Vitamin Absorption: How to Get the Most Out of Supplements
Perusing all of the vitamins and supplements available today can be overwhelming. Supplements and vitamins seem to be offered in everything across the alphabet from A to zinc. But how many of these supplements are really necessary? And when we take them—for instance, taking supplements with the best vitamins for hair growth—how do we know we are absorbing them to the best of our body’s ability and getting what we are hoping for—and paying for?
Most of us do our best to stay healthy, and that includes exercise, eating right as often as possible, and taking our vitamins and supplements. But it’s important to know what can be done to help us to get the most out of the vitamins we take.
According to nutritionists, eating healthy food takes precedence over vitamin supplements for many reasons. Whole foods contain dietary factors that are not included in supplements. For example, you can take a vitamin C supplement, and it’s beneficial to your health, but if you eat an apple you get vitamin C, other antioxidants, and beneficial fiber.
Some supplements don’t allow full absorption of the vitamins and minerals they contain. Nutritionists tell us that some vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they won’t be absorbed on an empty stomach as they would if taken with food to provide the fat necessary for absorption. Therefore, one of the important "dos" for supplement-taking is knowing which vitamins are fat-soluble. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins that won’t absorb properly if not taken with a fatty food such as yogurt, milk, or toast with butter.
If you are paying for supplements for specific effects, such as taking calcium and vitamin D for bone health or taking the best vitamins for hair growth, you should always take them with food. According to doctors, when you take the first bite of food, it kicks off an entire chain of digestive events aimed at allowing you the best possible absorption of nutrients. Taking your vitamin supplements with food allows for the most complete absorption. It also lessens the possibility of nausea which can result from taking supplements on an empty stomach.
Another important vitamin Do, is to know when to pair your vitamins for the best absorption. For instance, taking iron and vitamin C together can help your absorption of iron and lessen the side effects of iron supplements, such as constipation and nausea. It’s also beneficial to take calcium with both vitamin D and Vitamin K since both of those vitamins boost calcium absorption.
Don’t take iron and calcium supplements at the same time. According to nutritionists, calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, so you will have the best absorption if you take them at different times of the day.
Don’t take your vitamins with your morning coffee. Caffeine inhibits the absorption of many vitamins and minerals and because of its diuretic effect, it hastens the excretion of vitamins from the body. Taking them with orange juice will actually boost the absorption of many vitamin supplements.
Don’t take your vitamins with your morning grapefruit juice. Unlike orange juice, grapefruit juice does not aid in vitamin absorption. It can interfere in the absorption of both supplements and certain medications.
Don’t take herbal supplements, enzymes, or amino acids on a full stomach. While most vitamin supplements should be taken with food, these types of supplements are best taken on an empty stomach. Most nutritionists tell us to take these types of supplements about half an hour before eating.
While most doctors agree that it’s much more important to eat a healthy, well-rounded diet than to take supplements, they also agree that vitamin supplements can be beneficial to bridge the gap of deficiencies in today’s diets, or to achieve specific goals, such as to prevent osteoporosis with calcium, or to prevent hair loss with the best vitamins for hair growth. It’s also advisable to speak to your doctor before beginning any new dietary supplements.