women who are 50 and younger need 1000 mg of calcium a day
- If you’re a woman aged 51 and older, the recommended amount of daily calcium is 1200 mg
- If you’re a man and you’re under the age of 70, the recommendation is 1000 mg of daily calcium
- For men aged 71 and older, the recommended amount of calcium is 1200 mg each day
Other guidelines recommend lower amounts of calcium each day.
For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), adults need around 500 mg of calcium daily. If you’re unsure what’s right for you regarding calcium requirements, speak to your healthcare provider.
Along with bone health and strength, calcium is used in our blood to regulate hormones, including insulin. Calcium is also used to regulate the contraction and dilation of blood vessels.
Why Do We Need Calcium?
We touched on some of the reasons you need calcium above. Calcium keeps the organs and the skeletal muscles functioning properly.
Your bone density can decline when the breakdown of bone happens faster than the formation of bone. That’s why doctors believe ensuring you have enough calcium in your blood can help the body avoid removing it from the bones.
Along with calcium for bone health, vitamin D is essential as well. Vitamin D is sometimes taken with calcium for strong bones, and we also get vitamin D naturally from sunlight. Your skin’s ability to use vitamin D from sunlight goes down as you age, so as you get older, taking a vitamin D supplement may also be useful.
The recommended amount of vitamin D you should be getting each day is anywhere from 800 to 1000 IU.
Should I Take a Calcium Supplement?
Not everyone needs a calcium supplement, but some people do.
First, women are more at risk of osteoporosis than men, so women are also more likely to use calcium and vitamin D supplementsvitamin D supplement.
Older women especially may benefit from taking a calcium supplement, particularly after menopause.
You may know you don’t get enough calcium from your diet, so taking a calcium supplement may be good.
Other people who commonly benefit from a calcium supplement include:
- Vegan People
- If you eat a high-protein or high-sodium diet, your body may excrete more calcium
- Some diseases and health conditions make it more difficult for your body to absorb calcium, including inflammatory bowel disease
- If you have taken corticosteroids for a long time, you may need a calcium supplement
People with osteoporosis are also almost always advised to supplement with calcium.
Foods that are high in calcium include:
- Dairy products like cheese, milk, and yogurt
- Vegetables like kale and broccoli
- Some fortified breakfast cereals and juices
- Canned pink salmon
- Fortified tofu
- White beans
- Collard greens
What Are the Benefits of Supplements?
Along with helping your bones, there are quite a few benefits of calcium supplements and in general.
Some of the benefits of using one of the best calcium supplements include:
- After a woman goes through menopause, she may start to lose bone mass because of declines in estrogen. Studies show that when postmenopausal women take calcium supplements of usually around 1,000 mg daily, it can reduce bone loss by anywhere from 1 to 2%.
- There is some evidence that low calcium intake can be associated with high body fat percentage and body mass index. There was a study in 2016, and it showed that when overweight individuals were given a 600-mg calcium supplement daily along with vitamin D, they lost more body fat when also limiting calorie intake than people who didn’t take the supplement.
- One significant study showed calcium intake might help reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.
- Metabolic markers, which can include inflammation markers and high blood pressure may improve when calcium and vitamin D supplements are used.
What Are the Signs of Calcium Deficiency?
Calcium deficiency symptoms can occur when levels are incredibly low.
When someone has a calcium deficiency, it can be called hypocalcemia.
There are risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing hypocalcemia.
These include intolerance to foods high in calcium, certain medications that reduce calcium absorption, and hormonal changes. Genetic factors may play a role in hypocalcemia as well.
As well as these conditions, other conditions can cause problems with the body’s ability to absorb calcium and may contribute to hypocalcemia.
Examples of conditions include:
- Low vitamin D levels, making it harder for the body to absorb calcium
- Certain medications including phenobarbital and corticosteroids
- Septic shock
- Renal failure
- Some chemotherapy drugs
- Removal of tissue from the parathyroid gland
When someone is in the earliest stages of a calcium deficiency, they may not experience symptoms.
However, as the condition gets worse and becomes severe, symptoms may include:
- Memory loss
- Muscle spasms
- Numbness in the hands, feet and face
- Weak, brittle nails
- Bones that fracture easily
- Muscle cramps
- Slow hair growth
- Thin or fragile skin
If your health care provider suspects you could have a calcium deficiency, they will usually take blood and measure not only your total calcium level but also your ionized calcium level and your albumin level. Albumin is measured because it’s a protein that binds to calcium and helps move it throughout your blood.
Normal calcium levels are usually anywhere from 8.8 to 10.4 mg per deciliter, but every lab may have slightly different parameters.
Types of Supplements
You may not realize it, but when shopping for the best calcium supplements, you should know there are different types.
According to Harvard, when you take a calcium supplement, the calcium is combined with another substance which can either be carbonate or citrate.
Some multivitamins will have calcium, and they can be combined with a vitamin D supplement as well.
What Are Calcium Carbonate Supplements?
Calcium carbonate supplements are considered the best value if you’re shopping for the best calcium supplements that are also affordable.
Calcium carbonate supplements will usually have the highest amount of what’s called elemental calcium.
Calcium carbonate does require stomach acid for absorption, so you have to take this supplement with food for the best results.
For the most part, side effects of calcium carbonate tend to be fairly limited but may include gastrointestinal issues like feeling bloated or constipation.
Calcium carbonate products include Caltrate and Tums.
What Are Calcium Citrate Supplements?
One of the big benefits of a calcium citrate supplement is that it absorbs better than calcium carbonate.
You can take it on an empty stomach, but you may have to take a larger dose since these products usually have less calcium.
How to Choose a Calcium Supplement
Other considerations to keep in mind when choosing a supplement include:
- Calcium is best absorbed when you take a maximum of 500 mg at a time. If you buy a calcium supplement with 1,000 mg in a dose, split it up throughout the day. Otherwise, you’re not getting any extra benefits.
- If you take an iron supplement or levothyroxine which is used for the treatment of hypothyroidism, take them several hours either before or after you take your calcium supplement because they can interact negatively with one another.
- Elemental calcium is one of the most important things to look for as you compare the best calcium supplements. Elemental calcium is the actual amount of calcium in the supplement.
- If you’re worried about constipation, which can be a side effect of a supplement, know that calcium carbonate tends to cause this side effect most often.
- Calcium supplements are available in different forms. These options for supplements include capsules, chews, liquids, powders, and tablets. It’s really about finding what works best for you and is easiest for you to take.
Can You Take Too Much?
When you’re receiving calcium from your diet only, you don’t have to worry about having too much, but you can overdo it on calcium supplements.
Taking too much calcium can cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal side effects like constipation, and it’s not going to help your bones any more than if you took the recommended amount.
Too much can impact your body’s ability to absorb iron and zinc.
Too much calcium from dietary supplements may increase the risk of developing kidney stones and supplements can interact with certain medications.
Medications that may have negative interactions with supplements are:
- Blood pressure beta-blockers can decrease calcium absorption
- Antacids that have aluminum
- Certain cholesterol medications like colestipol
- Estrogen medicines
- Some antibiotics including tetracyclines
Tips for Taking the Top 5 Best Calcium Supplements
Before you take a calcium supplement, there are some general tips to keep in mind that will help with absorption and ensure you get the maximum effects.
- Don’t take any more than 500 mg of calcium at a time because your body can’t absorb more than that
- Don’t take more than 2,500 mg of elemental calcium a day or else you could be at risk of toxicity
- Take anywhere from 400 to 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day to support maximum calcium absorption
- Taking calcium with foods that are high in what’s called insoluble fiber, which includes bran and whole grains, can reduce your body’s calcium absorption
- Phosphoric acid, which is often in dark-colored sodas, can negatively affect your body’s ability to absorb calcium
- If you drink caffeine, it can increase the amount of calcium you lose in your urine
- Having a diet too high in sodium can impact calcium excretion, meaning your body is absorbing and using less
- Calcium can affect how well your body impacts certain drugs so speak with your doctor before you start a supplement
Calcium Supplement Reviews
Below are our reviews of the top five best calcium supplements. We’ve included some reasons we ranked them, more information about each product, and links if you’d like to purchase them.
Please remember that this list is not a replacement for medical advice from a healthcare professional.
If you’d like to learn more always speak to your doctor or qualified healthcare professional.
The Nature Made product contains up to a 300-day supply of tablets containing a combination of calcium, magnesium, and zinc along with vitamin D3.
- May help promote healthy bones, muscles, nerves, and metabolic functions.
- Adults are instructed to take a tablet one to three times a day with a meal and water.
- Each tablet includes 333 mg of calcium, 133 mg of magnesium, and 5 mg of zinc, along with 200 IU of vitamin D.
- The calcium in this supplement is derived from limestone and not oyster shells.
- According to the Nature Made company, the combined magnesium with calcium because 60% of Americans’ diets don’t include enough daily magnesium intake.
There are no synthetic dyes in this supplement, nor is there yeast or gluten.
According to customer reviews, the pills are not too big and fairly easy to swallow.
Reviews say this best calcium supplement has helped with muscle spasms and anxiety.
The Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Calcium product is one of the picks for several key reasons.
- First, it contains 386 mg of magnesium.
- It’s a plant-based supplement as well that includes a probiotic and enzyme combination for improved digestion.
- This calcium supplement includes 1600IU vitamin D3 to improve absorption and 1000 mcg of vitamin K2, which is good for bone health.
Reviews for the product say it worked well to help with bone growth, and as an added benefit, some reviewers also said it helped them with other issues such as digestive problems they were experiencing.
It’s unique to find plant-sourced calcium, as with this product.
The calcium is from organic algae, and the tablets are very small and easy to swallow.
The calcium formula from Garden of Life also includes vegan D3 derived from lichen and vitamin K2 MK7, which is also integral to bone health.
According to the makers, there is no gluten and no synthetic binders or fillers in this product.
Other ingredients in this product include organic beetroot, organic broccoli, organic carrot, and organic spinach.
According to the instructions, you should take three tablets a day with a meal and for best results, take one tablet with each meal.
Pure Encapsulations Calcium Citrate is free of additives and is hypoallergenic. For example, this product doesn’t contain gluten, artificial colors or sweeteners, GMOs, or magnesium stearate.
Each serving size, which is two capsules, contains 300 mg of calcium citrate.
You’re instructed to take two capsules anywhere from one to three times a day, and you can take them with or between meals.
As mentioned above, some people consider calcium citrate to be the optimal form to use as a supplement.
Calcium citrate can be absorbed well on an empty stomach, while calcium carbonate needs to be taken with meals because it needs the stomach acid to dissolve and then be absorbed. Some people experience constipation as a side effect of calcium carbonate as well.
With calcium citrate, even if you have low levels of stomach acid, you can still use it.
Some of the things reviewers note as to why they love this product include the size, which they compare to being similar to Tylenol and easy to swallow.
They also like the fact that it’s calcium citrate as opposed to another form, and people who have left reviews say in many cases, it doesn’t cause any stomach upset or any noticeable side effects.
According to the Naturelo Bone Strength product makers, this plant-based form of calcium is made from red algae.
Vitaminvitamin C is derived from organic acerola cherries, and plant-based vitamin D is derived from lichen.
This formulation has nine co-factors that improve absorption. These include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin K
The formula offers 600 mg of elemental calcium from two sources, neither of which are crushed limestone.
This product doesn’t contain allergens like corn, soy, or nuts and doesn’t have gluten, dairy, or eggs.
There are no additives, and the algae used to derive the calcium has been independently tested to ensure it doesn’t contain contaminants.
Reviewers say the product has helped them in different ways, including with weak, brittle nails and to improve bone and joint health.
Calcium is something we all need, and many of us might not get enough of for different reasons. The above top five best calcium supplements are all good options if you need a little extra support.
If you’re unsure, always speak to a health care professional before using any supplement, including a calcium supplement. Also, check with your doctor before beginning anything new in case it could interact with the current medications you’re taking.
As always, if you’d like to comment or share your experience with our best calcium supplements or similar products, feel free to do so below or contact us.