Combine and Rule: How to Take Vitamins and Dietary Supplements Correctly


Vitamins (whose name by no coincidence comes from the Latin word ‘vita,’ which means life) are not created by your body but are literally required for survival. These organic compounds are necessary for the synthesis of hormones and essential enzymes. Most of our bodily systems are not able to function without them. At first glance, the daily need for vitamins is not so great, ranging from several micrograms to several dozens of milligrams, depending on the type of vitamins. However, covering vitamin deficiency is not a simple task. 

First of all, the diet should be as diverse as possible since various vitamins can be found in various foodstuffs, ranging from meat and fish to greens and vegetables. Secondly, all foods should be as fresh as possible: the longer the vegetables and fruits stay in the refrigerator, the fewer vitamins they have. Third, it is better to get them from the wild than from a farm. Each decade, the vitamin content of various plant and animal origin products decreases. In other words, those who aim to maintain a sufficient level of all nutrients should return to the lifestyle of our ancestors and spend all the time and energy finding and consuming food. Living for eating and eating for a living.

Although nutritionists still recommend sticking to a balanced diet, supplemented vitamins, especially those in deficit, are a practical necessity. In the U.S. alone, every third adult takes some supplement, including vitamins and minerals, on a regular basis (according to the Department of Health & Human Services report). Only in the year 2014, were the total sales of supplements made more than 36 billion dollars. In the Scandinavian countries, the share of those who take supplements is even higher – more than 40% of the population, and this percentage is expected to grow, according to the report “Europe Nutrition and Supplements Market Size, Share & Trend Analysis Report, By Function, By Formulation, By Consumer, By Distribution Channel, By Region and Segment Forecasts, 2018 – 2025.”

The standard recommendations include consulting with a physician and taking a blood chemistry test to determine what is deficient. Never exceed the recommended dosage, don’t prescribe supplements for yourself. Choose only certified products, don’t trust miracle substances, follow instructions for intake, and carefully read recommendations as to combining supplements with medicines. One more important fact is not to expect immediate results.

Still, there are several simple rules which can make taking vitamins and minerals more effective and safe.

Rule one: Take them with food

The intake of vitamins should be treated as seriously as taking medicines as both affect the chemistry of your body and take part in metabolism and other processes. For these reasons, the timing and the nature of substances that accompany their intake are essential. If otherwise is not specified in the instructions, vitamins should be taken with food. First of all, active digestion provides better, more efficient, and prompt absorption of nutritional and useful substances. Secondly, the intake of vitamins with foods helps avoid nausea, which is one of the most frequent side effects.

Vitamins, which should be always taken with food:

Vitamin А

This vitamin is required for the normal functioning of our immune system and eyesight. It is classified as a fat-soluble vitamin. If taken without proper accompanying substances, it wouldn’t be absorbed by the body and will be flushed from it. If you take supplements that include vitamin A, make sure that you take them during foods. It would be even better if the foods you eat include enough animal or plant origin fat.


Probiotics are supplements containing bacteria which help gut flora. These are better to be consumed during or before meals. As it was demonstrated in the research of 2011 “The impact of meals on a probiotic during transit through a model of the human upper gastrointestinal tract”, most useful bacteria taken in the form of supplements half an hour after the meal couldn’t survive. Sad, but true.

Vitamin D3

Even those who live in areas with enough sunny days per year are regularly experiencing a deficiency in vitamin D. The best way to prevent its deficit is to stick to a diet rich in proper foods or take necessary supplements. Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble vitamins. The level of its absorption is directly related to the quantity of fat in foods that accompany the supplement’s intake, as evidenced by the research “Taking vitamin D with the largest meal improves absorption“. So it should be taken only during meals, containing enough useful fats.

Vitamin E

This vitamin belongs to the group of antioxidants that help cells combat free radicals. It reduces the consequences of the damage free radicals have created. It is also a fat-soluble vitamin, which can be twice as effective if taken during meals, according to the study “Vitamin E Bioavailability: Mechanisms of Intestinal Absorption”.


There are two known forms of calcium, which are carbonate and citrate. Citrate is prescribed more often and, by its nature, can be taken independently of mealtimes.  However, absorption of calcium is enabled by the presence of vitamin D, which is fat-soluble. Thus, if your supplement includes calcium, it is better to take it with food or just before eating.

Rule two: The timing matters

Let’s say it from the outset: this is not always the case. But the time of the day chosen for the intake of supplements can be an additional factor influencing their efficiency. And, sometimes, this influence can be a decisive one. Here are examples of some vitamins and supplements where the timing of the intake matters.


Naturally, the substance that improves the quality of sleep should be taken in the second half of the day. Moreover, it is better to do it no later than one hour before going to bed.


The best time to take this substance is in the evening. The thing is that while magnesium supports the health of your heart, makes bones stronger, and enhances the activity of the nervous system, it also causes sleepiness. If taken during the first half of the day, it can negatively impact the ability to work and concentrate. For this reason, it is better to stay on the safe side and take the supplement with magnesium in the evening.

B-group vitamins

It is these vitamins that are most often deficient. Besides, vitamins of group B are most often lacking for older people. If you are already 50 years old, you should regularly check if you get enough B-group vitamins and adjust your diet, if necessary, or take corresponding supplements. Meanwhile, the best time to take these vitamins is in the first half of the day. The thing is that B vitamins increase the level of energy, and if you take them after lunchtime, it can have a negative effect on your sleep.

Folic Acid

This supplement is often prescribed to women during pregnancy (as it is required for the normal development of the fetus). Pregnant women need to take folic acid during the evening time with a small amount of food. The thing is that one of the side effects of folic acid is nausea, and it can exacerbate the health condition of women who suffer from toxicosis if taken in the morning or before food.

Rule three: Know the right combinations

Some vitamins and minerals can augment each other’s effects or reduce side effects. In these situations, it is better to take vitamins together, Thus, calcium should be combined with the intake of vitamins D and K as these improve calcium absorption. Another great combination is iron and vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron and alleviates its most widespread side effects such as nausea and constipation.

At the same time, some vitamins cannot be taken together as, in some cases, such intake may not be effective, and, in the worst situation, even dangerous. Thus, calcium and magnesium neutralize each other, preventing absorption. When taking these two together, you are actually taking an empty pill. Zink blocks the absorption of copper, so if you need to take both of these minerals, you should have a two-hour interval between intake. Finally, when taken together, potassium and calcium block the digestibility of each other, and your body will absorb half the dosage of each vitamin in the best case.

Combine and Improve

Unfortunately, the further we move from a “natural” way of life, the more support our body needs. And, it looks like having a proper and balanced diet, however important it is, is not enough. We need additional elements in the form of vitamins and other supplements. Meanwhile, they can be more effective if well-chosen, taken, and combined.

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