Best Source Of Calcium Citrate

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What you should know about taking calcium to boost your nutrients

choosing a calcium supplement

Experts agree that the ideal way to get the nutrients you need to stay healthy is from food. But when it comes to taking calcium, some people may not find it practical or possible to meet the recommended daily intake (RDI) from diet alone. For adults, the RDI is 1,000 milligrams (mg) daily, which rises to 1,200 mg per day for women over age 50 and men over age 70.

If your doctor advises you to take a calcium supplement, how do you choose among the dizzying array of available choices, which include pills, chewable tablets, flavored chews, and liquids? The following information may help you decide.

What form of calcium?

The calcium in supplements is found in combination with another substance, typically carbonate or citrate. Each has benefits and downsides. Calcium carbonate supplements tends to be the best value, because they contain the highest amount of elemental calcium (about 40% by weight). Because calcium carbonate requires stomach acid for absorption, it’s best to take this product with food. Most people tolerate calcium carbonate well, but some people complain of mild constipation or feeling bloated. Some well-known calcium carbonate products include Caltrate, Viactiv Calcium Chews, Os-Cal, and Tums.

Calcium citrate supplements are absorbed more easily than calcium carbonate. They can be taken on an empty stomach and are more readily absorbed by people who take acid-reducing heartburn medications. But because calcium citrate is only 21% calcium, you may need to take more tablets to get your daily requirement. Calcium citrate products include Citracal and GNC Calcimate Plus 800.

How much calcium per serving?

Reading the labels with an eye toward cost and convenience may help you sift through your options. Check the serving size and the “% Daily Value” for calcium and multiply the percentage by 10 to find out how much elemental calcium the product contains. For example, if the label says a serving of the product contains 40% of the Daily Value, it has 400 mg of elemental calcium.

While products that yield a high amount of calcium may seem to be the best bet at first blush, they may not serve you best. Because your body has difficulty absorbing more than 500 mg of calcium at a time, more of the mineral may go to waste. So, while you may think that you’ve met your daily requirements by taking that 1,000-mg calcium pill, you may actually be only halfway to your target. Calculate your cost per serving based on how many tablets or chews the package contains, and consider whether you might find it inconvenient to take several tablets a day.

Here are some final tips for choosing and taking calcium supplements as found in the Harvard Special Health Report Osteoporosis: A guide to prevention and treatment:

  • Avoid products made from unrefined oyster shell, bone meal, dolomite, or coral, as they may contain lead or other toxic metals.
  • Don’t exceed the daily dose recommended by the manufacturer—doing so increases the risk for side effects.
  • If you take iron or zinc supplements, tetracycline antibiotics, or levothyroxine (used to treat hypothyroidism), take them several hours before or after takingcalcium to avoid potential negative interactions.
  • Make sure you’re also getting enough vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium. If you aren’t getting enough from sunlight, your diet, or your multivitamin, you may want to choose a calcium supplement that contains vitamin D.

Increasing Calcium in Your Diet

Calcium is used by the body to make teeth and bones strong and to help blood clot. Find out how much calcium you need and how much calcium is in certain foods.

Why do I need calcium?

Calcium is a mineral that the body needs to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium allows blood to clot normally, muscles and nerves to function properly, and the heart to beat normally. Most of the calcium in your body is found inside your bones.

What if I do not consume enough calcium?

If you do not consume enough calcium, your body begins to take calcium from your bones, decreasing your bone mass and putting you at risk for osteoporosis. Inadequate calcium intake may also increase your risk for high blood pressure.

How much calcium should I consume?

The following guidelines will help ensure that you are consuming enough calcium:

1.) Try to meet these recommended amounts of calcium each day (Recommended Dietary Allowances):

 

Age Male Female Pregnant Lactating
0-6 months* 200 mg 200 mg
7-12 months* 260 mg 260 mg
1-3 years 700 mg 700 mg
4-8 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
9-13 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
14-18 years 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg 1,300 mg
19-50 years 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg 1,000 mg
51-70 years 1,000 mg 1,200 mg
71+ years 1,200 mg 1,200 mg

 

* adequate intake

2.) Eating and drinking two to four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day will help ensure that you are getting enough calcium in your daily diet. Please refer to the table (below) for examples of food sources of calcium.

3.) The best sources of calcium are dairy products, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and calcium-fortified beverages such as almond and soy milk. Calcium is also found in dark-green leafy vegetables, dried peas and beans, fish with bones, and calcium-fortified juices and cereals.

4.) Vitamin D will help your body use calcium. Some of your daily vitamin D can be obtained through regular exposure to the sun. Vitamin D is also found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish. Beef liver, cheese, mushrooms, and egg yolks also provide small amounts. Most milk is fortified with vitamin D; however, foods made from milk, like cheese and ice cream, are usually not fortified. Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and milk alternatives; check the labels.

Reading food labels:

The amount of calcium in a product is listed as the percent of daily needs based on 1000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. To calculate the milligrams of calcium, just add a zero to the percent of calcium on the label. For example, if 1 cup of milk contains 30% of calcium needs, then it contains 300 milligrams of calcium (See food label below).

How can I get enough calcium if I am lactose-intolerant?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. It causes cramping, gas, or diarrhea when dairy products are consumed. Lactose intolerance occurs because of the body’s lack of lactase, an enzyme needed to digest lactose.

Here are some suggestions to help you meet your calcium needs if you are lactose-intolerant:

  1. Try consuming lactose -free milk such as Lactaid®, or calcium-fortified soy, almond, or rice milk.
  2. You may be able to tolerate certain dairy products that contain less milk sugar, such as yogurt and cheese. Try lactose-free or low lactose cheese or cottage cheese or lactose-free yogurt.
  3. Talk to your dietitian about other lactose-reduced products.
  4. Eat non-dairy foods that are good sources of calcium, such as broccoli, dried peas and beans, kale, collard, dark green leafy vegetables, canned salmon with soft bones, sardines, calcium-enriched fruit juice, blackstrap molasses, almonds, and tofu processed with calcium.

Should I take a calcium supplement?

If you are having trouble consuming enough calcium-rich foods in your daily meal plan, talk to your physician and dietitian for suggestions.

The amount of calcium you will need from a supplement depends on how much calcium you are eating from food. Calcium supplements and some antacids containing calcium may help you meet your calcium needs. Many multi- vitamin supplements contain a limited amount of calcium. Protein powders contain variable amounts of calcium.

Factors that optimize calcium absorption:

  • Limit calcium supplements to 600 mg elemental calcium maximum at a time. Review the Nutrition Facts label, and review the serving size and amount of calcium that is provided for that serving size.
    • One calcium carbonate supplement typically provides 500-600 mg elemental calcium.
    • One calcium citrate supplement typically provides 200-300 mg elemental calcium.
  • Calcium carbonate is best absorbed when taken with food.
  • Calcium citrate is best absorbed with or without food.
  • Avoid taking calcium and iron supplements at the same time.

Sources of calcium

Dairy

 

Food (serving size) Calcium (mg)
Milk, cow’s, 8 oz. (1 cup) 250
Milk alternatives, calcium-fortified, 8 oz. (1 cup) 200-250
Yogurt, 6 oz. (3/4 cup) 250
Cheese, 1 oz. (1 cubic inch or 1 sice
Cottage cheese, 1 cup
Ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup
200
250
330
Pudding, 1/2 cup 150
Ice creame, vanilla, soft serve, 1/2 cup 125

 

Vegetables and fruit

 

Food (serving size) Calcium (mg)
Broccoli, chopped/cooked, 1 cup 60
Kale, chopped/cooked, 1 cup 95
Mustard greens, chopped/cooked, 1 cup 125
Collard/turnip greens/*spinach, chopped/cooked, 1 cup 122
Juices, calcium-fortified, 1/2 cup 100

 

*Limited absorption

Protein

 

Food (serving size) Calcium (mg)
Tofu, processed with calcium, 1/2 cup 200
Dried beans (soaked, cooked, or canned), 1 cup 180
Salmon, canned, with bones, 3 oz. 180
Sardines, canned, with bones, 2 fish 92

 

Grain

 

Food (serving size) Calcium (mg)
Dry cereal, calcium-fortified, 3/4-1 cup 100
Hot cereal, calcium-fortified, 1 cup 150
English muffin, calcium-enriched, 1 piece 100

 

Nuts, Seeds, Misc.

 

Food (serving size) Calcium (mg)
Almonds, whole, 1/4 cup 100
Sesame seeds, whole dried, 1 Tbsp. 88
Molasses, blackstrap, 1 Tbsp. 65

Calcium is important for bone health throughout your life. Although diet is the best way to get calcium, calcium supplements may be an option if your diet falls short.

Before you consider calcium supplements, be sure you understand how much calcium you need, the pros and cons of calcium supplements, and which type of supplement to choose.

The benefits of calcium

Your body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Your heart, muscles and nerves also need calcium to function properly.

Some studies suggest that calcium, along with vitamin D, may have benefits beyond bone health: perhaps protecting against cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. But evidence about such health benefits is not definitive.

The risks of too little calcium

If you don’t get enough calcium, you could face health problems related to weak bones:

  • Children may not reach their full potential adult height.
  • Adults may have low bone mass, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis.

Many Americans don’t get enough calcium in their diets. Children and adolescents are at risk, but so are adults age 50 and older.

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