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“Got Milk?” Vegans haven’t, but we’ve still got strong bones thanks to the naturally occurring calcium in lots of plant foods…which is something that continues to freak out plenty of non-vegans I talk to! All the same, you may still wonder if you should take vegan calcium supplements as part of your dairy-free diet.
The truth is, many plant foods contain enough calcium in just a few servings to reach the recommended daily value. However, some groups—like teens and women over 50—may still benefit from supplementing calcium in their vegan diet.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a post exploring vegan calcium supplements. So, if you’re not sure whether you’re getting enough calcium, or if you want to know how to find the best calcium supplement for you, keep reading to learn more.
How much calcium do I need?
The long-standing recommendation by the likes of the National Institutes of Health is that most people under age 50 should consume 1,000 mg of calcium per day to maintain strong bones and teeth.
Postmenopausal women and men over age 70 may require more—1,200 mg daily—in order to stave off bone density loss, while children and teens aged 9 to 18 need the most calcium: 1,300 mg per day. (1)
However, over the years, the recommendations have shifted as new research emerges. Today, the World Health Organization’s recommendation for calcium is just 500 mg per day, while other research indicates that the average adult really only needs 500-700 mg a day of calcium, along with 800-1,000 IU of vitamin D to aid absorption. (2)
This is great news for vegans.
Unfortunately, there is some disagreement amongst medical professionals about how much calcium pregnant and breastfeeding women require. Most doctors claim that pregnant and nursing women don’t need any more calcium than other adults under 50. (3)
However, some advise new and expecting mothers to consume between 1,200 and 1,400 mg of calcium daily. Your doctor can better evaluate your needs, so it’s important you go see them before you start supplementing at such an important time.
Important: You can have too much calcium
It’s worth noting that some serious health issues can occur as a result of taking too much calcium over an extended period of time.
Taking excessive calcium can interfere with the absorption of other minerals that your body needs. People who take calcium supplements are also at higher risk of developing kidney stones and possibly artery disease. (4)
Again, if you’re going to take calcium vegan supplements, be sure to plan carefully with your doctor to make sure you’re helping your health, not hurting it. Because of these potential risks associated with calcium supplements, it’s always best to get your calcium from food if at all possible.
What are some plant based calcium foods?
If you’re new to the wonderful world of veganism, you may be surprised to learn that there are many vegan sources of calcium. Some vegan foods that are full of calcium are:
- Collard greens: 268mg per cup
- Almond butter: 85 mg/2 Tbsp
- Broccoli: 95mg per cup
- Chickpeas: 80mg per cup
- Orange: 50 mg per serving
This list is by no means complete. Richer sources of non dairy calcium can also be found in fortified soy or almond milks and cereals. Even if you’re shooting for the 1,000 mg/day recommendation, it’s not hard to get all the calcium you need.
All the same, if you aren’t eating a balanced diet or have a condition that requires increased consumption of calcium, a vegan calcium supplement may be the best way to be sure your needs are met.
For vegan kids and teens, it may be hard to reach the recommendation of 1,300 mg of calcium each day on plant foods alone. Try printing off a chart of calcium-rich foods to hang on the fridge. Keep track of how much calcium you consume with each meal. If you’re consistently falling short, consider changing your eating habits or discussing supplements with your doctor.
Want to know more about vegan calcium sources? Click here!
Which calcium vegan supplements works best?
This is a tricky question to answer. In general, research suggests that our body absorbs calcium best from food. In addition, some vegan calcium supplements are more thoroughly researched than others.
Until recently, there were three main types of calcium used to make supplements: calcium citrate, calcium carbonate, and calcium phospahte. Each type of calcium has its benefits and drawbacks. Put simply:
Calcium citrate: Most easily absorbed, but doesn’t contain as much elemental calcium
Calcium carbonate: More elemental calcium, but often causes stomach upset
Calcium phosphate: Easily absorbed, does not cause digestive issues, but pricey
Recently, a fourth source has thrown its hat into the supplement ring: plant-based calcified algae. This algae is natural and contains a high percentage of elemental calcium. However, not much independent research has been conducted to determine if calcium from algae is absorbed and used effectively in the body.
Ultimately, the type of calcium supplement you choose will depend on your personal preferences. Calcium citrate, carbonate, and phosphate are often combined in supplements in order to provide the best absorption. However, if you have a sensitive stomach, you should avoid calcium carbonate.
For vegans, a plant-based vitamin may be appealing, but know that calcified algae products haven’t been tested as throughly as other calcium supplements.
And, don’t get caught up in the marketing hype of non-algae calcium supplements being made from “rocks.” Calcium is a mineral: whether it ends up in natural algae or a bottle in a chemist’s lab, it all came from the same place…rocks.
READ NEXT: BEST VEGAN DIGESTIVE ENZYMES SUPPLEMENTS
What about the other vitamins and minerals included in vegan calcium supplements?
There’s a reason most milk is fortified with vitamin D: it helps bones absorb the calcium we eat. Doctors recommend taking calcium with vitamin D–up to 1,000 IU–to help your body make the most of it. If your vegan calcium supplement does not already include it, consider taking a separate vegan vitamin D supplement.
Many calcium supplements also contain magnesium. Some claim that magnesium also aids in the absorption of calcium and plays just as much of a role as vitamin D. However, other researchers say that calcium and magnesium should not be taken together.
Because calcium and magnesium are both minerals, they may “compete” for absorption. Consumer Lab recommends that if you need to take both calcium and magnesium, it’s best to take them at different times. Ultimately, more research is needed to reach a consensus about the role of magnesium in calcium absorption. (5)
Some other calcium pills contain nutrients unrelated to its absorption, such as vitamin C. If you’re taking multiple supplements every day, be sure to keep track of how much of each nutrient you’re consuming. And–we can’t say this enough–consult your doctor before starting any new supplement.
Best vegan calcium supplements reviewed!
So what are the best vegan calcium supplements available? Keep reading to get our reviews of some of the most popular options.
Garden of Life MyKind Organic Plant Calcium Vegan Whole Food Supplement
Garden of Life MyKind Organic Calcium contains 800 mg of calcium from organic algae. To increase absorption, it also contains vegan vitamin D made from lichen. Each dose will also provide vitamin K and magnesium.
Garden of Life supplements are made from “over 20 fruits and vegetables” with no artificial fillers. This means that both active and inactive ingredients are all made of natural goodness! A few fruits and veggies that show up in the ingredients list are blackberry, brussel sprout, and ginger.
Happy customers say that this non-dairy calcium supplement comes in small, easy-to-swallow pills. They like the inclusion of vitamin D and the exclusion of anything artificial. Several customers claim that taking Garden of Life calcium has made a difference in their overall wellness.
In order to get the full dose of 800 mg of calcium, you’ll need to take 3 pills over the course of the day. Some customers said this led them to finish the bottle more quickly than they expected. On the other hand, this may make it easier to take less calcium on days when you eat more calcium-rich foods.
Because there are so many—albeit natural—ingredients in Garden of Life Organic Calcium, there is also the possibility for allergic reactions and upset tummies. Check the label carefully if you have food allergies or sensitivities.
Finally, some customers complained that their pills were broken or crushed upon arrival. Apparently, the downside to making 100% natural tablets is they may crumble easily. Despite this, most people seem satisfied with this vegan calcium source.
- Small, easy-to-swallow pills
- Vitamin D for better absorption
- All-natural, plant-based fillers
- Pills can break up quite easily
- Long ingredients list makes it necessary to check for allergies
- Some cases of stomach upset reported
Deva Vegan Vitamins Calcium Magnesium Plus
Deva Vegan Vitamins Calcium Magnesium Plus contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and copper. The stars of the show, however, are the 1000 mg of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D. Each dose also contains 400 mg of magnesium.
Deva Vegan Vitamins have earned the Vegan Society seal of approval, meaning they’re a solid choice for plant-based practitioners. The 1000 mg of calcium are divided over 3 pills, so you can spread your intake through the course of the day.
Anecdotal evidence from customers suggests these supplements may help reverse a type of bone loss, called osteopenia. In fact, a lot of customers seem to have picked Deva Vegan Calcium and Magnesium on their doctor’s recommendation to promote bone health.
On the downside, some customers thought the pills were a little too large or difficult to swallow. Though any calcium supplement comes with the risk of causing kidney stones, there were a few horror stories associated with this supplement in particular.
If you’re taking other calcium supplements or are prone to kidney stones, you may want to limit your dose and consult your doctor.
- Lots of vitamins and minerals
- May help strengthen bones
- Officially Vegan Society approved!
- Pills are a large & hard to swallow
- You may want to talk to your doctor if you’re prone to kidney stones
MRM Vegan Bone Maximizer Veg Capsules
MRM Vegan Bone Maximizer Veg Capsules contains 1,000 mg of calcium from “Bone Optima” calcified algae. This plant calcium also features a large amount of vitamin D (2000 IU, or 500% of your daily value) and 400 mg of both magnesium and zinc.
If algae calcium has an advantage over other forms, it seems to be on the digestive front. Customers who had trouble taking other supplements found MRM Vegan Bone Maximizer to be easy on their sensitive stomachs.
In addition, several women of a certain age reported getting good checkups and bone scans after starting this supplement. Some customers expressed concern over the absorption of this supplement’s form of magnesium—magnesium aspartate. If you’re looking for a magnesium supplement, this may not be the best choice, but most people seemed satisfied with the quality of the calcium.
However, if you have difficulty swallowing pills, you may want to look elsewhere. Some people had a hard time getting these supplements down—and you may have to do so four times daily! That’s right: to get your 1,000 mg of calcium, you will have to take four capsules a day, which will be far from ideal for some of you, I’m sure.
- May help increase bone density
- Easy to digest
- High in vitamin D
- Magnesium may not absorb well
- Requires 4 pills for full dose
- Pills may be hard for some to swallow
NOW Cal-Mag Calcium and Magnesium Tablets
NOW Cal-Mag Calcium and Magnesium Tablets contain 1000 mg calcium, 500 mg magnesium, and vegetable-source fillers. That’s it! Another plus: it only takes 2 tablets for a complete dose.
NOW Cal-Mag contains calcium in a variety of forms: calcium carbonate, calcium citrate, and less common calcium ascorbate. The intention is to ensure the best absorption across the board while mitigating side effects like stomach upset.
Customers report that this supplement is effective for easing a variety of complaints: arthritis, panic attacks, and muscle cramps. Others report increased blood calcium levels and improved dental health. People love that the simple ingredients and 2-pill dose make keeping track of their supplements easier.
On the other hand, many customers noted that the pills are quite large, with a few customers classifying them as “horse pills.” There also seems to be quite a few stories of mix-ups with shipping or receiving the wrong product or quantity. If you decide NOW Cal-Mag Tablets are the best vegan calcium supplement for you, check the bottle carefully to make sure you got what you ordered before cracking the seal.
- Just 2 pills provide a complete dose
- Simple ingredients
- Pairs well with other supplements
- Pills may be a little on the large side for some
- Reports of shipping and product mix-ups
- No vitamin D
Natural Vitality Natural Calm Plus Calcium
Natural Vitality Natural Calm Plus Calcium is advertised primarily as a magnesium supplement, but it also contains 210 mg of calcium in 3 just teaspoons. One serving also has decent quantities of Vitamins C, D, and potassium.
Natural Calm Plus Calcium is a lemon and berry flavored powder that can be dissolved in warm or cool water, juices, or smoothies. According to happy customers, the combination of magnesium and calcium is effective in soothing restless minds and sore muscles.
This is not the most abundant of vegan calcium sources, but it may work well for people who already eat a fairly complete diet. Customers report that this supplement also helps balance digestion and reduces their stress. Several say that taking Calm Plus Calcium has been “life changing.”
Unfortunately, Natural Calm Plus Calcium derives its vitamin C (and tart flavor) from citric acid, which can cause digestive or blood pressure issues for some people. Also, large doses of magnesium have been known to cause diarrhea. To avoid this, start with a teaspoon and work your way up to a level you are comfortable with.
- Yummy lemon-berry flavor
- May promote better sleep and digestion
- Lots of magnesium
- Contains citric acid
- Only 20% of daily calcium (but this may suit some)
- Advisable to start slow to avoid stomach upset
So which is the best vegan calcium supplement?
All in all, the calcium supplement that we think will work best for the most people is Garden of Life MyKind Organic Plant Calcium Vegan Whole Food Supplement. Customers seem to love the whole food approach and solid nutritional profile of these calcium supplements.
Garden of Life also seems to avoid a common pitfall of other vegan calcium supplements. No horse pills here! Garden of Life MyKind Organic Calcium pills are small and easy to swallow. Most people also found them gentle on their stomachs, but check the ingredient list carefully if you have allergies.
If you choose Garden of Life calcium, you also won’t have to worry about finding a separate vitamin D source. Three pills a day includes all the calcium and vitamin D you need. If you already eat a balanced diet, taking one or two tablets of this non dairy supplement a day can help fill in any nutritional gaps.
Because Garden of Life does not include any artificial binding agents, the pills may break or crumble easily. However, many reviewers didn’t have a problem with customer service when their pills arrived broken. Just treat them gently and you should be fine.
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Most vegans probably underestimate the amount of calcium they consume on a daily basis. Plant foods like greens, fortified grains, and even some fruits are rich in calcium, so you’ll probably be getting enough already.
However, if you do need a calcium supplement, there are plenty of options that are plant-based and vegan-approved, and Garden of Life is our pick of the bunch.
About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
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- NIH | Calcium | https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/
- Harvard Health Publishing | How much calcium do you really need? | https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-much-calcium-do-you-really-need
- Sarah Burns | Are You Getting Enough Calcium During Pregnancy? | https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/nutrition/are-you-getting-enough-calcium-during-pregnancy/
- Jane E. Brody | Long and Short of Calcium and Vitamin D | https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/25/health/25brody.html
- Tod Cooperman, M.D. | Which vitamins and minerals should be taken together or separately? | https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/which-vitamins-and-minerals-should-be-taken-together-or-separately/how-to-take-vitamins/