Apart from macronutrients like carbohydrates, protein and fats, your body needs different micronutrients like calcium vitamins, iron etc. Calcium! The first thing that comes to our mind when we hear this word is our teeth and bones.
Why? Because we have been taught as kids that calcium strengthens our teeth and bones. But is that all that calcium does, or is there more? This article will go through all the information you need about calcium and calcium supplements to understand them better.
What is Calcium?
Calcium is the most abundant mineral found in our bodies. Most of it is stored in the bones and teeth of our body. Calcium is important for bone health throughout our life. During the growth stages, calcium helps build new bones as the bones go through the usual process of breaking and remodeling. While in old age, bones become brittle and easily fractured, a condition is known as Osteoporosis. This condition may be prevented or controlled upto a certain level by consuming calcium.
Yes, your body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones. But your heart, nerves and muscles also require calcium to perform essential body functions like:
- Nerve signal transmission
- Hormone release
- Muscle contraction
- Blood vessel function
- Blood clotting
Some studies claim calcium with vitamin D can lower blood pressure and protect our bodies from diabetes and cancer. However, there is no definite evidence.
Everyone requires calcium, but how much of it depends on your age and gender. The recommended daily amount of calcium is:
| Age Requirements
|1-3 years||700 mg|
|4-8 years||1000 mg|
|9-13 years||1300 mg|
|14-18 years||1300 mg|
|19-50 years||1000 mg|
|51 years and above||1200 mg|
This is the list of recommended calcium requirements, as going above this might result in side effects.
Sources of Calcium
Our bodies cannot produce calcium, so we have to acquire it via different sources. Like any other nutrient, food is the best way to get calcium. As calcium can be found in a variety of easily accessible food like:
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurts
- Foods and beverages fortified with calcium such as cereals, soy products, milk substitutes and fruit juices
- Fish with edible bones such as canned salmon and sardines
- Dark leafy green vegetables such as broccoli and kale
Here is a list of food with its calcium content per serving
- Plain yogurt, low in fat, 8 ounces, provides 415 mg
- Orange juice fortified with calcium, 6 ounces, provides 375 mg
- Part-skim mozzarella,1.5 ounces, provides 333 mg
- Sardines with bones that are canned, 3 ounces provide 325 mg
- A glass of nonfat milk, 8 ounces, provides 300 mg
- Firm tofu made with calcium sulfate, half cup provides 253 mg
- Salmon with bone that is canned, 3 ounces, provides 181 mg
- Breakfast cereal fortified with calcium, 1 cup provides 100 to 1000 mg
- Fresh kale cooked, 1 cup provides 94 mg
Our body also requires vitamin D to absorb calcium. We can obtain it from eating naturally available foods like canned salmon with bones and egg yolks, fortified foods and sun exposure.
Taking Calcium Supplements
So when do you take calcium supplements? Even if you are maintaining a balanced diet, your doctor might prescribe you calcium supplements for specific reasons.
- If you are lactose intolerant
- If you consume a large amount of protein or sodium
- If you are a vegan
- If you are receiving long-term treatment with corticosteroids
Elemental calcium is the varying amount of calcium present in the calcium compound. Based on elemental calcium, calcium supplements are found in different forms like carbonate, citrate gluconate and lactate. There are mainly two forms of calcium supplements that include:
- Calcium Carbonate: It contains 40% elemental calcium and is the cheapest making it a first good option. It can be found in brands such as Viactiv Calcium Chews, Os-Cal 500 and Caltrate 60. It becomes easier for our body to absorb it if it’s taken with food.
- Calcium Citrate: It contains 21% elemental calcium and is found in supplements such as Citracal. It can be taken without food or on an empty stomach.
Some calcium supplements are also combined with vitamins and minerals like vitamin D and magnesium. Hence, if you have diet or health concerns, it is advised to check the label before buying a calcium supplement.
If you plan on taking calcium supplements, you must avoid high salt foods, caffeinated soda or coffee as they can interfere with absorption.
Side Effects and Risk of Calcium Supplements
Calcium supplements aren’t for everyone as they have specific side effects and risks. Some commonly known side effects are constipation, gas or bloating and kidney stone. All this poses a risk to your health, so you must consider it properly before taking a supplement.
If you are someone who is at risk of heart disease, you need to talk with your doctor or dietician as a study published in the journal Heart linked high dose of calcium supplements with a greater likelihood of heart attack.
Factors to consider when choosing Calcium Supplements
Here are certain factors that can consider while choosing calcium supplements for yourself or your family:
- Calcium Amount: The first thing to consider is the elemental calcium present in your supplement, as it is what the human body absorbs for the proper growth of bone. Make sure to note down the size served and determine the amount of calcium in one serving.
- Prescriptions: If you are under medication, you may need to consult your doctor or pharmacist before you start taking calcium supplements. There are reports linking calcium with the decreased absorption of medications like antibiotics, blood pressure medicines, thyroid medicines and so on.
- Cost And Quality: Cost varies for supplements depending on the quality and the manufacturer. Hence you can compare the prices of different supplements and buy the one you can afford. It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to provide you with safe supplements.
Therefore, the companies can approach U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention(USP), NSF International or ConsumerLab.com(CL) to test their product independently. Supplements bearing the CL, NSF or USP abbreviation meet the standards set by the industry for purity, equality, potency and tablet disintegration and dissolution.
- Supplement Form: Calcium supplements are available in different forms like tablets, capsules, liquid, chewable and powder. Depending on your preference and ease of consumption, you can opt for any of these varieties.
- Tolerability: As stated earlier, consuming calcium supplements can cause side effects like gas, constipation etc. So it would help if you were careful, tried different brands and found the brand that you can tolerate and is safe for you.
After reading this article, I am sure you know the importance of calcium in the human diet. So make sure to eat foods loaded with calcium and calcium supplements so your bones and teeth may get stronger and your heart, muscles and nerves may perform their functions better. But don’t go past the limit of calcium in vitamins you require in a day. Always consult a doctor before taking calcium supplements; if you do, go for the best calcium supplements out there.