Not getting enough calcium in your diet? Supplements could be the answer

Calcium, the mineral building block for strong bones and teeth, is found in dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, fish and calcium-fortified foods.

However, few of us probably get the recommended daily allowance for this mineral through diet alone.

To make up the deficit, many people turn to calcium supplements. Calcium supplements are available in three forms: calcium carbonate, calcium citrate and calcium lactate, each of which contain varying amounts of “elemental calcium.”

As long as you get enough elemental calcium to meet your needs, the type of supplement is not that important. Read the label to see how much elemental calcium is supplied – generally 40% for calcium carbonate, 21% for calcium citrate and 13% for calcium lactate.

Calcium is best absorbed when taken in doses of 500 mg or less of elemental calcium. If you need more elemental calcium, split the doses and take them four hours apart. Calcium carbonate and calcium lactate should be taken with food for a better absorption. However, calcium citrate can be taken with or without food.

Note: The body needs vitamin D to help absorb the calcium. Always make sure you are getting adequate amounts of this vitamin. Avoid taking calcium supplements at the same time as tetracycline, iron supplements, thyroid hormones or corticosteroids.

The calcium may interfere with their effectiveness and its own absorption. Talk to your doctor before taking calcium supplements.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.