Got No Milk?

Got No Milk?

Not getting the vitamins your bones need from food? Here’s the skinny on where to get your calcium.

By Taylor Mallory

In an ideal world, we’d all get the vitamins we need for strong bones from well-balanced home-cooked meals. But if your busy lifestyle or a poor or limited diet (i.e., vegetarianism, veganism or lactose intolerance) does not provide the recommended amounts of these vitamins (1,000 mg of calcium and 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D each day), supplements can make up the difference.

Calcium Content of Selected Foods

Adult recommended intake is 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg

Calcium Supplements

Several different calcium compounds are used commonly in supplements. As a rule, stick to brand names with proven reliability, recommends the National Osteoporosis Foundation, or ask your pharmacist to recommend a supplement that dissolves in your stomach for better absorption.

Choosing a Calcium Supplement: All Calcium Supplements Are Not Created Equal

Calcium is never taken in its pure form but is always combined with another chemical, or “salt,” the way it is found in nature. Calcium supplements should always contain information on the amount of elemental calcium contained in each dose. Some may also list the total of calcium salt in the product, but different calcium salts provide different amounts of calcium.

Calcium carbonate (Oscal and Caltrate) and calcium citrate (Citracal) are the most popular calcium supplements. The other forms command a small percentage of the market due to the lack of consumer and physician awareness.

Here’s how the two popular forms stack up:


Calcium Citrate

Calcium Carbonate


Can be taken at any time of the day or night, with or without food

Should be taken with meals, as it needs stomach acid to absorb effectively

Interactions with antacids, H2 blockers and Proton Pump Inhibitors

Can be taken in combination with acid-reducing medications

May not be as effectively absorbed when taken with acid-reducing medications

Side effects

Does not increase the risk of kidney stones

Has been found to increase the risk of kidney stones.

Elemental breakdown

Contains 21 percent elemental calcium, so it may require more tablets than calcium carbonate to equal one dose

Contains 41 percent elemental calcium, so it may take fewer tablets than calcium citrate to equal one dose

Click here to read “Protect Your Bones: Osteoporosis Prevention” and “Osteoporosis: What’s Your Risk Factor?”.

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