We would all eat a well-balanced, nutritional diet in an ideal world. The reality is most of us do not and need a little extra help along the way. Vitamin supplementation is a helpful way to add extra micronutrients to your diet. There can be many reasons for adding in vitamins during the day: to help round out a diet, age, gender, geographic location, or from a medical professional’s recommendation.
Many are familiar with macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. And many are aware that vitamins and minerals are an important part of our diet. But what exactly do vitamins and minerals do for our bodies?
Vitamins and minerals are essential substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally. They are necessary for a wide range of activities our bodies do, include: fighting off infection, building bones, healing wounds, and converting food into energy. Your body needs more than 30 types of vitamins and minerals that come from external sources such as food or sunlight.
And while we aim for a balanced diet and lifestyle to obtain these micronutrients, sometimes supplementation is needed. Unfortunately, when and how you consume vitamin supplements is not all that easy to figure out. It is not quite as simple as popping them down with your morning coffee.
“When people don’t take vitamins the proper way, they don’t see improvement,” says Cleveland Clinic Foundation family medicine doctor Rodolfo Perez-Gallardo, MD. “Your body can’t fully absorb vitamins unless you know the best time to take them.”
Dr. Perez-Gallardo says it’s less about time of day and more about syncing the habit with your eating and drinking schedule.
With many vitamins and minerals out there, it can be rather daunting to figure out the proper timing. Vitamins are either fat-soluble or water-soluble – meaning for your body to properly absorb this micronutrient, you need to consume the vitamin with either a glass of water or with a meal that contains some fat.
Consumption of these popular all-in-one vitamin supplement is tricky. A multivitamin contains both water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. For the body to properly absorb both types, a multivitamin should be consumed with a meal containing fat and washed down with a glass of water.
This vitamin is a popular choice to help aid immunity and keep your body healthy. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and should be consumed on an empty stomach with a glass of water.
This is an important vitamin that aids with absorbing calcium and keeping our bones strong. We can obtain this vitamin from food and from sunlight. For those living in a climate with less sun (further away from the equator), it may be harder to obtain appropriate levels of vitamin D. These supplements are fat-soluble and should be taken with a meal
Iron supplementation is not recommended for everyone and is typically suggested under the guidance of a medical professional. Iron deficiency in the body can lead to anemia. Taking too much iron can have adverse effects on the body as well, including vomiting, nausea, and ultimately organ failure. Those who are recommended to take iron pills should consume the vitamin supplement on an empty stomach with water.
Fish oil supplementation provides omega-3 fatty acids which help with overall cardiovascular health. Omega-3 fatty acids help maintain healthy blood pressure, reduce plaque buildup in arteries, and reduce overall heart attack and stroke risks. Fish oil pills should be consumed with a meal.
Dr. Perez-Gallardo with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation emphasizes that not everyone needs them. “If you eat a nutritious, balanced diet, you do not need these supplements. The best source of vitamins and minerals is a plate that is one-quarter fruits, one-quarter vegetables, one-quarter protein, such as fish and poultry, and the other quarter grains.”
If you are concerned about whether or not you are consuming the right amount of vitamins it is best to work with a medical professional who can perform a series of tests to properly see which vitamins you may be lacking, and the best way to increase these within your diet.