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Nutrition

Get the most from your vitamin supplements

Assorted group of health care prescription drug pills or vitamins

Should you take vitamin supplements on a full or empty stomach?  It depends. Many nutrients are readily absorbed in combination with other nutrients, but for some the presence of other nutrients can interfere with absorption. So, here are some general guidelines for taking common supplements:

Multivitamins

Take "multis" with plenty of water to help them dissolve, as well as with a meal or substantial snack, since fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K require a little fat for absorption.  Indeed, most nutrients work best in concert with other nutrients found in foods.

Vitamin C

Take this vitamin in doses of 500 milligrams or less. More than that is not absorbed well and since Vitamin C is water soluble the excess is eliminated through your urine.  

Vitamin E

Take this with a meal or snack that contains some fat. It doesn't have to be much – one teaspoon of oil or margarine will do the trick.

Calcium

Experts agree that calcium is best absorbed when taken in doses of 500 milligrams or less, with food. So I suggest taking at least one dose with breakfast.  

Fiber

Allow several hours between taking fiber supplements and any nutrition supplement since fiber can trap minerals, making them difficult for the body to absorb.

Zinc

It’s best to take zinc with meals to reduce stomach irritation, though not with dairy foods, which reduce zinc absorption.  Be careful not to take too much zinc because it can interfere with copper absorption and can lead to anemia.

When all is said and done, the best time to take your vitamins is when it is the most convenient for you. Taking a supplement at the "wrong" time isn’t so terrible because their absorption only drops by about 5 percent to 10 percent. The downside of a making your supplements regimen too complicated it become easy to forget to take them, or worse you stop altogether.

Keep in mind that vitamins and supplements are just that. They should not be replacing the healthy foods you need in your diet, so always aim to get all your vitamins and nutrients from foods first.

For delicious high fiber meal plans, recipes and tips on healthy eating, drinking and losing weight, check out my latest book, The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and the bestselling author of The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber as well as the F-Factor Diet. Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and register for new weekly newsletter by visiting her website Ffactor.com.