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Chew, Pop, or Swig? How to Choose the Right Calcium Supplements for You

When it comes to calcium supplements, the choices are endless. Here’s a guide to help you choose the one that fits you best.

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Calcium is a bone-strengthening mineral marvel that’s been linked to improving myriad health problems including premenstrual syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and even colon cancer. Although calcium is found in plenty of foods, especially dairy products, many Americans fail to get the expert-recommended amount of 1,300 mg a day from foods and supplements. If you suspect you’re missing that quota, have no fear: There are a multitude of supplements to help fill the calcium gap. Seriously, a multitude.

All of those options can be confusing and a bit overwhelming, but the takeaway is that there really is a supplement for everybody—once you know what to look for. Read on to find out about different types of calcium supplements and how to choose the perfect one to suit your lifestyle.

Citrate or Carbonate?

Calcium supplements are usually made up of calcium citrate or calcium carbonate. Calcium citrate is more easily broken down by the stomach—though this doesn’t matter much if you have normal levels of stomach acid—and can be taken at any time, whereas calcium carbonate is better absorbed with meals. On the other hand, calcium carbonate is found more abundantly in nature, so it’s often less expensive than its more digestible counterpart.

Whatever form your calcium comes in, it’s the amount of elemental calcium that gives the supplement its potency. If a dose of the supplement contains 500 mg of elemental calcium, you’ll need to take two doses (preferably spread out over the day as your body best absorbs 500 mg or less at a time) to approach the Daily Value. Just remember that DVs are calculated as total intake from food and supplements, so pay attention to sources of calcium in your diet, as well.

Tablets and Capsules

At present, calcium supplements in pill form are more plentiful on nutrition store shelves, probably because they’ve been around a lot longer than chewable and liquid varieties. Consequently, if you’re looking for a supplement more tailored to your lifestyle (such as those containing extra B vitamins for a vegetarian diet), a pill form may be your best bet. Absorption-wise, pills may have a big benefit, as they generally contain more elemental calcium per serving. They’re a good choice for healthy people, especially those without digestive issues, because the acid in their stomachs can easily break down the supplement and extract the higher dosage of calcium.

Liquid and Chewable Calcium Supplements

If taking pills turns you off, an easy alternative is to drink your daily dose of calcium. Both liquid and chewable supplements are easily dissolved before they reach the stomach, which may suit certain folk with weakened digestive systems, including older people and those suffering from chronic stress. Liquid and chewable forms help those people absorb as much calcium as possible from their daily dose.

Calcium chews come in a variety of appealing flavors, and nothing could be more convenient. Just throw a few individually wrapped chews into a purse or lunch pack and there’s no excuse for not getting your recommended daily amount. Several companies also make gummy-style calcium chews or animal-shaped chewable wafers targeted to kids, which make it very easy to improve junior’s calcium uptake, as well—kids aged 4–8 need about 1,000 mg of the mineral per day, while younger children need only about 700 mg.

Calcium with Vitamin D

Many supplements include vitamin D, which the body needs in order to absorb calcium. But that doesn’t mean that D needs to be taken at the same time as calcium to facilitate absorption. The point is that if you already take a multivitamin that contains a full recommended daily allowance of vitamin D, you probably don’t need extra D in your calcium supplement.

With all the calcium choices available, there’s no excuse not to get your DV of this bone-building vitamin. From candy chews to tablets, there’s a calcium supplement out there for everyone.

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