Calcium is crucial for optimal bone health throughout your life.
The best way to get calcium is through foods, but if your diet falls short, calcium supplements may be a good option. This is likely to happen for vegans that don’t take dieting seriously.
Additionally, you have to ultimately understand how much calcium you need, the pros and cons of calcium supplements, and the difference between each calcium form, which I’ve overviewed in the later sections of this blog post.
Below you’ll find three effective vegan calcium supplements:
The 3 Best Vegan Calcium Supplements
1. Vitamin Code Raw Whole Food Calcium
This Vitamin Code Raw calcium supplement is delivered to you with a blend of fruits and vegetables produced below 115º F, which means every nutrient comes with its natural co-factors, as well as live probiotics, enzymes, pretty much akin to raw foods.
It’s a whole plant-based calcium formula with magnesium, vitamin D3, and K2 with a remarkably clean profile. There are no synthetic binders, fillers, artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, or additives that can easily be found in most supplements.
The calcium in this formula derives from algae, a form of calcium that manufacturers defend as being body-friendly. It’s naturally partnered with magnesium and other trace minerals, that enable a more efficient absorption by the body.
What I appreciate about this particular calcium supplement is that its rich set of nutrients chosen to improve bone health are essentially derived from real, plant-based foods.
The downside to this supplement is the serving size and type. Basically, they can only be taken as capsules, and on top of that, each serving is the equivalent to 4 capsules. It’s not something that everyone will simply be willing to ingest, even though the content of the capsules is superior.
2. Mykind Organics Whole Food Calcium
The Mykind Organic Calcium supplement is also an algae-based calcium formula that contains various nutrients derived from a whole food blend that combines fruits and vegetables.
It contains vitamin D3 (derived from lichen), and also magnesium (derived from algae) which improve calcium’s bioavailability to your body. These are two crucial nutrients that you must include in your diet if you wish to avoid a calcium deficiency down the line.
Rather than having you take four capsules per serving, this supplement requires you to take three capsules per serving, which may or not make a difference. However, I know that not everyone takes pleasure in the fact they may have to swallow a couple of capsules.
This formula, while very similar to the aforementioned, has fewer nutrients. For example, it doesn’t contain a digestive blend filled with probiotics that may provide you with gut or digestive benefits, specifically in helping your body digest food, avoid sickness, and create vitamins.
Other nutrients that you won’t find in this formula are boron and silica, which are perceived to play a role in the production of testosterone and the metabolization of key vitamins and minerals, as well as bone health.
At the same time, it’s worth mentioning that this supplement is available under $1 per serving, which makes it more affordable than the previous solution.
3. Country Life Calcium
Country Life provides consumers with a simple formula, in which the ingredients are not derived from nature, but are formulated in a safely-controlled environment — the lab.
You can get this Country Life Calcium supplement for $0.33 per serving, which is natural given the emphasis on lab-created nutrients. For instance, the calcium isn’t derived from algae. It’s a combination of calcium hydroxyapatite, calcium citrate, calcium aspartate, calcium alpha-ketoglutarate, and calcium lysinate. Hence why it’s cheaper.
Whether or not this combination of calcium is effective, it’s hard to define. Aside from calcium citrate (which is one of the most optimal forms), the other forms of calcium don’t have as much evidence to support their value.
That being said, it does come with calcium-absorption enhancers like Vitamin D and Magnesium.
It’s Vitamin D2 (derived from ergocalciferol), which is a less bioavailable form of vitamin D, but it’s also what allows this supplement to be more affordable.
Country Life’s calcium supplement is also certified vegan by the American Vegetarian Association, which is extra insurance for vegans that are skeptical about the content of supplements.
Just like the first supplement, one serving is equivalent to four capsules, and again, not everyone is willing to consume as many capsules (or any at all).
Overall, this is an extremely affordable supplement, but, of course, they don’t seem to use the best ingredients (at least, from what I can observe looking at each one).
Should Vegans Take Calcium Supplements?
Calcium deficiency is scary since it can lead to conditions like osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, many studies reach the same conclusion — most vegans don’t get enough calcium.
One study found that vegans getting less than 525 mg of calcium per day have a higher risk of bone fractures. In that same study, vegans with a high-calcium intake had the same fracture rates as the meat-eaters and lacto-ovo-vegetarians.
However, if you’re worried about not getting enough calcium, perhaps because you avoid a lot of the calcium-rich foods (kale, collard greens, fortified vegetable drinks, etc), then it might be a good idea to purchase a supplement.
On a side note, here is a video showing some signs of calcium deficiency:
Let’s now delve into the difference between vegan and non-vegan supplements. What separates vegan calcium supplements from non-vegan calcium supplements? Let’s figure it out.
Difference Between Vegan and Non-Vegan Calcium Supplements
Unfortunately, most calcium supplements are not vegan.
Even though the calcium in these supplements is derived from stones like limestone (calcium carbonate), or synthesized in a lab-environment (calcium citrate), there are still other ingredients that make them non-vegan.
A common non-vegan ingredient in calcium supplements is vitamin D3, which is commonly derived from sheep’s wool. Fortunately, you’re able to find vegan-friendly variations that use lichen instead of sheep’s wool.
Another common non-vegan ingredient in many supplements is gelatine. If you obtain a capsule-based supplement, there’s a likelihood that the capsules may be made from gelatine.
Gelatine is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by the partial hydrolysis of collagen which is extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as cattle, chicken, pigs, and fish. To be on the safe side, look for supplements that are labeled vegan.
Types Of Calcium Supplements
Different calcium compounds are used in calcium supplements.
Each compound contains varying amounts of mineral calcium, which is typically referred to as elemental calcium. This essentially refers to the amount of calcium in each supplement.
Here are 4 types of calcium:
- Calcium carbonate (40% elemental calcium)
- Calcium citrate (21% elemental calcium)
- Calcium gluconate (9% elemental calcium)
- Calcium lactate (13% elemental calcium)
The two most popular forms of calcium are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate.
Calcium carbonate is the cheapest form of calcium, so it’s also considered a good first choice. But in terms of actual absorption, calcium citrate appears to be superior.
Other forms of calcium don’t have as much research and are not as relevant.
Additionally, as I’ve mentioned briefly, a lot of calcium supplements combine different vitamins and minerals. Good calcium supplements will typically contain vitamin D and magnesium since these nutrients enhance calcium absorption.
Are Calcium Supplements Good For Everyone?
Keep in mind that calcium supplements are not for everyone.
One example is hypercalcemia, which is a health condition that causes excess calcium in your bloodstream. Mild hypercalcemia might not lead to noticeable symptoms, but if you have a more serious hypercalcemia condition, then you might have several signs and symptoms that affect various parts of your body.
Here are some of the symptoms:
- Excessive thirst
- Excessive urination
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased appetite
And the list goes on.
Additionally, there may be a link between calcium supplements and heart disease.
There’s mixed evidence, and therefore more evidence is required to understand whether or not this concern is valid.
A similar concern can also be noted with prostate cancer.
Some studies show that high-calcium intake from dairy products and supplements may increase risk, whilst a more recent study shows that there’s no such risk.
Until more information is available, it’s important to avoid excessive amounts of calcium.
And with like any other supplements or health issues, it’s important to talk to your doctor to determine what’s right for you.
What to Look For In a Vegan Calcium Supplement
What sets calcium supplements apart? How can one determine which vegan calcium supplement is the best? Here are a few deciding factors:
Amount of calcium
Elemental calcium is a key factor because it’s the real amount of calcium in a supplement and It’s essentially what your body absorbs for bone health and other health benefits.
Looking at the Supplement Facts label is helpful to determine how much calcium is in each serving. For example, calcium carbonate is 40% elemental calcium, so 1,250 mg of calcium carbonate contains 500 mg of elemental calcium.
Be sure to consider the serving size (number of tablets) when determining how much calcium you have in a supplement.
In this blog post, we found out that vegans need at least 525 mg per day to have the same risk of fracture as meat-eaters and ovo-lacto-vegetarians. Ideally, you should get a little more.
The recommended daily allowance of calcium is set to 1,000 mg per day for adults, and 1,200 mg for adults over 50 years old (roughly). But it’s unlikely that anyone is able to reach this amount unless they eat a lot of dairy-based foods, which are, for the most part, unhealthy.
Calcium supplements (and any other supplement) comes in different forms, including tablets, capsules, chews, liquids, and powders. If you have trouble swallowing pills, you may want a chewable or powdered calcium.
All varieties of calcium are better absorbed when taken in small doses (500 mg or less) at mealtimes. Calcium citrate, for instance, is absorbed equally well with or without food and it’s recommended for individuals with low stomach acid, inflammatory bowel disease, or potential absorption disorders.
Calcium supplements may cause some side effects, but not always.
Side effects such as gas, constipation, and bloating may occur. Calcium carbonate is the most constipating, so you might want to try a few different calcium supplements to find the one your body supports without any issues.
Quality and Value
Manufacturers are responsible for making sure that the supplements are safe and the claims are actually truthful.
For that to happen, the supplements must be tested, and this usually means having an independent lab or company like the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP), ConsumerLabs.com (CL), or NSF International (NSF) conduct the testing.
Supplements that display the USP, CL, or NSF labels/symbols meet the industry standards for quality, purity, potency, and tablet disintegration or dissolution.
Something else to keep in mind is that calcium supplements vary widely in price.
This is due to (1) the use of different calcium forms, (2) sometimes brands use their reputation and popularity to justify a rise in prices, and (3) the addition of nutrients beyond calcium.
Make a comparison between the ingredients and the cost if you want the absolute cheapest offer, without jeopardizing the quality of the supplement.
Do you take other prescriptions?
This is an important question to ask. The reason?
In general, supplements can interact with many prescription medications, including blood pressure medications, antibiotics, bisphosphonates, thyroid hormones, and calcium channel blockers.
Depending on the medication, you may have to take your supplements with your meals or between meals. Before you purchase a calcium supplement, meet up with your doctor to learn whether or not you should be taking a calcium supplement.
Also, keep the following in mind — Too much calcium has its risks.
Dietary calcium is generally considered safe, but calcium excess won’t protect your bones any further. If you’re taking calcium supplements and eating calcium-rich foods, then there’s a chance you may be consuming more calcium than the one you need.
That’s dangerous, so do keep that in mind.
Fortunately, you don’t need dairy-based foods to have a good calcium intake.
There are vegetable counterparts fortified with calcium, and there are dark leafy greens that naturally contain calcium. Then we have calcium supplements.
If for some reason you feel that you’re unable to reach your calcium quota, a supplement may be a good way to avoid calcium-derived problems down the line.
That said, I still feel like it’s important to question your family physician (or perhaps a plant-based physician) about whether or not you need to take a calcium supplement. Excessive calcium in your bloodstream may also be problematic, so do keep that in mind.