Supplement How-Tos
Better Nutrition|July 2021
How to take supplements: 6 things you’re doing wrong
By Lisa Turner

You may have a rock-solid regimen of vitamins, minerals, herbs and other supplements. But certain foods and nutrients can diminish (or enhance) absorption, and some combinations can be downright dangerous—so how you’re taking your supplements may be as important as what you’re taking. Here are 6 simple ways to optimize your supplement routine.

1 Don’t take multis with your morning coffee

The caffeine in coffee (or tea, for that matter) inhibits vitamin D receptors in the body, lessening absorption and impacting vitamin D’s bone-building and immune-boosting benefits. That morning coffee also blunts calcium uptake and, in high quantities, can deplete the bones of minerals.

Because caffeine acts as a diuretic that increases blood flow through the kidneys, water-soluble vitamins such as B and C can be transferred into urine before they’ve had a chance to be absorbed into the bloodstream. Plus, coffee’s laxative effects speed transit time through the intestines, which also decreases time during which nutrients can be fully assimilated.

Best advice: Drink your coffee or tea before breakfast, then take multis about 15 minutes after eating, when there’s still enough food in your stomach to prevent stomach upset and enhance absorption of fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamin D and K.

2 Take a separate calcium supplement

Don’t count on a multi to fulfill your calcium needs. Because calcium (and magnesium) are required in higher quantities than vitamins and other nutrients, most multis don’t contain enough to meet your daily needs. Plus calcium and other minerals, like magnesium, compete for absorption in the body when taken together. That said, you do need both for bone health— magnesium helps guide calcium into bones, not soft tissue, and too much calcium with too little magnesium can contribute to calcification of the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease.

But while it’s true that you likely need more calcium, don’t take too much. Studies suggest that high levels of calcium from supplements may increase plaque buildup in arteries, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Best advice: To maximize benefits and decrease risk, take calcium and magnesium supplements separately, with at least 2 hours between (take calcium with breakfast and lunch, and magnesium with dinner.) Bonus: taking magnesium before bed enhances sleep and promotes regularity.

3 Don’t take vitamin D with vitamin A

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM BETTER NUTRITIONView All

In the Can

In a culinary world dominated by farm-to-table eating and fresh ingredients, MasterChef semifinalist and author Theo A. Michaels celebrates the joys of cooking with canned food.

5 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

Is Your Skin Going Through a Dry Spell?

Moisturize your dry, winter skin with natural formulations that will leave you feeling soft and smooth—not sticky, slippery, or like you’re covered in chemicals.

3 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

All-Star Sides for Thanksgiving Dinner

Turkey gets all the attention at Thanksgiving, but it’s the side dishes that really deserve the spotlight. Bright green peas, golden beets, crunchy Brussels sprouts, purple and green frilly kale, jewel-red pomegranates, and sunny orange winter squash take center stage in the following holiday recipes that are also perfect every day of the week.

3 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

Diabetes Research Update

Weight loss and exercise are effective for both prevention and reversal of type 2 diabetes, and supplements can provide additional benefits:

2 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

A Taste of the Tropics

After returning home from Nicaragua, Pitaya Foods founder Chuck Casano couldn’t get dragon fruit smoothies out of his mind. So he decided to bring the delicious, exotic fruit to the states.

3 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

Self-Care 101

How to create a nourishing self-care routine that can help you feel calmer, more centered, and better able to face the challenges of the world around you.

6 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

The Amazing Benefits of Cat's Claw

This South American superstar herb can quell inflammation and boost immunity—and it may even help stave offcognitive decline.

3 mins read
Better Nutrition
November 2021

Fresh Marinara Sauce in Minutes

If you have five minutes, then you have time to make this no-stir, no-simmer, über-healthy tomato sauce.

4 mins read
Better Nutrition
October 2021

10 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Immune System

Never as a nation have we been more focused on immunity. But in spite of our best efforts, some all-too-common daily habits may be undermining our resistance to infection. Here are 10 sneaky immune saboteurs, and ways to change them.

5 mins read
Better Nutrition
October 2021

Out of the Amazon

Some of nature’s most powerful healers come from the depths of the South American rainforest. Here’s why—and what you should look for in supplements.

5 mins read
Better Nutrition
October 2021
RELATED STORIES

Be a Better Jet-Setter

Ready to hit the road (or skies)? Arm yourself with these smooth-travel solutions before – and during – your trip so nothing can get in the way of your fun.

4 mins read
Clean Eating
Fall 2021

How to Eat Well for Anxiety

Keep calm and reduce anxiety with these foods and supplements that help to restore balance.

7 mins read
Clean Eating
Fall 2021

5 Tips To Support Your Kid's Immune Health

Here are five tips to help keep your kiddos strong and healthy.

3 mins read
Natural Solutions
October 2020

Healthy Boost

Travel can be rough on the immune system – but there are some smart, easy ways to build it up

6 mins read
Business Traveler
July/August 2020

A Gut Feeling

When you have a balanced microbiome—the colony of more than 100 trillion bacteria, yeasts and viruses that reside in your digestive tract—digestion improves, the immune system strengthens, and stress and anxiety are more easily regulated. While factors like age, environment and genetics can influence your microbiome, what you eat also plays a role. A balanced diet rich in probiotics can help, and these gut-friendly foods are a smart place to start.

2 mins read
Taste of Home
June/July 2020

Empires: David Wallace-Wells

America Is Broken The government has abdicated its most basic responsibility in the face of a pandemic.

5 mins read
New York magazine
March 16-29, 2020

Wiped Out

The hunt for a missing bacterium that might cure our modern ailments

4 mins read
Mother Jones
March/April 2020

The Joy of Flowers

Transplant rebirths an abandoned home and acreage into a flower wonderland

4 mins read
The Good Life
October 2019

Gut Feelings - How Your Belly Affects Your Mood

How your belly affects your mood.

7 mins read
Amazing Wellness
Early Winter 2015

What You Need To Know About Probiotics

Probiotics are certainly having a moment, and you’ve possibly even heard of prebiotics, and you might have a vague idea that these two have something to do with digestion. But do you really know how they work? We made the science easy for you, so read on…

10+ mins read
Your Pregnancy
October/November 2021