Knowing Your Supplements


My name is Lindsay Goddard and I am interning with Nadine Pazder for the next two months. I wanted to write a few blogs for “How About Them Apples” while I am here and share with her readers some practical nutrition information. I have a Master’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Florida International University and am currently in my second (out of four) rotation for my internship.  I have worked very closely with functional nutritionists and researchers and have been involved in numerous community projects ranging from food safety to budget shopping and menu development.

Today, it seems that everyone is taking a supplement. The use of supplements has skyrocketed within the past 10 years. Whether you take one, or many, it is important to know how to take them efficiently.

Some people are told by their doctor or dietitian to take a certain supplement, but not told HOW to take it. In the following post, we will discuss the top 3 popular supplements, and how to take them so they work best. It is important to note, that food is the best form of getting all of your nutrients. However, when a diet is restricted or lacking in some nutrients, supplementation may be necessary.

Fish Oil                                                   

– Has been proven to help lower triglycerides, CVD risk, and inflammation in the body.  People also use it for many other reasons.                  fish oil

How do you store them?

Temperature is the key component when talking about storage of your fish oil supplements. Always try to keep them cool. If the fish oil gets too warm, it will oxidize. Not only does oxidation render them ineffective, but it can also cause more harm than good. Make sure the fish oil has been transported and stored in a cool place. Ask the manager of the store you are buying them from if the truck ‘s trailer (or whatever they are being transported in) was air-conditioned.  Pay attention to the store’s temperature as well. Is it cool inside? When you get home, place the supplements in the refrigerator. Not only will they keep better, but keeping them cool also cuts down on the fishy burps.

Which form is best?

Triglyceride form, rather than ethyl ester (EE) form, is best for absorption. The form of the omega 3s in the fish oil should be displayed somewhere on the bottle. If not, you can always call the company and ask. It is also important to look for the GMP or USP certification on the bottle. This ensures the ingredients and amounts are accurate. These certifications can be found on various supplements other than fish oil, and so it is important to always look for either one when buying any supplement.

When to take it or what to take with it?

Studies have shown that taking fish oil with food increases absorption and helps with delivery. This is especially true if you take the EE form. Taking Omega 3s with a food that contains fat (the good kind) makes sense because it is fat soluble, and it will be delivered to the tissue much more efficiently when carried with a fat. There is no specific time to take it. It is more important to take it with food than it is to worry about what time to take it.

What’s the ideal dosage?

This depends on what your doctor or dietitian recommends and your current reason for taking it.


– Helps with bone formation as well as contraction and dilation of the vascular system, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion.

How much do you need?                                                       calcium

The average adult (ages 19-50) needs about 1,000 mg and the average older adult (ages 51- 70) needs about 1,200 mg. Children’s need vary depending on age, as do pregnant women. For more information on needs go to

How do you take it?

The maximum amount your body can absorb at one time is 500 mg. In order to get in the amount needed, a 500mg supplement should be taken a couple of times throughout the day.

Are there any food interactions for Calcium?

Tea and coffee can inhibit absorption of calcium, so if your taking calcium in the morning after you drink your coffee or tea, it might not be very effective. Foods high in oxalates, such as spinach can also inhibit calcium absorption. Iron can compete with calcium absorption so any iron containing vegetables, meats, or supplements (such as a multivitamin) can decrease the efficacy of calcium absorption and should not be taken together.

What type of calcium is the best?

There are two very common types of calcium; calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium citrate it the most efficiently absorbed, but calcium carbonate tends to be cheaper. If you choose to take the calcium carbonate, you should take it with food to enhance its absorption.

Multivitamin                                                                          MVI

– Although studies on the benefits of multivitamin use are contradicting, it is a very common supplement taken.

Which brand is the best?

There is no perfect brand for everyone. Every person’s needs are different and various brands/types provide different amounts of nutrients. However, it is beneficial to read the ingredient list. Some contain other ingredients than vitamins and minerals such as food dye, common food allergens or non-vegan ingredients, so it is important to read the label!

How many should I take?

It is also important to look at the serving sizes. The daily values on the nutrient list are based on the particular serving size. Some multivitamins may look like they have 100% of most nutrients, but the serving size may be 2 or 3 tablets, which means you would have to take 2 or 3 tablets a day to get all of the nutrients.  If a multivitamin seems cheap with high daily values, chances are you will have to take more than just 1 a day. This is also true for any other supplement.

What types of nutrients should I be looking for?

Again, it really depends on the person’s specific needs, but it is important to look at the form of vitamins and minerals as some are more efficiently used in the body than others (like the example of calcium and fish oil above).  When looking at Vitamin A, retinol is going to give you the most bang for your buck. Our body needs a lot more beta-carotene to make Vitamin A than it does with retinol.  Vitamin C should be in the form of ascorbic acid, and Vitamin E is best in the form of alpha-tocopherol. When looking at Vitamin D, cholecalciferol (D3) is already in it’s active form so the body absorbs this more efficiently than the other form ergocalciferol (D2), which is plant based.

Looking for the right type of vitamin/mineral/nutrient is just as, if not more, important than taking the supplement. You want to be able to use them correctly so you are not only getting their benefits, but you are not wasting your money and time either. If you have any other questions, please leave a comment below and Nadine, Adam, or I will respond.



About nadineandadamblog

Nadine and Adam are mother and son. Nadine lives in Florida where she has provided outpatient MNT in a large healthsystem for the past 20 years. In addition, she teaches nutrition to second and third year family medicine residents. She is a past-spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Adam lives in Washington State. His career has largely been involved in recipe development and food production. He is currently developing recipes and menus for the Seattle schools to meet the new federal guidelines for school nutrition programs and he does outpatient nutrition counseling. He is also a voice in PSAs over Seattle radio representing the Washington Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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