You’ve probably noticed when perusing the vitamin aisles that calcium often comes packaged with a couple of other vitamins and minerals—typically vitamin D and magnesium. What’s the deal with that, and do you need them all?
The Lowdown on Calcium
It comes in two forms: calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. Both are good and will help you meet your daily requirements for bone health if you aren’t getting the 1,200 mg you need each day from foods, like yogurt, milk and leafy greens. The main difference between the two is in how they’re absorbed. Carbonate form is more concentrated, which usually means taking one pill instead of two. However, while carbonate needs to be taken with food, citrate is easily absorbed on its own (i.e., gentle on the stomach) which can be more beneficial.
What about Vitamin D?
Studies show that vitamin D does, in fact, help the synthesis of calcium—which is why you’ll often see the two in a combo pill. Make sure you’re getting the D as cholecalciferol, aka D3, which is more efficiently metabolized into the necessary form for your body to use (it’s the same kind that you get from the sun, which many of us no longer get enough of due to sunblock use). Check your supplement, as well as any fortified cereals and orange juice, for D3. Besides aiding calcium absorption, Vitamin D is important for boosting mood and regulating blood sugar levels.
And then there’s Magnesium…
Another popular partner to calcium supplements, magnesium is believed to help regulate blood pressure—and may prevent heart disease, diabetes, and even osteoporosis. Though it’s less common to find people deficient in magnesium than in calcium or vitamin D, if you’re not eating enough green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, peas or whole grains, you may need a boost. Magnesium comes in many different forms—the most recommended are magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate, and magnesium lactate. While this mineral can help with calcium absorption, it’s more important to take it with a B-vitamin, or a multi with B vitamins—as B6 regulates how much of it your body processes. As with any vitamin, be sure to read the dosing information carefully.
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