Importance of calcium
According to a recent article in the Journal for Nurse Practitioners, several alternatives to calcium supplementation have been developed to help you optimize your calcium intake. Calcium is crucial for bone health, but it is also essential for cardiac regulation, nerve conduction, blood clotting and stimulating hormone secretion. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation is even recommended to ward off PMS
"The human body cannot manufacture adequate amounts of calcium without external support. Calcium is lost daily through hair, skin, nails, sweat, urine, and feces. This lost calcium must be replaced, or the body will take calcium from the bones to perform other functions," explains Cathy R. Kessenich, DSN, ARNP, professor in the department of nursing at the University of Tampa in Tampa, Florida.
How much is enough
According to Kessenich, the recommended dietary reference intake for premenopausal and perimenopausal women, 31 to 50 years old, and women on hormone therapy is 1000 milligrams of calcium per day in a combination of dietary and supplemental forms.
For women aged 51 to 70 years, 1200 milligrams of daily calcium is recommended. Women older than 65 years should ingest 1500 mg calcium/day.
The problems with pills
Many manufacturers have produced various forms of calcium compound tablets to help people meet their daily calcium needs. However, for many, these tablets are too large, difficult to swallow and not easily incorporated into a daily routine.
Calcium supplements in pill form often cause nausea, indigestion, constipation, and bloating. "Because of gastrointestinal intolerance, calcium supplements are often left in the medicine cabinet or kitchen drawer. To meet the growing demand for calcium supplementation, many alternative forms of calcium supplements were developed. Foods, snacks, and beverages fortified with calcium are a feasible alternative source of calcium, but they should not be used at the expense of foods naturally containing calcium," says Kessenich.
Calcium supplements that easy to swallow
Calcium-fortified Bottled Water
Drinking water is a daily habit (or should be!) and, if you don't like your tap water, you are likely drinking bottled water, whether it be plain, flavored or vitamin waters.
To capitalize on this trend several manufacturers have highlighted the naturally occurring calcium content of their spring water or developed flavored waters with additional calcium added. For example, Cole Brothers Mineral Water
bottles and distributes natural spring water that contains approximately 65 milligrams of naturally occurring calcium per 16.9-ounce serving.
If you need flavor, Sanfaustino
calcium water contains 450 milligrams of calcium per liter. Sanfaustino calcium water also comes in a pure, unflavored version but the lemon, raspberry lime, lime, and orange flavored waters give you a tasty way to keep up your hydration and calcium intake.
Kessenich says that the absorbability of this calcium-fortified water was independently documented and offers a good option for obtaining divided doses of calcium on a daily basis. "Calcium in either dietary or supplement form is typically better absorbed when consumed in small amounts throughout the day," she adds.
And according to the manufacturer, Sanfaustino calcium water provides high-bioavailable calcium carbonate, without the side effects common to most other calcium sources.
Calcium-fortified Orange Juice
Ingesting milk is probably the best way to obtain calcium though dietary sources but what if you are lactose intolerant or don't like drinking milk?
To meet this need many manufacturers of generic and name brands of orange juice have developed calcium-fortified options. Most orange juice products provide 30 to 35 percent of the daily calcium requirement (300 to 350 milligrams) in an 8-ounce glass and approximately 110 calories. Read the labels to make sure you are getting a calcium-fortified brand.
It doesn't get any better than this!
Several brands of chocolate now provide calcium supplementation. Adora
is a new, all natural, gourmet chocolate, made with premium milk or dark chocolate. One delicious bite-sized 30-calorie piece contains a whopping 500 milligrams of calcium carbonate.
is a line of calcium-fortified chocolate bites made with real chocolate. At a mere 25 calories per bite-sized piece, you get 500 milligrams of calcium carbonate. Healthy Indulgence comes in milk chocolate or dark chocolate varieties.
Are you concerned about your kids getting enough calcium?Thompson Candy Company
has developed a new line of calcium-fortified chocolate for children. Moobles are an all natural milk chocolate candy wrapped in a black and white spotted foil and containing 140 milligrams of calcium carbonate per piece. This is a sweet treat you can feel good about.
But, like any other candy or chocolate, don't overindulge. These chocolates may be excellent sources of calcium, but they don't come calorie-free.
If you aren't into chocolate, there are some other calcium-fortified snacks.
For example, Viactiv
, a chewable product that has been on the market for years, is now available in chewable caplets in flavors such as milk chocolate, strawberry cream, chocolate mint, caramel, French vanilla, or raspberry. And for your teenagers, Viativ even has a fudge brownie-flavored option. All of the caplets contain 500 milligrams of calcium carbonate and are 20 calories.
Another option is Creamy Bites
. Mission Pharmaceuticals has developed a product called Creamy Bites, that comes in chocolate fudge, lemon cream, or caramel flavors. Each serving contains 500 milligrams of calcium citrate and has 35 calories.
With more an more people taking a daily dose of aspirin to prevent heart disease and to reduce the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular events, Bayer has developed an aspirin plus calcium product. It is available in an 81 milligram caplet that also contains 300 milligrams of calcium carbonate.
Calcium supplementation often causes constipation, though the causative factors are not well-documented. However, manufacturers have developed products that combine calcium and fiber.
Proctor and Gamble has developed Metamucil plus Calcium, a capsule that contains 300 milligrams of calcium carbonate in each daily serving of five capsules. They recommend taking one serving with at least eight ounces of water or other fluid. One serving of Metamucil plus Calcium provides two grams of fiber.
Fiber Choice chewable tablets are sugar-free and contain 500 milligrams of calcium carbonate and four grams of fiber in each serving of two tablets. They come in cherry, strawberry, and wild berry flavors.
However, Kessenich warns that when calcium is ingested with meals that are high in fiber, calcium absorption is decreased. Therefore, you may need to increase the amount of daily calcium you are ingesting if you are relying on calcium-fortified fiber as a supplement.
How much calcium is too much
"Consumers who use of a variety of calcium-fortified products and supplements may be concerned about obtaining too much calcium in their diet," says Kessenich. "Excess calcium cannot be stored; therefore, higher intakes of calcium should not be harmful."
However, she says that although extremely rare, calcium toxicity can occur with long-term consumption of excessive amounts (over 3000 milligrams) of calcium. Symptoms of toxicity range from constipation, irritability, and headache to soft tissue calcification and renal failure.
Lastly, if you are taking medications, be aware that calcium supplements and calcium-rich food sources may interact with or block the absorption of some medications. " For example, calcium supplements may reduce the absorption of tetracycline, iron, or thyroid medications. Typically, any medication that should be taken on an empty stomach should not be taken with calcium supplements, food, or alternative sources as noted in this article," adds Kessenich.
With dietary sources of calcium and these alternatives to calcium supplementation, meeting your daily needs for this bone-building mineral is easier than ever.
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