Calcium is well-known for helping the body to maintain strong bones and healthy teeth, as well as enabling the heart, muscles and nerves to function properly. Some studies suggest that it can even offer protection against cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.
That said, you may be surprised to learn that there are two forms of calcium you can consume: synthetic and whole-food. And — spoiler alert — one of these is actually much better for you than the other.
Intrigued? Read on to find out more about synthetic versus whole-food calcium and how you can maximise the benefits of this handy mineral.
Synthetic Versus Whole-Food Nutrients
First things first, let’s talk about the differences between synthetic and whole-food nutrients.
Simply put, whole-food or “natural” nutrients are obtained from whole-food sources that you eat. Synthetic nutrients, on the other hand, tend to be made artificially in an industrial process.
When it comes to calcium, your body doesn’t produce it. Therefore, the best way to give your body the calcium it needs is from whole foods in your diet, such as:
- Dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli and kale)
- Dairy products (milk, cheese and yoghurt)
- Fish with edible soft bones (canned salmon and sardines)
- Calcium-fortified foods and beverages (soy products, cereal and fruit juices)
You can also take a calcium supplement.
Synthetic Versus Whole-Food Calcium Supplements
The majority of supplements available to buy nowadays are made artificially, whether they’re a pill, capsule, tablet, powder or liquid. They mimic the way natural nutrients act in your body.
There are several different types of calcium supplements on the market, including:
- Calcium carbonate
- Calcium citrate
- Calcium chelate
- Calcium lactate
Even so, these all contain synthetic calcium nutrients that can actually be damaging for your long-term health.
How come? Well, the synthetic calcium found in most calcium supplements comes from calcium carbonate, which is finely ground limestone rock. Given that your body must be able to absorb calcium for it to be effective, it can only absorb a small amount of calcium carbonate.
Whatever your body is unable to absorb is excreted so it cannot protect the bones. Alternatively, it can bind to plaque on your arteries causing “calcification.”
In addition to calcification, some research shows that calcium carbonate (specifically) has been associated with gastrointestinal side effects, including bloating, flatulence and constipation.
The Benefits of Whole-Food Calcium Supplements
The good news is that whole-food supplements do not contain synthetic nutrients. They are made from concentrated, dehydrated whole foods.
The same goes for whole-food calcium supplements, which usually come from seaweed.
For example, the Menoviva™ Vegan + Bone Support supplement contains Calcified Atlantic Seaweed®. This natural mineral complex derives from red algae which is rich in the trace minerals that are critical for bone mineralisation, such as:
Plus, it’s extremely bioavailable, meaning that it can be absorbed and used by the body to build stronger and healthier bones. It can also support against osteoporosis symptoms and lower the risk of bone breaks and fractures.
To find out if a particular supplement is synthetic or natural, read the label carefully. Natural supplements will always list their whole-food sources or be labelled as 100% plant- or animal-based.
Calcium is an essential mineral that your body needs to strengthen its foundation, which you can obtain from whole foods or a whole-food supplement.
If you decide to supplement with calcium, opt for whole-food calcium over synthetic calcium for increased absorption and long-term health benefits.