Taking Your Vitamins 101

Nutrition | | January 4, 2010 at 5:30 am
Photo by RRB62.

Photo by RRB62.

One of my patients used to joke that the only thing nutritional supplements offered him was really expensive pee. But a well designed nutraceutical program will compliment and enhance a balanced diet if you follow these simple rules.

The rule of all rules when it comes to nutritional supplements is developing a thorough understanding of what you’re taking so you know when to take it. Our ability to absorb nutritional supplements completely relies on each of these important factors: time of day, with food, between meals, and how soon after eating.

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble. In supplemental form they must be ingested along with a meal or food containing some type of fat (preferably non-saturated and essential). Why? The body can absorb the highest amount of the nutrients possible in the small intestine if it rides along the GI tract with a little fat. I suggest a piece of toast with nut butter, or about 3 ounces of meat. Skipping the fat and swallowing the nutrients alone, makes my patient’s joke true!

Water Soluble Vitamins

Unlike the others, both vitamins B and C are soluble in water. Although it is just fine to take these two with food, it isn’t necessary for maximum absorption. Because neither of these are stored in the body, it’s necessary for you to seek your daily source from food or supplementation. Water soluble vitamins are also a touch more sensitive to temperature and light than fat soluble so be sure to store these supplements in a cool dark area.


Noticing you’re under a lot of stress or feeling a bit of anxiety? Because water soluble vitamins need replenishing on a daily basis, if you’re not eating a well balanced diet, you may be experiencing a deficiency. The nervous system heavily relies on a steady stream of B vitamins to carry out it’s job; it’s biggest of which is helping you achieve a sense of overall well-being. Consider a high quality B complex if you’re under a lot of stress while incorporating a variety of foods packed with vitamin B such as leafy greens, eggs, berries, and brown rice.

Digestive Enzymes

These specialized enzymes help us feel better after eating. Not only do they come to the rescue after eating a large meal, they also enhance nutrient delivery from our food to our bodies. Because the digestive process begins the moment we get a whiff of something delicious on the stove, digestive enzymes are generally best taken just before you sit down to eat.


Size is the issue with mineral supplementation. Ever stand before the mineral section in the health food store wondering which of the six calciums is right for you? When it comes to mineral absorption, the smaller the mineral, the better your chances of absorbing it. We absorb nutrients in the small intestine through little finger-like projections barely detectable by the human eye. Now picture trying to squeeze a golf-ball through a straw. Same goes for minerals if they’re too large. Large molecules simply pass by the small intestine, missing their chance for absorption.

Calcium is one the best examples. If you turn to the label located on the back of those calcium supplements you’ll notice something written in parentheses. For maximum absorption, consider choosing a calcium that’s been prepared as an aspartate or citrate. These smaller molecules are easily grabbed by those fingers offering you the best results!


Nutritional supplements that concentrate on supplying vitamins and minerals are generally best absorbed when ingested in divided doses throughout the day with your meals. Know how you feel tired after devouring a huge meal? Well, your bod is tired on the inside too! If you’ve just eaten a huge meal and try throwing a handful of vitamins down your gullet, chances of maximum absorption are decreased by over half. This is due to certain enzymatic processes kicking in to digest the big heap of food you’ve just dumped in. Just another of the many reasons to treat your body better with smaller more frequent meals!

Smaller, more frequent meals allow the body to absorb more nutrients from your food overall. The benefits of well balanced, smaller meals means increased energy, less fatigue, and fewer nutritional supplements for you! At your next visit to the naturopath or Chinese medical provider’s office, discuss if the nutritional supplements you’re taking are the most absorbable and best suited to your needs!

ChristineChristine M. Dionese L.Ac. specializes in integrative medicine, medical journalism and was the VP of marketing at WellWire LLC. Visit her wellness and lifestyle blog, Reaching Beyond Now.

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