The following are some of the most common questions which have been asked about calcium supplements:
What is the best type of calcium supplement? What is the best way to take it? How much should I take? Is there any risk if taking too little or too much? Are there any other benefits from taking them? Does one need to take a vitamin D3 supplement with these supplements?
There are many different types of calcium supplements available in India. Some of them are good for bone health while others may not be so beneficial. They all work differently and some may even cause harm when taken together. So, it is very important to choose the right type of calcium supplement for your needs.
It is always advisable to consult a doctor before starting any new regimen. A doctor will be able to advise you on the best choice for your needs.
Calcium Citrate vs Magnesium Oxide (MgO)
Magnesium oxide (also known as magnesium sulfate) is a white powder that resembles chalk. It comes in various forms such as tablets, capsules, lozenges and liquid solutions.
It works in a similar manner as calcium citrate and is more likely to cause diarrhea. Hence, it is not very well absorbed and is not suitable for everyone.
Calcium citrate is one of the best types of supplement that can be taken by both children and adults for stronger bones. It comes in many forms such as tablets, capsules, chewable tablets, liquid and powder.
It is a good source of absorbable calcium and has less side effects.
Calcium Carbonate vs. Oyster Shells
Calcium carbonate is a common form of supplement and can be found in many brands of calcium supplements. It comes in the form of tablets, capsules and liquid.
It contains elemental calcium and is considered to be one of the best types for strong bones. It is well absorbed by the body and carries less side effects compared to other forms such as oyster shells.
Oyster shells are a common form of calcium supplement and can be found in many multivitamins and other supplements. It however is not easily absorbed by the body.
Calcium Supplements Side Effects
The following are some side effects which may occur from taking calcium supplements:
Diarrhea, bloating, nausea, and vomiting are the common side effects that may occur. These side effects occur due to lactose intolerance in some people.
Calcium supplements may interfere with certain types of chemotherapy drugs. Hence, one should consult a doctor before taking any calcium supplement if undergoing chemotherapy.
Taking high doses of calcium supplements can lead to stomach cramps and pain, difficulty in breathing, low blood pressure, dizziness and numbness. Pregnant women should consult their doctor before taking any calcium supplement as it may affect the health of the baby.
Calcium supplements when taken in high dosages may lead to certain types of kidney stones.
People who are prone to kidney stones and other types of urinary tract problems such as bladder stones, recurrent urinary tract infections or osteoporosis should consult a doctor before taking any form of calcium supplements.
Using oyster shells as a calcium supplement can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever and chills.
How much Calcium do we need?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of Calcium keeps on varying depending on age and gender. The following are the RDA levels for Calcium:
Children between 1 – 3 years need around 400 mg of calcium daily.
Children between 4 – 8 years need around 800 mg of calcium daily.
Boys between 9 – 18 years need around 1300 mg of calcium daily.
Girls between 9 – 18 years need around 1000 mg of calcium daily.
Men between 19 – 50 years need around 1000 mg of calcium daily.
Women between 19 – 50 years need around 1200 mg of calcium daily.
Pregnant women under 19 years need around 1300 mg of calcium daily.
Pregnant women between 19 – 50 years need around 1000 mg of calcium daily.
Breastfeeding women between 19 – 50 years need around 1300 mg of calcium daily.
Calcium is present in many dairy and non-dairy products. The following list mentions few of the food sources of Calcium:
Dairy Sources of Calcium: Milk and all its products (yogurt, cheese), Cheese.
Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium: Tofu prepared with calcium sulfate, Black Beans, Bengali, cabbage, chia seeds, Citrus juice, collard greens, cooked kale, mustard greens, Okra, Pistachios, cooked spinach, Sesame seeds, Shirataki noodles, Soybeans, Soy milk prepared with calcium carbonate, Tahini.
Tips to absorb Calcium Better
The following tips will help you to absorb more calcium from your diet:
Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium in the body. You can get it from eating fatty fishes such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines or taking supplements.
Exercise also increases the ability of the body to absorb calcium.
Magnesium as well as Vitamin K enhance the absorption of calcium in the body.
Drinking milk or eating dairy products with the calcium-rich food maximizes its absorption.
Increasing your intake of Vitamin D might increase the ability of your body to absorb the calcium present in leafy greens, broccoli, and other vegetables.
Calcium is one of the most essential nutrients for a proper functioning of the body. It is needed to keep the bones and teeth strong and also for blood clotting. Calcium is important for many other functions in the body such as controlling heart beat, sending messages between nerve cells, sending messages between the brain and the muscles, allowing muscle contraction and releasing hormones.
Calcium is present in few food groups such as dairy products, fish with edible bones like sardines, canned salmon or mackerel, soymilk and tofu prepared with calcium sulphate, some leafy green vegetables like bok choy, mustard greens, collard greens and kale.
Sources of Calcium Supplements: Calcium supplements come in many forms such as tablets, capsules, chewable tablets, liquid and powder. Calcium supplements can be taken with food or without food. If you take medications, please consult your physician before taking calcium supplements as they can interact with certain medications and cause unwanted side effects.
Dosage of Calcium Supplements: There is no particular dosage of calcium supplements to recommend since it varies from person to person. The best thing to do is to consult your doctor.
The U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Calcium is as follows:
1-3 years: 700 mg/day; 4-8 years: 1,000 mg/day; 9-18 years: 1,300 mg/day; 19-50 years: 1,000 mg/day and 51+ years: 1,200 mg/day.
In case of people with digestive or kidney problems, the upper limit intake of calcium should not be more than 2,500 mg per day according to the NIH.
Foods High in Calcium: Few food items that are rich in calcium are mentioned below:
Sardines: Sardines are very good source of calcium. 100gms of sardine provides about 500mg of calcium.
Mozzarella Cheese: 50 grams Mozzarella cheese contains 121 mg of Calcium.
Canned Salmon: 100 gm Canned Salmon contains 120 mg of Calcium.
Collard Greens: 100 gm of cooked collard greens contains 102 mg of calcium.
Mustard Greens: 100 gm of cooked Mustard greens contains 101 mg of Calcium.
Bok Choy: 100 gm cooked bok choy contains 102 mg of Calcium.
Turnip Greens: 100 gm cooked turnip greens contains 101mg of Calcium.
Tofu prepared with calcium sulphate: 100 gm Tofu prepared with calcium sulphate contains 368 mg of Calcium.
Spinach: 100 gm cooked spinach contains 43mg of Calcium.
Soymilk: One cup of Soymilk contains 120 to 300mg of calcium, depending on the brand.
Orange Juice fortified with calcium: One cup of orange juice fortified with calcium, around 250 ml contains 325 mg of calcium.
Granite: One cup of calcium fortified granite contains around 200 to 300mg of calcium.
Rice Dream: One cup of rice dream prepared with low-fat soy milk and fortified with calcium, around 250 ml contains 200 mg of Calcium.
Calcium-fortified soymilk: One cup of calcium-fortified soymilk (plain or vanilla) contains around 120 to 625 mg of calcium, depending on the brand.
Cream of Wheat: One cup of cooked Cream of wheat prepared with low-fat milk contains around 100 to 150mg of calcium, depending on the brand.
Bran cereal: One cup of Bran cereal (oko, vegan, rice or wheat) prepared with low-fat milk contains around 100 to 200mg of calcium, depending on the brand.
Lactose-free milk: One cup of Lactose-free milk contains around 300 to 400mg of calcium.
Breakfast Bar: One breakfast bar (6 grams) such as Special K prepared with low-fat milk contains around 25 mg of Calcium.
Spinach Salad with Tahini Dressing: 1 cup of Spinach Salad with Tahini Dressing contains about 90 mg of Calcium.
Spinach Salad with Sesame Seed Dressing: 1 cup of Spinach Salad with Sesame Seed Dressing contains about 70 mg of Calcium.
Spinach, cooked: 1 cup of Cooked Spinach contains around 75 mg of Calcium.
Soy Yogurt: 200 gm of Soy Yogurt (plain or vanilla) contains around 300 mg of Calcium.
Broccoli: 1 cup of Broccoli contains around 45 mg of Calcium.
Tofu, raw: 100 gm of Tofu, raw contains around 120 mg of Calcium.
Black Beans: 1 cup of Black Beans contains around 60 mg of Calcium.
White beans: 1 cup of White beans contains around 60 mg of Calcium.
Almonds: 10 Almonds contain around 60 mg of Calcium.
Parsnip: 1 cup of cooked Parsnip contains around 150 mg of Calcium.
Bok Choy: 1 cup of cooked bok choy contains around 75 mg of Calcium.
Tahini: 2 Tablespoons of Tahini contains around 200 mg of Calcium.
Figs: 1 cup of Dried Figs contains around 700 mg of Calcium.
Tofu, Firm: 100 gm of Tofu, Firm (cooked) contains around 300 mg of Calcium.
Pineapple: 1 cup of Pineapple contains around 300 mg of Calcium.
Note: The daily recommended allowance of calcium in adults is 1000 to 1300 mg.
Note: The daily recommended allowance of calcium for pregnant and lactating women is 1200 mg.
Most green vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked. When eaten raw, these vegetables contain a small amount of calcium in them. When these vegetables are cooked by steaming, boiling or microwaving, the loss of calcium in these vegetables is quite low. So, you can enjoy eating your vegetables either way.
Soymilk can be used as a replacement for regular milk. It contains around 300 mg of calcium in every cup.
Collard greens can be cooked along with a little salt to enhance their flavor.
Spinach can be eaten raw or can be lightly cooked to improve its flavor. These vegetables can also be eaten with tomato sauce or with some lemon juice added to it, to give it a sour taste.
Soybeans can be eaten boiled, fried, roasted or as dahl. They can also be made into a spread and eaten with bread.
Dried Figs can be eaten as a snack or can be added to other foods such as sandwiches, salads or cereals.
Tahini can be used in place of peanut butter and can be used in recipes as a sauce or spread.
Note: Always remember to wash all vegetables thoroughly before cooking them.
Note: Peas, beans, chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), lentils and other beans are good sources of protein, but they are not considered to be a rich source of calcium.
Note: Most nuts contain high levels of calories. So, eat them in moderation. A handful a day is considered to be enough.
Note: Calcium-fortified beverages, instant breakfast powder, soy milk, tofu, some fruit juices and some cereals are some good sources of calcium.
Note: Some breakfast cereals can be good sources of calcium. Check the label for the amount of calcium in a serving of the cereal.
Note: Adding calcium to your diet does not guarantee stronger bones. You also need to do weight-bearing exercises on a regular basis.
Note: If you are taking calcium supplements, do not take more than 500 mg of elemental calcium per dose.
Note: People with kidney disease, lactose intolerance or certain medical conditions should ask their doctors before adding any supplements to their diet.
Note: 500 mg of elemental calcium = 1 quart of milk.
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