8 Ways to get the most from supplements

8 Ways to get the most from supplements

Supplements have become an increasingly popular addition to people's lives and here are eight tips on how to maximise your supplement routine

Supplements have been added to many people's daily routines to patch up any nutrient gaps and boost overall health. However, are you really getting the most out of all the supplement bottles on your countertop? Whether you are new to supplements or have been taking them for a while, these women's multivitamin options and tips will help you maximise the benefits of your supplement regimen. 

1. Take vitamins with food

8 Ways to get the most from supplements - varying supplement capsules displayed on a countertop Credit: sasirin pamai

Popping your multivitamin any old time is about as effective as trying to put out a fire with a watering can. If your body can’t absorb the vitamins and minerals in that horse-size pill, it’s not doing you any good. To maximise absorption, take all vitamins and minerals with food.

Aside from maximising absorption, check out our tips on staying safe with supplements.

2. Don’t take supplements with coffee

If you’re used to popping a handful of vitamins and minerals with your morning coffee, you could be missing out on important benefits, says Viviana Simon, PhD, director of scientific programmes at the Society for Women’s Health Research.

Caffeine interferes with your body’s ability to absorb calcium, manganese, zinc and copper, as well as vitamins C, A and B. Wait an hour before consuming anything with caffeine after taking your supplements.

3. Take children’s vitamins if you have a swallowing problem

Gummi vitamins for children are a godsend for older adults and anyone else who has problems swallowing vitamins or who gets stomach irritation from a single large dose of several supplements. Instead, take two children’s vitamins in the morning and two at night. Try the gummi vitamins—they are delish!

4. Vitamin D is your best friend

8 Ways to get the most from supplements - Man taking a supplement capsule with a glass of waterCredit: PeopleImages

Vitamin D is beginning to look like the miracle vitamin. Also called the sunshine vitamin, it can protect against colon cancer, help maintain strong bones, reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, and promote immunity and brain function, among other benefits, according to research.

"Vitamin D is beginning to look like the miracle vitamin with many health and immunity benefits"

Dark-skinned individuals, elderly people, and those who don’t get enough sunlight (most of us in the winter months) should get an extra 1,000 IU per day from food or supplements. You can get that with three cups of vitamin D-fortified milk, one cup of vitamin D-fortified orange juice, and 600 IU of vitamin D supplements. The rest of us should aim for at least 600 IU a day.

5. Check your calcium source

Drug company marketers don’t exactly ballyhoo this on the packaging of their supplements, but the human body is better at absorbing one common form of calcium than another. Favour sources of calcium citrate (such as Citracal) instead of the other variety, calcium carbonate, which is often found in antacids such as Tums.

"The human body is better at absorbing calcium citrate instead of calcium carbonate"

Calcium citrate is absorbed two and a half times more easily. If you choose this form, however, says Dr Mary Hardy, double your dose. Calcium citrate contains less elemental calcium (the stuff that matters) than calcium carbonate.

6. Stifle the gas with enzymes

First, the facts on flatulence: everyone does it, on average about a pint a day or about 14 discharges a day (it doesn’t take much to make the odour). Now, how to stop doing it so much: Dr Hardy recommends taking a dose of digestive enzymes, either fruit-based papain and bromelain, which come from papaya and pineapple, or animal-based trypsin and pepsin, with each meal.

Many over-the-counter digestive enzymes contain both types. The enzymes will help you better digest your food, leaving less to ferment in your colon and produce the stinky gas that gets you those weird looks in the elevator.

7. Check out a supplement before taking it

8 Ways to get the most from supplements - Woman customer choosing products at a pharmacyCredit: dragana991

Supplements often don’t contain the amount of active ingredient—or even any active ingredient—listed on their labels. If you want to check out the quality of your supplement before you plunk down £20, go to www.consumerlab.com. This independent laboratory tests supplements and provides reports on their ingredients.

"Supplements often don’t contain the amount of active ingredient—or even any active ingredient—listed on their labels"

You’ll need a membership for the full report, but even the partial reports provide good information. If the supplement isn’t listed, it either wasn’t tested or was tested and found wanting. The site only posts products that passed testing.

Another way to ensure quality is to buy store brands from leading retailers who have a reputation to protect and are more likely to use reputable manufacturers and manufacturing processes.

8. Stay away from sex-enhancement supplements

If you head online to buy herbs and other supplements to make you more powerful in bed, hold the thought. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that numerous online sexual enhancement products contain drugs, herbs and other products that aren’t listed on the labels.

These could be dangerous, potentially interacting with other drugs you’re taking or triggering a life-threatening allergy. Specific ones to watch out for are Zimaxx, Libidus, Neophase, Nasutra, Vigor-25, Actra-Rx or 4 EVERON. If you need to get your blood moving, a good old magazine and videos are a better choice.

Banner credit: yacobchuk

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