Calcium & Calcium Supplements – A Complete Guide

Foods high in Calcium

For our moms, downing a whole glass of plain milk down our throats was the biggest achievement of her day. Even if the world turned upside down, she didn’t care and made sure that we have at least one glass of milk every day, especially in our growing-up years.

Ever wondered why? The 206 bones in our body need calcium to build and function efficiently and milk is probably the most abundant source of calcium. Hence, the obsession with milk. That brings us to the mineral in the spotlight today-Calcium.

soymilk nondairy
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The word has been thrown around for years, on food packaging, in advertisements, and on chemist shelves. Why exactly calcium is so important and what sources do we have to up our calcium intake? And oh let’s not forget the popularly debated calcium supplements. To take or not to take, that is the question. So let’s hop in and discover the myriad facets of this fascinating mineral.

The Importance of Calcium

For starters, let’s get this out of the way. Our body needs calcium for the formation and maintenance of strong bones. Our bones store around 99% of the overall calcium in our body which it supports the hardness and structure. The rest is sent into the bloodstream to carry out functions like,

  • Send messages from nerve signals between the brain and every body part.
  • Release enzymes and hormones like insulin that affect a lot of bodily functions.
  • Regulates muscle contraction and dilation.
  • Help blood vessels circulate blood throughout the body.

The body takes calcium out of the bones and releases it into the blood in order to maintain a healthy level of calcium in the blood as well. When we don’t consume enough calcium, our bones are left with too little calcium once it is taken into the bloodstream, in turn weakening them.

Not only bones, but almost every cell of our body also uses calcium in some way or the other. For our nervous system, for our normal heart rhythm, for steady muscle contraction, and for normal functioning of several enzymes in the body.

As a natural process, our body tends to release calcium every day through our sweat, urine, nails, and skin. And since our body cannot produce calcium on its own, it becomes extremely important to maintain a calcium-rich diet.

Sufficient Calcium Intake Chart

Calcium intake chart
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Apart from the above-given chart, people who fall under certain groups mentioned below are at a higher risk of calcium deficiency and they need to pay extra attention to their calcium intake.

Women going through menopause

Post-menopausal women go through a phase where a greater amount of bone loss occurs in their bodies. This causes their bones to get weak at absorbing calcium. Hence, in order to slow down their bone loss, women going through this period should up their calcium intake either through food or supplements.

Lactose intolerant

People who suffer from lactose intolerance are unable to process and digest the natural sugars that are present in the milk and therefore they suffer from bloating, gas or diarrhea whenever they drink milk or anything related to lactose. Such individuals need to consume dairy products that are low in lactose content or drink lactose-free milk.


Vegans are people who don’t eat any animal or dairy products except eggs. Since they avoid dairy products that are rich in calcium, these individuals need to focus on sourcing calcium from other foods or relying on supplements for their calcium intake.

That brings us to the ever-so-dreaded supplements.

How Can Calcium Supplements Help?

When you don’t consume calcium-rich food on a regular basis and your body doesn’t maintain the optimal amount of calcium, it starts removing calcium from your bones leaving them weak and brittle. Even though the best way to maintain sufficient calcium in your body is through a calcium-rich diet, sometimes it may not be possible due to several reasons. And that’s where calcium supplements slide in the picture.

You can find calcium content in a variety of multivitamin supplements although the amount of calcium present in them will vary depending on the supplement. Apart from that, mineral supplements that only contain calcium are also available along with Vitamin D which is another nutrient that’s responsible for the absorption of calcium into our body.

If we look at the types there are two main types of calcium supplement available, Calcium Carbonate and Calcium Citrate.

Calcium Carbonate

Since calcium carbonate is available at a relatively cheaper price, it is the most popular choice when it comes to calcium supplements. Since it requires stomach acid to be present while absorption, calcium carbonate supplements are best consumed after you have eaten your food. Every calcium carbonate pill contains around 200-400 mg of calcium content.

Calcium Citrate

Calcium Citrate is a more expensive form of calcium supplement that is best absorbed on an empty stomach. It has been found to be more effective in individuals with low levels of stomach acid which are usually adults over the age of 50.

How Much Supplement Should You Take?

The amount of calcium you require from supplements will naturally depend on how much calcium content you are getting from your diet. 

For example, if your ideal calcium intake is 1000 mg and you consume around 500 mg from your diet then you need to supplement the rest 500 mg from a calcium supplement. Check the supplement packaging label to understand how much calcium you will be getting from each dose.

What Side Effects Can You Expect?

For some people, calcium supplements may cause gas, bloating, and constipation. In such case, you can try,

  • Distributing your overall calcium doses throughout the day.
  • Supporting the calcium supplements with food.
  • Switching the brand of the supplement you use.
  • Changing the form of calcium.

Maintain an active lifestyle, stock up on Vitamin D, and hoard on a calcium-rich diet to keep your bones strong and healthy.

Minerals are such an important part of our diet please explore this site to learn more about them.