Even with your best efforts, eating the standard recommended five to nine daily servings of vegetables and fruits presents a challenge. If you’re falling short of eating a balanced diet, you may have decided to take supplements. Nutritional supplements can fill in any gaps in your nutritional needs. So if you take supplements or vitamins, here are fifteen general hacks you should know to make your supplementation program more effective for your health.
Who Needs Nutritional Supplementation?
Certain groups of people need supplements more than others. Those who benefit the most from supplements include
- Pregnant women
- Menopausal women
- People with food allergies
Even if you’re not in any of these groups, taking supplements and vitamins is a great idea to improve your overall health.
15 Hacks to Make Your Nutritional Supplements More Effective
1 – Watch your supplementation dosage
Always read the dosage recommendations on the label of your supplements or vitamins. There’s no benefit to taking an extra amount of a nutritional supplement. Getting too much of some vitamins will give you unwanted side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, or other severe side effects such as damage to your liver.
2 – Be sure to take your supplementation with food
Most vitamins or supplements go best with food. This improves their absorption and helps you not get nausea or diarrhea. Iron is an exception to this rule. It’s best to take iron on an empty stomach. This helps with absorption. Take it an hour before dinner with at least eight ounces of water. This reduces the chances of getting an upset stomach. You can also take iron and vitamin C because it increases iron absorption.
3 – Only take nutritional supplements as directed
Always take the supplement as directed. Read the label to understand how much you should take. Be sure you know if your supplements or vitamins could interfere with any other medications you take. Medicines that can interfere with certain supplements or vitamins include the following:
- Thyroid medications
- Diabetes medications
- Heart medications
If you take prescription medication, ask your doctor what supplements or vitamins you should avoid or take at different times than when you take your daily medicines.
4 – Learn how your body absorbs vitamins
Vitamins can be water-soluble or fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are absorbed quickly with any excess filtering into your urine. Fat-soluble vitamins are absorbed slowly—any excess stores in your liver. You must understand which vitamin supplements could lead to toxicity because of this excess stored in your liver.
Fat-soluble vitamins are A, E, D, and K. These vitamins can accumulate over time and cause you harm. You usually do not need to take these or be careful only to take the recommended daily dose.
Water-soluble vitamins are C, B (folate, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, pantothenic acid, and biotin), B6, and B12. Anything your body doesn’t use is excreted in your urine, so you have no buildup in your body.
5 – Learn what nutritional supplements work well together
Before you take vitamins or minerals, be sure you understand which ones work well together. Certain combos are helpful for your body.
- For your bones, take calcium and vitamin D.
- To increase your iron, try mixing vitamin C and iron. This helps absorption and prevents constipation.
- For hair growth, take vitamin D, E, and B complex
6 – Learn what nutritional supplements don’t work well together
Just as some nutritional supplements work well in a combo, others shouldn’t be taken together. For instance, don’t take calcium with your iron tablets. It prevents absorption. If you take your iron in the morning with your orange juice, Take your calcium in the evenings. Other vitamins and mineral combinations to avoid include the following:
- Vitamin B-12 and vitamin C
- Vitamin B12 and folic acid
- Vitamin E and vitamin K
- Vitamin D, E, K
Do your research before you take supplements. Find out what combinations of vitamins or minerals don’t work well together so your nutritional supplements are most effective.
7 – Eat fat with fat-soluble vitamins
It’s best to take your fat-soluble vitamins with fatty foods. For instance, take your vitamin D pill when you eat yogurt, eggs, or avocado toast for breakfast. A high-fat breakfast helps boost vitamin D absorption compared to taking it without fatty foods.
8 – Should you take your supplementation in liquid form?
The mineral that is often overlooked, and many people are low in magnesium. Magnesium supports your nerve and muscle function and your body’s energy production. You can have low magnesium and not know it because there aren’t any symptoms until you’re chronically low. Low magnesium symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Magnesium is easier to digest and absorb in liquid form. Liquid vitamins have more flexible doses. They’re perfect for kids and older adults because there are no swallowing issues. Because liquid vitamins get absorbed quicker, you need to know how fast your body will absorb them. Liquid vitamins need to be refrigerated and have a shorter shelf life than other nutritional supplements.
9 – Never drink grapefruit juice with your vitamins
Grapefruit juice doesn’t mix well with vitamins, minerals, and medications. This is because it can increase the potency of some of them or interfere with your body’s ability to absorb the supplement. With this in mind, you should know a variety of popular drinks contain hidden grapefruit juices or grapefruit extracts.
Avoid these products that contain hidden grapefruit:
Here is a list of popular drinks to avoid if you take certain medications, vitamins, or supplements.
- Canada Dry Citrus Blend
- Lipton Diet Green Tea
- Full Throttle Citrus Blend
- Country Time Lemonade
- Nestea Citrus Green Tea
- Sierra Mist
- SoBe Energy Citrus
- Powerade Citrus Blend
- Snapple Citrus Tea
- Vitamin Waters Tropical Citrus
- IZZE Sparkling Grapefruit
- Ruby Red Squirt Citrus Blast
- Sun Drop orDiet Sun Drop
Be sure to read labels on drinks that say “citrus” or “citrus blend.”
10 – Be aware of caffeine
Caffeine can interfere with your vitamin supplements if you’re not careful. Because caffeinated drinks are diuretics, you urinate more, and this speeds up the rate of the removal of the water-soluble vitamins from your system. You miss out on the full benefits of these vitamins if you’re drinking too many caffeinated drinks. Also, keep an eye on getting enough vitamin D and calcium because caffeine diminishes the amount of vitamin D you have in your body.
11 – Choose natural over synthetic supplements
Typically, natural forms of supplements are better for you than synthetic versions. The best way to tell if a vitamin or mineral is natural is to look at the label. For instance, look for a “D” on the label if you want to take a natural vitamin C. A “DL” means it’s a synthetic type of vitamin C. Another example is vitamin E which is the generic name for tocopherol. There are eight different forms of vitamin E, but the natural ones are called “mixed tocopherols” with a D on the label. Reading labels is the way to discern which vitamins are synthetic versus natural.
12 – Should you cut nutritional supplements in half?
Some water-soluble vitamins work best when you take half the dose in the morning and another half in the evening. Vitamin C is an excellent example of this. Because the water-soluble vitamins are excreted from your system, diving up the times you take them makes sense.
13 – Get a blood test before starting a supplementation regime
One of the best ways to know if you are low in a vitamin or mineral is to get a blood test. Many naturopaths do this first thing when you go to see them. More traditional doctors may not know the benefit of getting blood work, but you might convince them. Of course, family history is an excellent place to start if you’re wondering if you’re low in a particular nutrient. Certain diseases can run in your family, corresponding with specific low vitamins. Talk with your doctor or find a naturopath who will do your blood work.
14 – Be careful how you store the nutritional supplements
Nutritional supplements are affected by how and where they’re stored. Please put them in a cool, dry, dark place like a drawer or closet. Be sure it’s far from your stove, oven, or dishwasher where heat could affect them. Liquid vitamins should be refrigerated.
15 – Don’t substitute supplementation for food
Of course, most of your vitamins and minerals should come from what you eat rather than supplements. Vitamins are a supplementation of your regular diet. As good as supplements are, they should never replace real food. Choose fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, whole-grain foods, lean meats, and whole dairy products. Enjoy a wide variety of foods and be creative with trying new things. If you are low in a specific mineral or vitamin, research what foods contain these things and include them in your weekly menu.
Final Thoughts on Taking Nutritional Supplements Most Efficiently
Even if you try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, getting all the nutrients you need from foods is a challenge. Of course, minerals and vitamins supplement your regular foods, but nutritional supplements are beneficial. If you’ve added vitamins to your diet, try these fifteen hacks to make your supplementation plan more effective.