Should You Take Supplements with Food?

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Nutritional supplements couldn’t be more popular these days, and for good reason. People are unsure as to whether they are getting the whole scope of vitamins and minerals in their daily diet, so they buy supplements just in case. But certain bits of information don’t get discussed that often. For starters, how exactly should supplements be taken?

There are certain ways to take supplements so that your body gains maximum benefit. And after all, you’re the one paying the money, so you want to make sure a supplement is as strong as it can be. On that note, why don’t we try and clear the air and read what amounts to fine print regarding vitamins. Is there an ideal time to take supplements? Should they be taken with food?

The latter is key. The reason you’d pop a vitamin in the midst of a meal is that your digestive enzymes are already perked and ready because of the food heading to the stomach. Thus, when you slip in a vitamin, it will go and digest it as well. (This is also a helpful way to remember to take a supplement — if it becomes a habit to have it during dinner.)

Most vitamins and minerals should be taken with food. They get absorbed better. This is especially true for vitamins A and E, coenzyme Q10, and any carotenes you are taking (most famous: beta-carotene). This is because the fat and protein in the food helps your body absorb these ones. For “water soluble” vitamins, it’s not as important to take them with food, but it’s still a good idea anyway. These include the B vitamins and vitamin C. If you are taking high doses of any nutrient, divide it up into a few different doses. If you
take a large dosage at once, all of it will not likely get absorbed and you won’t be getting full value.

An exception to the above is when you are taking proteolytic enzymes such as bromelain and protease. These
work better on an empty stomach because they play a dual role. First, they digest proteins. Second, they reduce inflammation, so they are taken to treat a variety of conditions. If you swallow them at mealtime, the enzymes will focus on digesting proteins in the food rather than fighting inflammation.

Another exception is iron, which is best absorbed on an empty stomach. Should you be taking an iron supplement to treat anything (with a doctor’s supervision), take it between meals rather than during them. There are also two B vitamins that shouldn’t be swallowed taken with food: B12 and folic acid. Three other supplements deliver the optimal benefits when taken on an empty stomach: quercetin, rutin and hesperidin.