Supplements, which include vitamins, minerals, probiotics and fiber, are a source of debate for many nutrition experts. Many experts agree that eating a nutrient rich diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products) is more effective than using supplements. However, some people with certain deficiencies may need to supplement their diets with vitamins and minerals, such as folic acid and iron for pregnant women.

Many recent studies have shown that for the average adult, supplements do not greatly reduce the risk of memory issues, heart disease, cancer, or early death. The result of eating healthy foods, reducing sugar, sodium, saturated fats, and trans fat while maintaining a healthy weight provides the strongest benefits.

If you are taking supplements, it is important to take them for optimal absorption. A sample schedule may be:

Breakfast: multivitamin (prenatal multivitamin/folic acid), B vitamins, Omega-3s, probiotics (taken 30 minutes before or during the meal)

Lunch: calcium, vitamin D (vitamin D boosts absorption of calcium)

Dinner: iron, vitamin C (vitamin C boosts the absorption of iron)

Before bed: fiber supplement (with a large glass of water and taken separate because it interferes with absorption of medicines and supplements)

The guidelines for taking supplements are:

  • usually with food to prevent stomach upset, especially iron, magnesium and fish oil supplements,
  • take your multivitamin and vitamins A, D, E and K with food that contains some fat since they are fat-soluble,
  • take calcium separately from iron or multivitamins since it interferes with their absorption
  • take your vitamin supplements with plenty of water to aid the breakdown of the capsule or tablet and for vitamins C and B which are water-soluble.

Remember, the best way to get your nutrients is to eat nutritious whole foods but supplements can complement your diet, when necessary