* Sometimes it’s just not possible to get all your nutrients through food
* Taking vitamins and dietary supplements can help
* Make sure to know when and how to take them for the most benefit
Let’s face it: sometimes it’s just not humanly possible to get all of our essential vitamins and nutrients exclusively from the food we eat. While most experts agree it’s better to get your nutrients from actual food, taking dietary supplements can really help you stay healthy when this just isn’t a part of your reality.
You probably know the benefits that certain vitamins, minerals, and supplements can have on your health and mood (if you don’t, click here), but what you may not know is how and when you should be taking them, to make sure your body is actually absorbing them properly so you get the full benefits.
Water Soluble Vitamins (C, B Vitamins)
Water soluble vitamins are generally easily absorbed, and excess amounts that our bodies don’t need to use, are flushed out by the kidneys and passed through urine. This is why when some people take higher doses of B-vitamins they notice slightly darker urine after taking a supplement.
B-vitamins are linked with boosting energy levels and even helping to improve mood. They help to turn your food into cellular energy, so many experts suggest taking it in the morning with breakfast. If you’re not a breakfast person, however, be warned that the B-vitamins can cause mild nausea when taken on an empty stomach for many people.
While fiber consumption is best put to use when it’s derived from your food, if you take a fiber supplement you should take it by itself. Other vitamins and foods can interfere with its absorption greatly. It’s also important to note that fiber can interfere with the absorption of certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including certain antibiotics, aspirin and ibuprofen.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it is better absorbed when taken with a larger meal–especially one with healthy fats. Vitamin D can help promote better sleep, reduce inflammation and help boost both your mood and immunity. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked with several diseases, including increased risk for heart disease, depression, and most recently, MS. Because most of us don’t have the luxury of working outdoors all day, getting the adequate amount of Vitamin D through sunlight is nearly impossible, making supplementation pretty important for most healthy adults.
Vitamin D is different from this rest of this category of vitamins because it can inhibit the production of melatonin, potentially hindering your sleep if taken too close to bedtime. Hence, if dinner is your largest meal, make sure you’re eating it at least a couple of hours before you hit the hay.
If you’re taking a magnesium supplement, you should also take it when you take your Vitamin D. Magnesium doesn’t help D’s absorption, but it does assist in converting it to an active state in the blood.
Most people can benefit from taking a multivitamin on a daily basis. However, it’s common to experience mild nausea when taking them in the morning on an empty stomach. Make sure to take with a meal that includes a balanced amount of fat, carbohydrates and proteins to ensure your stomach produces the ideal amount of acids for optimal absorption. If you still get an upset stomach, try taking your multi before bed with a light snack.
Melatonin (Sleep Aid)
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is connected with helping modulated our circadian rhythm and promoting restful sleep. While it may seem instinctual to take it at bedtime, this may not always be best. If you simply have the occasional trouble falling asleep, take 10mg about a half hour before bed. However, if you have certain abnormalities in your circadian rhythm (aka biological clock), taking it this close to bedtime won’t help.
For example, if you’re a natural night owl and need to fall asleep by a certain time, you may want to take it up to three hours before the desired bedtime. Conversely, if you suffer from Advanced Sleep-Wake Disorder (you go to sleep abnormally early and wake up hours before you wanted to rise) you will actually want to take the melatonin in the morning rather than before bed.
As for calcium, the optimum time and way to take it depends on the type. If you’re taking Calcium Citrate, you can take it with or without food. On the other hand, if you’re taking Calcium Carbonate, take it with a meal as the stomach acids secreted during eating helps our bodies absorb it better. By the way: calcium carbonate is typically more concentrated and thus stronger, while citrate is gentler on the stomach and easier to absorb.
A general rule of them for both calcium strains, is to take it in smaller doses, twice a day.
Iron is best broken down when taken without food. Vitamin C has been proven to help it absorb better, so taking it with some orange juice or your Vitamin C tablet is also recommended. You will also want to avoid taking Calcium with your iron supplement, as it can block its absorption.
Fat Soluble Vitamins (A, D, E, K)
As with Vitamin D, other fat soluble vitamins are absorbed in the body, transported through the blood, and stored in the liver and tissues for later use. They’re better absorbed when taken with a large meal, or with a snack with plenty of healthy fats like nuts or avocado. Because they’re stored in the body’s tissues–unlike the water soluble vitamins- it’s important to make sure you aren’t taking too much of any one of these vitamins. Taking too much of them can lead to excess buildup, which can cause a number of dangerous health problems.
Probiotics & Fermented Foods
Probiotic supplementation is important for your gut health and to keep your immune system functioning at its best. To get the most from taking/eating probiotics, it’s best to do so without food or at bedtime. The digestive enzymes excreted during and after we eat can hinder proper absorption.
Generally speaking, fish oil and omega-3 fatty acid supplements can be taken any time of day with or without food. However, some people complain of a fishy taste after taking them, which can be prevented by taken before a meal.