For a long time now I've been taking vitamin supplements. I've always considered them as a sort of insurance. If the stuff I was eating didn't quite give me everything I needed, the pills would fill it out. Or so I thought.
Ever since my late twenties I've been a pretty conscientious eater, and have eaten healthier than most people. But after 17 years as a thoughtful vegetarian, taking vitamins regularly, I ended up with a shortage. A blood test confirmed that I was short of vitamin B12. I hadn't been doing as good a job as I'd thought.
When I ran out of my regular pills a couple weeks ago I figured maybe I should do some additional research to figure out how I could improve things. So I spent several hours reading up on vitamins, and here's what I found.
It seems pretty clear that some forms of vitamins are better at providing nutrition than others. My research indicated that liquid vitamins were the best, and the typical vitamin pills were the least effective. Absorption rates and fillers and all kinds of things are involved, but it all comes down to:
- Liquid is preferable
- Powder is the next best, if liquid isn't available or is too expensive
- Capsules come in third
- Tablets and similar pills come in last, but are slightly better than nothing.
Of course, the better ones are more expensive, but good insurance is worth paying for.
Content is Crucial
A lot of the researching I did was looking into amounts - especially if there were any deviations from the RDA 100% plan.
I did find some things that I thought were worth writing down. Since some vitamins can cause problems if you get too many, its worth looking into. But essentially I found this:
- Try to get 100% of each of the B vitamins
- But no more than 100mg of B6
- And no more than 3,000mg of B3
- Your vitamins should have 100% of vitamin D
- Vitamin E should be in the range of 200-300 IU
- Vitamin C should be greater than 90mg
- Vitamin K should be more than 20mcg
- Vitamin A depends on the type
- If retinol, no more than 4,000 IU
- If beta carotene, no more than 15,000 IU
But most general multi-vitamins will be OK. These additional notes are probably only needed if you are really trying to get the best outcome you can.
When and How
Many vitamins are fat soluble. This means they need fat in order to be transported and stored, which means you should take these vitamins with a meal that has fats and/or oils in it. The fats will not only slow down the digestive process, giving the vitamins more time to be absorbed; but they will also help with the absorption process.
The water soluble vitamins don't really need to be taken with meals, but doing so doesn't seem to hurt.
Since all the vitamins are OK being taken at meals, and some of them ought to be taken with meals, it just makes sense to take them with meals. If you have an easily divisible type, such as liquid or powder, you can do as a few sites suggested and have half at breakfast and half at dinner. That spreads out the dosage which makes it harder to overdose. Also, taking them with meals can become part of a daily ritual, making it easier to remember.
The first few days I took the new liquid vitamins that I bought, I felt a huge surge in energy. I'm pretty sure though that it was because I took a little more than the suggested amount, and I got more than the 100% of the B vitamins. But I am feeling better most days now, and it seems to be good stuff. I think I'm going to stick with it a while and continue to monitor how I feel. And the next time I get a blood test done I'm certainly going to ask them to check it.
I am hoping that in the not too distant future we will have devices, probably shaped like watches, that can continually monitor our bloodstream and let us know on a daily basis how we're doing with vitamins and minerals. Imagine just looking at your wrist (or checking your computer or smart-phone) and having it suggest that since you're low on some particular nutrients you ought to eat an apple or maybe you should eat some liver. You wouldn't need insurance supplements, and would always be able to maintain healthy levels. But until that day, I think I'll be supplementing.
And as always, this is a work in progress and you should do your own research.