10 Best Calcium Supplements Reviewed and Fully Compared
It is easy to assume that most runners plan to stay active into old age. Maintaining strong bones and reducing the risk of osteoporosis (bone thinning) is a critical step in prolonging an active lifestyle. Luckily, weight-bearing exercise (like running!) is the greatest factor for reducing the risk of osteoporosis as we age.
However, all the effort spent strengthening the bones may be futile if we lack the essential building blocks. Calcium is the most important mineral for skeletal health and we are constantly losing it through our skin, hair, nails, and sweat. Unfortunately, the body does not produce any of its own calcium so when if we do not get enough through our diet it gets sapped from our bones.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1000mg of calcium daily, 1200mg for women over 50 and men over 70. Even if you love kale, this amount can be difficult to achieve through diet alone, especially for people avoiding dairy. That is why many people turn to calcium supplements to boost their intake and keep their bones strong.
10 Best Calcium Supplements
1. New Chapter Bone Strength
Other ingredients: All plant-based. Vegetarian, Kosher and gluten-free. No Dairy, No Eggs, No Nuts, No Fish or Shellfish. No synthetic binders or fillers.
Quality: Verified by the NonGMO project and B corporation - a nonprofit organization that certifies businesses meeting high standards for social and environmental sustainability
Convenience: 3 tablets daily provide 77% of the recommended daily calcium intake. Many reviewers note the slim tablet formula makes swallowing these vitamins much easier than other options on the market.
Value: This is one of the more expensive supplements on the market but you are getting good quality, plant-based and sustainably sourced ingredients.
- Plant-based calcium with a variety of other supplements to support bone and heart health
- Sustainably sourced
- No synthetic binders or filler
- Slim tablets
- More expensive
2. Caltrate Gummy Bites
Other ingredients: Although they are gummies, these supplements use pectin rather than gelatin and should be fine for vegetarians. Soft chews do contain dairy and soy product.
Quality: The gummy bites and soft chews have not been verified by a third party lab.
Convenience: 2 Gummies daily. Tasty and chewable. Users note they are more enjoyable and easier to remember than typical tablets. They also come in Vanilla Creme or Chocolate Truffle Soft Chews for those who do not like gummies.
Value: Slightly lower in price than other gummies but a bit more expensive than tablet varieties.
- Gummies are tasty, easier to take and remember
- Good source of Vitamin D and Phosphorous
- Made with pectin
- Slightly more expensive
- Has not been tested by third party lab
3. Nature Made Calcium with Vitamin D
Other ingredients: Part of the slow-release formula includes gelatin, which is an animal byproduct so this product is not suited for vegans or vegetarians.
Quality: USP verified and third party tested. Labdoor reports excellent label accuracy with the calcium level matching the amount reported on the bottle and 18% more Vitamin D than the label amount.
Convenience: Typically, it is only recommended to take 500mg of calcium at a time as the body cannot absorb anymore. However, this tablet is formulated with stabilizers that produce a slow-release effect, allowing you to take 600mg a day with just one tablet.
Value: Affordable. Not only is the bottle cheap relative to other options, you are only taking one tablet a day and it will last you that much longer.
- Absorb more calcium with only one tablet
- USP verified; Very affordable
- Not suitable for vegetarians or vegans
4. Rainbow Light Calcium Citrate Mini Tablets
It is Vegetarian, Gluten-free and Dairy-free.
Quality: Highly rated when tested by third-party Labdoor. Testing showed great purity and fairly good label accuracy with 12.5% more calcium than reported and 25.6% more Vitamin D.
Convenience: 2 tablets twice a day (4 tablets daily). Reviewers note these tabs may not be mini as the name indicates but the tablets are smaller than most and easier to swallow.
- 80% of daily recommended calcium
- Good source of Vitamin D
- Additional supplements beneficial to runners
- Good value
- Small tablets
- Needs to be taken twice a day
5. Bluebonnet Calcium Citrate Magnesium and Vitamin D3
Other Ingredients: Non-GMO ingredients. It is Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten-free.
Quality: Very highly rated when reviewed by Labdoor. This supplement ranked with the highest label accuracy of any calcium supplement tested with only 1.0% more calcium and 2.5% more Vitamin D than listed on the label.
Convenience: 2 tablets twice a day. Users note these tablets are on the larger side but very smooth and easy to swallow.
Value: On the more expensive side at $0.50/serving
- 100% of recommended daily calcium
- Good source of Magnesium and Vitamin D
- Highly rated for quality and purity
- More expensive
- Need to remember to take 2 tablets twice a day
6. GNC Calcium Plus 1000 with Magnesium & Vitamin D
Other ingredients: Labdoor ranks this supplement highly for purity and ingredient safety but it does note titanium dioxide as a “watchlist ingredient”. Titanium dioxide is a widely used colorant in cosmetics and supplements. While there have been no documented harmful effects through ingestion, there is a risk of harmful effects with occupational exposure.
Quality: Testing by Labdoor showed 28% more calcium and 11.3% more Vitamin D than the amount listed on the label.
Convenience: Recommended serving is 3 tablets daily. Most calcium can only be absorbed 500mg at a time so these 333mg tablets may need to be taken at separate times during the day to achieve the daily recommended intake.
Value: On the cheaper end of calcium supplements.
- Magnesium and Vitamin D
- Calcium carbonate may be more difficult to absorb
- Titanium dioxide
7. Kirkland Signature Calcium Citrate Magnesium and Zinc
Other ingredients: This product also has titanium dioxide as a “watchlist ingredient”. There is no evidence to suggest titanium dioxide is harmful when used in supplements.
Quality: Labdoor notes good label accuracy with an accurate amount of calcium and 31.3% more Vitamin D than listed on the label.
Convenience: Recommended serving size is 2 tablets daily although this would only be 50% of the daily recommended intake. These tablets are on the larger side and may not be suited for people unaccustomed to swallowing pills.
Value: Great value - Only $0.06 a serving!
- Affordable source of calcium citrate
- Good source of Vitamin D3, Vitamin B6 and Magnesium
- Titanium dioxide
8. Swanson Calcium Citrate and Vitamin D
Other ingredients: Vegetable based binders and stabilizers.
Quality: Good label accuracy with 12.7% more calcium and 7.5% less Vitamin D than reported on the label.
Convenience: Recommended serving size is 1 tablet twice daily for 63% of the recommended calcium intake.
Value: On the cheaper end of calcium supplements.
- Simple and affordable source of Calcium and Vitamin D
No additional supplements
9. Citracal with Vitamin D Slow Release
Other ingredients: This supplement also lists titanium dioxide.
Quality: Labdoor finds good label accuracy. It does exceed the label calcium by 12.5% and label vitamin D by 1.0%.
Convenience: Slow release formula allows for higher calcium absorption with just one tablet.
Value: Good value. Less than $.20 a serving.
- Very convenient
- Slow release formula allows for high calcium absorption per tablet
- Good source of Vitamin D and Magnesium
- Good value
- Titanium dioxide
10. Solaray Calcium Magnesium Zinc
Other ingredients: This product does have Magnesium StearateSome additional herbal supplements including whole rice concentrate, alfafa leaf, watercress leaf, dandelion root and parsley leaf.
Quality: Labdoor testing revealed 7% less calcium than label amount
Convenience: 2 tablets twice daily
Value: On the expensive side.
- Good purity and quality
- Loyal customers report great benefits
- No Vitamin D
- More expensive
The Criteria We Used to Find the Best Calcium Supplements
Adults of all ages and with varying dietary needs rely on calcium supplements to complement or replace calcium in their diet. It seems there is a different supplement with a unique combination of ingredients to suit each one of them. The market is full of options so we broke it down into the following categories to help you determine the best fit for you.
Type of Calcium
First and foremost, what type of calcium and how much is in each tablet? The majority of calcium found in supplements is derived from a mineral source. The three most common types of mineral calcium are calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate and calcium citrate.
Calcium carbonate is the most elemental, meaning that it is cheaper to produce but also may be more difficult to absorb with stomach acid alone. This form of calcium may cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as gas or constipation and should be taken with food or acidic beverages such as orange juice.
Calcium Phosphate has slightly lower elemental calcium concentration. While it is generally more easily absorbed with fewer side effects, it tends to be a bit pricier. Calcium citrate has much less elemental calcium and is most easily absorbed, however this also means it is most expensive.
In addition to calcium, runners may benefit from a variety of additional vitamins and supplements. Vitamin D is most commonly combined with calcium in these supplements, as it is a necessity for absorbing the calcium. Other common additions are the essential minerals magnesium and zinc. Magnesium is vital to a wide number of bodily processes but is particularly important in energy metabolism and muscle contraction and relaxation. Zinc is also needed for a variety of body processes but is especially important to proper immune function. Maintaining healthy levels of each of these minerals is certainly beneficial for runners. Especially when considering that both of these essential minerals are commonly depleted through endurance exercise.
When seeking a supplement we are obviously interested in the minerals and vitamins it has to offer. However, simply mixing these ingredients together does not provide a tablet or gummy that is appealing or even possible to take. Additional ingredients are needed to add mass, bind the supplements together and form them into tablets, capsules or chewables. Additional ingredients also can be added for a variety of other functions such as adding flavor or color, coating tablets to make them smoother or controlling how quickly they dissolve in the stomach.
None of these filler ingredients are dangerous or unsafe, especially in the small amounts found in supplements, but a few are somewhat controversial. One noted as a “watchlist ingredient” by Labdoor is titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide is a widely used pigment that gives the tablets bright white coloring. There have been some studies suggesting carcinogenic properties when inhaled through occupational exposure but no evidence to suggest it is dangerous when ingested.
These additional ingredients cannot be avoided but the amount is typically very small and the wide variety allows you to avoid ingredients you are not comfortable with. As a runner, chances are you pay pretty close attention to what goes in your body and you do not want to make exceptions for your supplement. If you are following a gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan diet you do not need to compromise that for your dietary supplements.
Dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way as other medications or even foods are. Other drug products are tested by the FDA and need to be shown be both safe and effective before they are even put on the market. Dietary supplements are not in this category and the law does not allow for any testing before the product hits the market. Once the product is on the market the FDA can investigate any claims of adverse effects but must prove the supplement is “unsafe” before limiting its usage. In the case of dietary supplements, the FDA is not testing before it hits the market and it is also not testing for efficacy. So, you can be taking a calcium supplement Therefore, it is important that we look for trusted brands whose purity and accuracy have been tested by third party organizations such as the USDA or Labdoor.
Other Factors To Consider
This is another important factor for people with busy or hectic schedules. Supplements are most effective when taken regularly so knowing your schedule and habits is important to consider when making a selection. For this criteria we looked at the recommended serving size to determine how many tablets and how many times a day they are recommended. For some people it may be difficult to remember to take a supplement once a day let alone 2 or 3 times.
We also took into account the form of the supplement. For people taking other supplements or medications they may have no trouble adding another tablet to their routine. While those not accustomed to pills may opt prefer a chewable form or smaller or smoother tablet.
The standard recommended intake for calcium is 1000 mg per day (1,200 mg per day for women over 50 and men over 70). However, this amount should include calcium obtained through diet. It is possible to take too much calcium. Higher levels of calcium have been linked to kidney and heart issues so it is important to consider how much calcium is obtained through diet prior to selecting a supplement. People regularly consuming calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt or dark leafy greens may want to consider taking supplements with calcium. While people lacking calcium in their diet may opt for supplements with calcium levels closer to the daily recommended dose.
Q: Why is calcium important?
A: Calcium is an essential mineral for life. Not only is it needed along with Vitamin D for bone health but it is also vital for proper muscle, nerve and vascular function. In addition to building our bones, calcium plays a role in forming blood clots and contracting muscles.
Q: What are the benefits of taking a calcium supplement?
Calcium is a mineral that the body cannot produce on its own. We are constantly using and losing calcium through regular bodily processes but have no way of replenishing the stores on our own. We depend on food to provide us with calcium but most people do not get enough calcium through diet alone. Supplements are an easy and effective way to add some additional calcium and ensure we are meeting our bodies needs. Doing so can reduce the risk for developing osteoporosis and in turn will decrease the risk of fracture from falls or stress injuries.
Q: Why is calcium so important for women?
Women are at significantly higher risk for developing osteoporosis than men. In America 80% of osteoporosis cases are women. The Osteoporosis Foundation attributes this to women generally having smaller bones than men and the sharp decrease in the bone-protecting hormone estrogen that occurs with menopause. Due to the increased risk, it is even more important for women to do everything they can to maintain strong and healthy bones. Getting enough calcium, vitamin D and weight-bearing exercise are the best things women can do for good bone health.
Q: When should I start taking calcium?
Although post-menopausal women have the highest risk for osteoporosis, getting enough calcium is recommended for everyone. The higher bone density you have when you begin menopause, the less risk you have of developing osteoporosis. So while your risk for osteoporosis may not be high right now, it is certainly not too soon to start building strong bones.
Q: How much calcium is too much?
There is no consensus on how much calcium is too much. However, some recent studies suggest that the current standard (1000mg or 1200mg for women over 50 and men over 70) may even be a little too high. Consider how much calcium you are getting from your diet and avoid exceeding the recommended dose to stay on the safe side. Remember there is no benefit to getting more calcium than the body can absorb and it could actually be harmful for the kidneys and heart.
Q: How do I figure out how much calcium I need?
The National Osteoporosis Foundation offers a Calcium Calculator to enter age, gender and diet. When in doubt, talk with your doctor.
Q: What are good dietary sources of calcium?
Dairy products particularly milk, yogurt and ricotta and cottage cheeses as well as dark leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greens and broccoli rabe are the most common calcium go-tos. However, many breakfast foods, cereals, protein bars, juices and soymilks are fortified with additional calcium.
Q: How do I make sure I am getting enough Vitamin D?
Vitamin D can be difficult to obtain naturally. Sunlight is a great source but covering up with SPF, which is highly recommended, prevents the skin from absorbing it. Some wild caught fish are good sources of Vitamin D and many dairy products have vitamin D added but most people require supplements in addition. Current guidelines recommend 400-800 IU daily for men and women under 50 and 800-1000 IU for age 50 and older. Unlike calcium, there does not seem to be a downside to having more vitamin D.