Though they can’t make up for unhealthy eating habits, supplements are an excellent way to fill the gaps in your diet. But, as is the case with certain medications, many of them are better absorbed when taken with food.
“Having food in your stomach when taking supplements can prevent gastric acid from destroying the supplement and even minimizes gastric upset that may occur from taking supplements on an empty stomach,” says Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., doctor of nutrition and owner of eatrightfitness.
Here, nutrition experts share the best foods to pair with 5 popular supplements.
Pair Your Iron With…
citrus fruit, strawberries, red or yellow bell peppers, tomatoes
If you’re taking an iron supplement to prevent or treat anemia, you’ll do well to fill your plate with vitamin C-rich foods, which aid your body’s absorption of iron.
“If you drink a small glass of orange juice when you take your iron supplement, it will not only provide a boost of the antioxidant vitamin C, but will also help ensure that your body absorbs that iron,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D.N., dietitian and author of Eating in Color.
Pair Your Vitamin D With…
avocados, walnuts, almonds, peanut butter, extra-virgin olive oil
Vitamin D helps keep your immune system strong and facilitates cellular growth, according to the National Institutes of Health. That’s why many people are incentivized to supplement with it during the winter months, when they’re less exposed to the sun, our primary source.
Read More: 7 Signs You Have A Vitamin D Deficiency
However, “you need dietary fat to absorb vitamin D through your intestines, so it’s best to include healthy fats in your diet while you’re supplementing with vitamin D,” says Largeman-Roth.
Pair Your Probiotics With…
beans, lentils, broccoli, berries, apples, oatmeal
It’s always important that your diet is rich in fiber, but especially if you’re taking a probiotic. “The fiber in foods acts as a prebiotic, or a source of food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., C.D.E., dietitian and author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. “When you take a probiotic with a source of dietary fiber it may aid gut health and enhance the benefits.”
Pair Your Turmeric With…
healthy meals or snacks containing black pepper
Turmeric is a yellow spice that has potent antioxidant abilities and black pepper has been shown to improve its absorption and effectiveness in the body, says The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Brittany Michels, R.D.N. In fact, one study published in Planta Medica found that adding 20 milligrams of piperine (a compound found in black pepper) to two grams of curcumin (turmeric’s all-star antioxidant) significantly increased absorption.
Pair Your Vitamin b12 With…
liver, legumes, dark leafy greens, sunflower seeds, sunflower seed butter, prunes, bananas
“Many are quick to take a solo B12 supplement in order to improve energy levels,” says Michels. “However, they forget about B12’s synergistic partners: vitamin B6 and folate. The three work together to maintain brain, neurological, and heart health.” If your B12 doesn’t contain B6 and folate, Michels recommends taking it with B6- and folate-rich foods.