How To Choose and Use Calcium Supplements

Calcium does more than build bones. It helps regulate blood pressure, is essential for blood clotting, can lower cholesterol, and even helps keep your skin healthy. A good calcium supplement is not hard to find if you know what you are looking for.

  1. Calcium comes in many forms. The best ones to take are calcium citrate or calcium lactate. These two types of calcium dissolve quickly and easily in the stomach, where the calcium is absorbed by the body.

  1. Avoid calcium carbonate. The carbonate neutralizes your stomach acid which is needed to help absorb the calcium. This can cause the calcium to pass through the stomach before it can be absorbed. Avoid calcium phosphate. Phosphate should not be supplemented as we get plenty, if not too much, from our diet. Also, avoid oyster shell calcium, bone meal and dolomite because they may contain high amounts of lead.

  1. Calcium needs magnesium (a mineral) and vitamin D (from the sun) to be absorbed properly. Sometimes calcium supplements have added magnesium and vitamin D, but taking calcium with food and getting proper sun exposure will help supply these nutrients.

  1. Try not to take calcium with zinc. Calcium and zinc tend to bind together, making both unable to be absorbed.

  1. The maximum safe amount of calcium you can take is 2500 milligrams. Most people need far less than that, around 1000 to 1500 milligrams.

  1. Do not take more than 500 milligrams of calcium at a time. Experts agree that your body is unable to absorb any more than that at one time. It is a good idea to spread your intake of calcium throughout your day and to take it with meals.

  1. The best way to get calcium is through food. Dairy is a good source but so is fortified orange juice, kale, sardines, almonds, figs, kelp and dark leafy greens. Figure out what you are getting from your diet and only supplement what you really need.

  1. If you are taking calcium because you are trying to prevent osteoporosis, realize that calcium intake is only one measure.  Calcium intake alone will not prevent osteoporosis. Regulating hormone levels is also important in preventing osteoporosis, as is weight-bearing exercise like walking or weightlifting. Also, avoid excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. Ask your doctor about any prescription drugs you are taking, as some can contribute to bone loss.

Taking a calcium supplement is a good idea for anyone who does not get enough calcium in her diet, especially women and children. Be sure to consult your doctor to make sure calcium supplementation is right for you.


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