Choosing the Best Calcium Supplement for Vegans & Vegetarians
At any age, adequate calcium intake is vital - in childhood, calcium helps children reach their full height potential, while in adulthood, calcium helps keep bones strong, healthy, and fights against osteoporosis.
But when you think calcium, you probably immediately think of milk - specifically, cow’s milk.
News Flash: dairy-based milks don’t hold the monopoly on calcium!
There is a wide variety of plant-based foods that provide more than enough calcium for healthy vegans, including but not limited to soybeans, fortified cereals, and dark greens like broccoli, Chinese cabbage, and kale.
Maybe nobody’s making catchy commercials for the calcium content of mustard greens, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Sometimes, however, we can all use a little help in the nutrition department.
Maybe you’re worried you’re not getting enough calcium, your doctor has recommended you up your calcium intake, or you just want a little extra insurance that you’re getting all you need to help protect your bones.
Adding a calcium supplement to your diet can help fill any gaps in your nutritional profile, especially as you’re transitioning from an omnivorous diet to a vegan one.
As with most supplements, you’ll want to look for products that are vegan-friendly, with no traces of animal derived products. We’ve taken all the guesswork out of finding a great, vegan-friendly calcium supplement - read all about our top 5 products below.
How Much Calcium Do I Need?
Your ideal amount of calcium per day will depend largely on your sex and your gender. Adult men between 19 and 70 years old and women ages 19-50 need 1,000mg of calcium per day. Men 71 and older and women 51 and older should aim for 1,200mg per day to ensure bone health.
None of the groups listed above should consume more than 2,000-2,5000mg of calcium daily - when it comes to this nutrient, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
Excessive calcium can lead to health problems like lethargy, mental imbalance, weakness, dehydration, and digestive issues, so be sure to consume a safe amount per day.
What to Look for in a Calcium Supplement
Amount of Calcium
In the case of some water-soluble vitamins, any excess you take in through supplements will just exit your body as waste - however, calcium does not fit this kind of bill, as your body can’t rid itself of too much calcium.
Taking too much calcium can lead to unpleasant, and sometimes even dangerous, side effects.
When considering which supplement to buy, think about how much calcium you’re getting from food sources. If you’re drinking lots of almond milk and eating fortified foods like cereals and bread, you probably don’t need a supplement that provides 100% of your calcium requirement for the day.
If this is the case, you can either look for a product that has less calcium per pill, or cut your pills into pieces, so you’re not consuming an excessive amount of the mineral.
However, if you get little calcium from food sources, or you have a health concern that inhibits absorption, a supplement that provides 1,000-1,200mg per serving could be a wise choice that helps you cover all your nutritional bases.
Some supplements boast 100% of the daily recommended amount of calcium, but you have to take four tablets to get a full serving. This can be a positive or a negative, depending on if you need to take the full serving or not.
If you’re only looking to take in a smaller amount of calcium through supplementation, a product that provides ~250mg of calcium per tablet might be more convenient than having to cut one into pieces to meet your needs.
However, if you need a full serving, you’d have to take all four pills, which can cause you to run through the bottle more quickly, which means your dollar isn’t stretched as far.
Additionally, if you’re already taking other supplements or medications, this can increase the number of pills you have to take, which can be inconvenient. If you don’t need to take increments of a serving of calcium, look for a supplement that is more concentrated and packs a larger amount of calcium into each pill.
You’ll notice that there are relatively few supplements that contain straight-up calcium and nothing else. Most commonly, calcium supplements also contain a dose of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is necessary to allow your body to absorb calcium. By having both nutrients in a single product, you don’t have to worry about being unable to absorb the calcium from your supplement because you aren’t getting enough vitamin D from your diet.
While you can get vitamin D through food and from sunlight, having both together in one tablet is convenient, worry-free, and a good choice for darker, cloudier months. Adults should aim for about 600 IUs of vitamin D per day, taking care not to exceed 4,000 UIs.
If you choose a calcium supplement with vitamin D that is not included in this list, you’ll want to be extra careful about the source of vitamin D. Vitamin D2 is vegan, but if the product contains vitamin D3, there's a good chance that it's not vegan-friendly, as most d3 is derived from sheep’s wool. For more information please read our guide on vitamin d3 supplementation for vegans.
Have a tough time swallowing whole pills? Then you’ll want to keep tablet size in mind. On the whole, calcium supplements tend to be on the larger side, so if you have difficulty taking whole pills, especially those that are on the bigger side, you would be best off to choose a smaller pill or one that is a chalkier tablet that can be easily cut.
Some people even drop their calcium supplements into a morning smoothie or use a mortar and pestle to mix it into non-dairy yogurt. This may be an option if you find a brand you like, but find the pills too cumbersome to take with water alone.
Recommended Vegan Calcium Supplements
Garden of Life Organics Plant Calcium (Top Pick)
If Garden of Life makes it, chances are, it’s made from whole, nutritious foods - and their plant calcium supplements are no exception.
With calcium from organic algae and vitamin D3 from lichen, these supplements also come in small, easy-to-digest, and easy-to-swallow tablets.
Each serving is also only 3 tablets instead of 4, so your money goes further, and you save in the long run. The product is Certified USDA Organic and non-GMO.
While many supplements have unpronounceable fillers, colors, and artificial flavors, Garden of Life uses “clean tablet” technology, which means the tablets are free of binders and fillers like magnesium stearate, stearic acid, and lac-beetle resin, which makes it not only vegan-friendly but a good choice for clean eaters too.
What We Love
The size of these pills is perfect, coming in at just about an inch long and a third of an inch wide. This is great news for people who want to get enough calcium but have trouble swallowing the sometimes horse-pill-sized tablets that are often available. Reviewers also love the whole-food blend and lack of fillers and binders in this formula.
Some users noted gastric distress when taking this supplement - experiencing nausea, gastritis, and reflux. If you have a delicate or sensitive digestive system, or have sensitivities to soy, it may be best to opt for another formula.
MRM Vegan Bone Maximizer
A product made from vegan-friendly and non-GMO whole foods, MRM’s Vegan Bone Maximizer delivers 100% of your daily calcium allotment in each serving.
The calcium in this supplement comes from Vegan Society certified organic calcified algae and “bone optima,” a whole food botanical that is naturally rich in 73 minerals.
This supplement, complete with the bone optima, is high potency and helps with the bone loss that comes with the aging process.
It also has vitashine vitamin D3, which is also Vegan Society registered and allows the body to efficiently absorb calcium and the nutrients in the bone optima.
Vitamin K2 in each serving also helps maintain bone health by locking calcium inside the bones and preventing it from entering arteries.
It’s important to note that each serving consists of four tablets, and the pills are on the large side. If you have difficulty swallowing pills, it may be a good idea to cut these pills, or take them with a big gulp of water.
What We Love
The reviews say it all - these calcium tablets, along with their cocktail of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals packed in along with the calcium, provide noticeable results. Reviewers sing the praises about these tablets, saying they’ve noticed differences in the quality of their nails, bone health, and perimenopause symptoms.
The package advertises the fact that this supplement, like many calcium supplements, also contains magnesium. However, these tablets contain magnesium aspartate, which is a less efficient and absorbable form of magnesium than other vegan-friendly magnesiums like magnesium citrate. If you aren’t looking to this supplement for magnesium, this may not be a big deal, but the form of magnesium in this one does set it back if you’re looking for that aspect of nutrition in this serving.
NOW Foods Calcium & Magnesium Tablets
The folks at NOW Foods understand that calcium and magnesium are essential minerals, working together to promote nutrient absorption, bone and teeth health, and healthy enzymatic activity.
Each two-pill serving contains 1,000mg of calcium and 500mg of magnesium.
The pills come in white tablet form, which means that they cut cleanly - which is important because these tablets are pretty big.
Some users go one step further and grind or blend the whole tablets into smoothies or yogurt.
Unlike many calcium supplements, this pill contains only calcium, magnesium, and the materials for creating the solid pills - there is no vitamin D, vitamin K, or any other vitamins or minerals in this supplement.
If you’re already getting these nutrients from other supplements or food sources, you’re covered, but if not, you may need to add additional supplements or foods rich in these nutrients.
What We Love
The combination of calcium and magnesium in this product is something that’s very appreciated by Amazon reviewers - many people note feeling noticeably better, stronger, and healthier after taking this supplement. The pills also have no bad flavor, bitter taste, or aftertaste, and is completely free of wheat, gluten, soy, milk, eggs, and GMOs.
Seriously, these pills are really, really big - even reviewers who are pretty good at taking pills noted that these are tough to get down. If you’re not going to cut, blend, or grind your pills, you should either be extremely talented at swallowing whole pills, take them with a lot of water, or opt for a smaller pill.
Rainbow Light Food-Based Calcium
A whole-food-based formula, Rainbow Light’s calcium supplement supplies 500mg of calcium, 250mg of magnesium, and 500 IUs of vitamin D into each one-tablet serving.
To further support bone density and health, this blend includes mineral rich stinging nettle, horsetail, and organic spirulina, which support bones, digestion, and nutrient absorption.
The tablets are free of gluten, wheat, milk, dairy, nuts, soy, eggs, fish, shellfish, yeast, and sugar, and they are gentle on the stomach.
The tablets are coated with a vegetable food glaze that becomes slick and slippery when wet, so it’s easy to take them. Each pill is about one inch long.
The magnesium in this pill also appears to be potent, as many reviewers note they see a marked difference in getting to and staying asleep. Additionally, it is a good choice for those that suffer from joint pain.
What We Love
These supplements are an all-around good value - with one-tablet 500mg servings, you don’t have to take in more calcium than you need with your supplement. If you’re getting lots of calcium through your diet, but you want to take out a little extra insurance, you can do that by just adding one pill or one-half of the Rainbow Light blend to your diet, which will help you stretch your supplement dollar by only supplementing what you need, and not being pigeonholed into giant tablets that pack in 100% of your daily allowance.
Pregnant, nursing, or trying to conceive? Take note - the horsetail and stinging nettle included in this formula are not safe to take when pregnant or nursing. Additionally, if you have a delicate or sensitive stomach, start out with half to one tablet at once, as some people report nausea and other digestive side effects while taking these supplements. By easing into it, you may experience decreased side effects and can gauge your perfect dose.
Deva Vegan Vitamins Calcium & Magnesium
Beyond a simple calcium supplement, Deva’s Calcium & Magnesium supplement combines calcium and magnesium with vitamin D, vitamin K, zinc, boron, copper, and vitamin C for a formula that helps maintain healthy bone structure and development.
To increase the bioavailability of the calcium in this supplement, meaning your body absorbs it more efficiently, the supplement also contains horsetail herb silica extract, inulin, and L-lysine.
Not only does this help you get the most from your supplement, but you don’t have to take additional supplements to absorb the calcium - everything you need is wrapped up in this one little bottle.
The supplement is non-GMO and is certified by the Vegan Society.
Some reviewers note that these tablets are on the larger side, comparable to many antibiotics, but have a coating that becomes slick when wet, so they are not terribly difficult to take if you have trouble swallowing pills. Additionally, since these are more potent than regular calcium supplements, you wind up taking fewer pills per serving, which saves money in the long run.
What We Love
These supplements are gentle on the stomach, and don’t cause nausea that can sometimes come with calcium pills. In fact, many people say they can take the full serving on an empty stomach and feel fine afterward.
While the pills do have a coating that becomes slick and slippery when wet, the pills are quite large. The size has proven difficult for some users, so it’s best to use a pill cutter or opt for some of the smaller pills on this list.
Calcium for a Vegan Lifestyle
Choosing soy or almond milk over cow’s milk doesn’t mean your bones have to pay the price. In addition to plant-based foods that are rich in the mineral, a good calcium supplement can ensure that you’re getting enough of this vital nutrient to protect your bones and promote healthy enzymatic activity in your body.
As you begin your search for a calcium supplement that works with your lifestyle, consider how much calcium you need, the number of pills you’re willing to take at once, and your ability to swallow large tablets.
Luckily, you have your pick from a wide group of vegan-friendly supplements that will help maintain the health of your bones, all thanks to the power of plants.