Take them with food
It’s no secret that you should always take your vitamins at mealtimes. “When you consume foods, it initiates a cascade of digestive processes that help absorb the nutrients from food, and this will also optimize the absorption of the vitamins and minerals,” explains naturopathic physician Duffy MacKay, ND, senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the dietary supplement industry group Council for Responsible Nutrition. There’s another reason too. “Taking vitamins and minerals with food helps to prevent nausea which some people may experience from supplements.”
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule—and in this case, it’s iron. Take it in the AM and on an empty stomach, advises psychologist and sleep expert Michael J. Breus, PhD, author of The Power of When. (Just be prepared: Iron on an empty stomach can trigger nausea.) Try consuming it with vitamin C-rich food, because vitamin C can increase iron absorption.
Learn how they work with your other meds
Don’t ignore other pills you may be taking, because as MacKay warns, vitamins and minerals can interact with prescription and over-the-counter meds. In some cases, this will make one or the other less effective and in other cases, it could amplify their effects and put you at risk for an overdose. For example, calcium may interfere with the absorption of a commonly prescribed thyroid medication, and many women take both. “They compete for absorption in the blood stream and should be taken a few hours apart,” MacKay says. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for guidance if you take medication and vitamins or minerals, and find out all of the vitamin mistakes you may not realize you’re making.