How to get the most out of your vitamin and mineral supplements

Are you taking your vitamin and mineral supplements properly? If not, you could be wasting money.
Are you taking your vitamin and mineral supplements properly? If not, you could be wasting money.

The best way to obtain the optimum amounts of vitamins and minerals is to ensure that you eat a healthy, balanced diet. In a fast-paced world, this is, however, not always possible. Fortunately, you can make up for any deficiencies with a supplement.

But whether you've never taken a vitamin or mineral supplement or if you're hoarding a cupboard full of pills, there are ways to get the most out of these nutrients and avoid wasting your money:

1. Consider your medication first

Before you start adding a multivitamin or any supplement to your diet, be aware that there are medications that may limit the absorbability of some vitamins and minerals. You should therefore ensure that chronic medication is taken at least two hours before your supplements. An example of this is birth control pills, which can potentially limit the ability of the body to absorb vitamin B and folic acid. Antibiotics can interact with some magnesium and vitamin supplements and Vitamin K may interfere with the efficacy of Warfarin, a medication that prevents blood clots. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor, who will be able to tell you what to do and how to combine chronic medication and supplements.

2. Be careful of overdosing

Minerals and vitamins in high quantities may cause adverse effects, especially iron. Most vitamins can be passed through urine, but iron remains stored in the liver and other organs. When excess iron is not utilised, it can cause damage to the organs over time and you may experience symptoms such as nausea and constipation. This article explains the phenomenon of too much iron in more detail. If you're unsure about any possible deficiency, rather go to a doctor for a thorough blood test, instead of self-medicating.

3. Not all supplements are created equally

Pill, tablet, powder or liquid? With so many products on the market, it may be difficult to know what to choose. But not all vitamins and minerals are absorbed equally well. Purchase what works best for you – if you have trouble swallowing pills, a liquid may be better for you, but be sure to choose a product free of colourants, sugar and binding agents. Also choose a reputable brand, from a reputable pharmacy or store.

4. Take your vitamins with meals

Not only will this help you get into the habit of taking them regularly, but taking a multivitamin when your digestive system moves into action will also help the vitamins be absorbed more quickly, according to Douglas MacKay, senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition in Washington DC.

And if you've ever experienced that horrible, stomach-burning nausea after taking vitamins on an empty stomach, you may know that taking them with meals is best. However, read the instructions on the package of each product, or ask your pharmacist if you're unsure.

5. Store them properly

Keep supplements out of reach of children and pets, in a dark cupboard away from direct sunlight. Omega-3 capsules filled with fish oil are also better kept in the fridge, as this will prevent any stench and the chance of it causing fishy reflux all day. Probiotics are also better stored in the fridge.

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 582 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
83% - 7049 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
10% - 895 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.