Everyone wants to keep their bodies healthy and strong, but sometimes diet alone isn't enough to meet the body's nutritional needs. Vitamins and supplements can make up for these gaps, as long as certain things are taken into consideration.
Some vitamins are better absorbed into the body if they are taken with food, while others work better on an empty stomach. Taking vitamins in certain combinations can also make them more effective, though other combinations can result in decreased absorption, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Understanding how they work together (or apart) will help you get the most out of every vitamin, as well as how to stop wasting money and nutrients.
Here's when you should be taking your vitamins to get the maximum benefit:
Vitamin B12 - Vitamin B12 is best when taken with vitamin B1 and copper. Vitamin B12 provides a boost of energy, so it should be taken in the morning to get the day started right.
Zinc - Zinc can be taken with vitamins A, C, and B12. Avoid taking with iron, copper, and B9.
Multivitamin - If taking one multivitamin, take it in the middle of the day with food. If no other supplements are being taken, break the pill in two and take half in the morning, and the other in the evening.
Magnesium - Helps calm the body before bed. Should be taken with calcium to increase absorption, and vitamin B6 can be taken at this time, too.
Vitamin D - Increases absorption of calcium.
Calcium - Do not take calcium with zinc or iron.
Probiotics - To boost digestion, take probiotics about two hours after dinner.
Fish Oil (Omega-3) - Fish oil should be taken with vitamin D.
Depending on how many vitamins and supplements a person is taking, there might not be any way to get the maximum amount of absorption for every single one. Other factors, such as physical activity and prescription medications, may also change when different vitamins should be taken.
Prioritize absorption of nutrients where there are the biggest deficiencies in diet, and then fill in the others as needed. Not sure what is most important for you? Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more information and for a personalized plan.
Another great way to make the most of vitamins and supplements is to purchase them at Walgreens. Each purchase helps provide life-saving vitamins for people in need around the world through their Vitamin Angels program.
For more information about the biochemistry of vitamins, please read Nutritional Biochemistry of the Vitamins, 2nd Edition by David A. Bender.
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