What Vegans Need To Know About Calcium Supplements
Likely, the second most common question vegans are asked (after “Where do you get your protein?”) Is “Well, where do you get your calcium??”
This question isn’t without merit. Calcium is a vital mineral that all humans need to grow and remain healthy. Most of us have grown up with dairy ads touting the mighty role of calcium supplements in dairy products and how important this is to grow up big and strong.
In fact, it is the most abundant mineral found in the human body. The problem is, when we do not intake enough calcium, the body takes what it’s lacking from our bones.
Over an extended period, this can lead to osteopenia and osteoporosis.
In fact, despite their high dairy consumption, an estimated 44 million people over 50 are at risk for osteoporosis and low bone mass in the United States.
Dairy consumption comes with the risk factors of contributing to high protein intake, which plays a role in contributing to obesity, as well as consuming the effects of antibiotics often given to the farm animals from which they came.
The good news is that there are many plant based foods that contain calcium.
Some of the best options for vegans include bok choy, tofu, broccoli, and almonds. Many other foods, like juices and plant based milk, are fortified with calcium.
Unfortunately, the calcium found in plant foods isn’t often as bioavailable, which means it is harder for the body to absorb.
If you are already incorporating tofu, fortified almond milk, and bok choy into your diet, but still find yourself falling short of the RDA for calcium, you may want to consider taking calcium supplements.
|Life Stage||Recommended Amount|
|Birth to 6 months||200 mg|
|Infants 7–12 months||260 mg|
|Children 1–3 years||700 mg|
|Children 4–8 years||1,000 mg|
|Children 9–13 years||1,300 mg|
|Teens 14–18 years||1,300 mg|
|Adults 19–50 years||1,000 mg|
|Adult men 51–70 years||1,000 mg|
|Adult women 51–70 years||1,200 mg|
|Adults 71 years and older||1,200 mg|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding teens||1,300 mg|
|Pregnant and breastfeeding adults||1,000 mg|
As always, consult with a doctor or nutritionist before taking a supplement. Taking too much of a vitamin or supplement can be just as harmful as not having enough.
Amount of Calcium
Calcium levels build up in the body. Unlike some water-soluble vitamins where the excess will simply exit the body as waste, any excess you take in through supplements stays in the body.
Taking too much calcium can lead to unpleasant, and sometimes even dangerous, side effects.
When considering which supplement to buy, think about how much calcium you’re getting from food sources. If you’re drinking lots of almond milk and eating fortified foods like cereals and bread, you probably don’t need a supplement that provides 100% of your calcium requirement for the day.
If this is the case, you can either look for a product that has less calcium per pill or cut your pills into pieces, so you’re not consuming an excessive amount of the mineral.
However, if you get little calcium from food sources, or you have a health concern that inhibits absorption, a supplement that provides 1,000-1,200mg per serving could be a wise choice that helps you cover all your nutritional bases.
You’ll notice that there are relatively few supplements that contain only calcium without additional vitamins or minerals. Most commonly, calcium supplements also contain a dose of vitamin D.
This is because vitamin D is necessary to allow your body to absorb calcium. By having both nutrients in a single product, you don’t have to worry about being unable to absorb the calcium from your supplement because you aren’t getting enough vitamin D from your diet.
While you can get vitamin D through food and from sunlight, having both together in one tablet is convenient, worry-free, and a good choice for darker, cloudier months. Adults should aim for about 600 IUs of vitamin D per day, taking care not to exceed 4,000 UIs.
If you choose a calcium supplement with vitamin D that is not included in this list, you’ll want to be extra careful about the source of vitamin D. Vitamin D2 is vegan, but if the product contains vitamin D3, there’s a good chance that it’s not vegan-friendly, as most d3 is derived from sheep’s wool.
Recommended Calcium Supplements
Below is a list our top picks for Calcium supplements:
Organic Plant Calcium by Garden of Life
These are a fan favorite because they are made out of whole plant foods, which is the most highly recommended way to get vitamins and minerals.
With calcium from organic algae and vitamin D3 from lichen, these supplements also come in small, easy-to-digest, and easy-to-swallow tablets. All of the ingredients are certified non-GMO, too.
This formula is vegan because it uses Vitamin D3 that is derived from lichen, which is vegan.
Most Vitamin D3 is made from lanolin (sheep) and labeled cholecalciferol, meaning that it is not vegan. Luckily you don’t have to worry about that with this one!
Cal-Mag Plus by DEVA
Another great option, these vitamins by Deva Vegan are Certified Vegan by the Vegan Society (Founded by Donald Watson).
This supplement contains Vitamin D2 which is the type of Vitamin D that is derived from plants. It contains large amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, magnesium, and zinc as well.
To increase the bioavailability of the calcium in this supplement, meaning your body absorbs it more efficiently, the supplement also contains horsetail herb silica extract, inulin, and L-lysine.
The supplement is non-GMO and is certified by the Vegan Society and tends to be easier on the stomach than many calcium supplements.
Rainbow Light Food-Based Calcium
A whole-food-based formula, Rainbow Light’s calcium supplement supplies 500mg of calcium, 250mg of magnesium, and 500 IUs of vitamin D into each one-tablet serving.
To further support bone density and health, this blend includes mineral rich stinging nettle, horsetail, and organic spirulina, which support bones, digestion, and nutrient absorption.
The tablets are free of gluten, wheat, milk, dairy, nuts, soy, eggs, fish, shellfish, yeast, and sugar, and they are gentle on the stomach.
The magnesium in this pill also appears to be potent, as many reviewers note they see a marked difference in getting to and staying asleep. Additionally, it is an excellent choice for those that suffer from joint pain.