Think you can take your daily dose of vitamins whenever you have a spare second? Technically, that’s true – but there’s a smarter way to supplement.
While vitamins, minerals, herbs and other kinds of supplements work perfectly well when taken alone, there’s a little-known perk to taking them together. Certain vitamins and minerals can be even more potent when taken in combination with others. Some nutrients are more difficult for the body to absorb, while others can enhance how much your body takes in and uses.
It’s time to rethink how you’re taking your daily supplements, which ones you’re taking together and if you can revamp your routine to get even more nutritional value. Pair the following vitamins, minerals and other supplements together, and you’ll make them even more effective.
Calcium and vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are a well-known duo. In fact, you might’ve noticed that quite a few calcium supplements also include vitamin D or that some calcium-rich foods are also fortified with vitamin D. There’s a reason these two dietary supplements make such a good pair: They need one another.
Both of these nutrients are vital for building strong bones and keeping them healthy well into the future. And while they can be taken individually, you really need vitamin D in order to help your body absorb and effectively use any calcium you’re getting.
As the National Institutes of Health explains, you have to have vitamin D when you take calcium. If you’re lacking in vitamin D, you could face problems like insufficient calcium absorption, weakening bones and a lack of new bone growth. Calcium is tough for the body to absorb – even when taken in small doses throughout the day, these supplements really need some help either from food or vitamin D. Vitamin D carries calcium, transporting it through your intestinal cells and playing a key role in how your body absorbs it.
So, to make sure you’re actually getting enough calcium to support your body’s needs, it’s a smart idea to take your calcium and vitamin D supplements together.
Vitamin D and magnesium
Vitamin D really is an essential nutrient. In addition to helping your body absorb critical calcium, it also helps with the absorption of magnesium. This vitamin helps you absorb magnesium in the intestines, in a way that’s kind of similar to how it aids calcium absorption.
But the opposite is also true. Vitamin D needs magnesium just as much as magnesium needs vitamin D. Research shows that magnesium and vitamin D levels are linked – if you have a lot of magnesium in your body, you’ll also likely have plenty of vitamin D. Magnesium also affects how much vitamin D your body can make.
There’s one important thing to keep in mind about this vitamin and supplement pairing, however. You don’t want to take vitamin D with calcium and magnesium together. Calcium can alter how your body absorbs magnesium, so these two need to be taken separately. You can split your daily dose of vitamin D into two, taking half in the morning with calcium and half in the afternoon or evening with magnesium, to get the biggest nutritional impact.
Vitamin B12 and folate
Here’s a nutrient pairing you might’ve heard of before: Vitamin B12 and folate. Both of these are actually B vitamins, and folate is technically vitamin B9. Together, this duo partners up within the body to complete fundamental cellular functions, like cell division and replication.
And in order for you to properly and fully absorb any folate you consume, you have to have the right amount of vitamin B12. Folate needs vitamin B12 in order to be absorbed, stored and put to use within the body. Without B12, the folate you take in goes unused.
Take these two B vitamins together, and you’ll have the perfect pairing to make the most out of each one. You’ll be certain that you’re actually absorbing the folate once you’ve taken it, and the two will be able to work together on a cellular level.
Vitamin C and iron
If you’re vegan, vegetarian or simply trying to eat more plant-based meals, you’re going to want to pay close attention to this nutrient pairing. Vitamin C helps you better absorb non-heme iron, a kind of iron typically found in plant-based foods like legumes, seeds, nuts and leafy greens like spinach.
Taking vitamin C as a dietary supplement can help you make more out of any non-heme iron you’re getting naturally from your diet. Non-heme iron is naturally a challenge for the body, as its structure makes it difficult to absorb. However, according to a 2020 review, taking vitamin C alongside non-heme iron increases your iron absorption because the two nutrients come together in the form of a soluble bond. This changes the chemical structure of the iron, allowing it to be taken in more easily by your intestines’ cells.
You can either take a vitamin C supplement along with foods or meals rich in non-heme iron or take both a vitamin C supplement and a non-heme iron supplement together. Either way, you’ll give your body a bit of internal assistance to put that iron to better use.
Turmeric and black pepper
If you’ve ever tried turmeric supplements, you’ve likely noticed that many products aren’t pure turmeric. These supplements often contain back pepper. And if you’ve always wondered what black pepper had to do with turmeric’s anti-inflammatory benefits, we’ve got the answer.
Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which increases the bioavailability of turmeric’s main ingredient, curcumin. That means pairing black pepper with turmeric increases the amount of the anti-inflammatory supplement that’s absorbed and used within your body.
When taken solo, turmeric and its curcumin isn’t easily absorbed. The body tends to metabolize and then eliminate these nutrients super quickly, which means you aren’t getting the full benefits of the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds you’re actually consuming. However, when you pair black pepper (or piperine) with turmeric, its bioavailability can increase by as much as 2,000 percent.
With a powerful effect like that, it’s a no-brainer that you should start taking black pepper alongside your turmeric. And this is super easy to accomplish – just look for a clean turmeric supplement that already contains black pepper in its ingredient blend.
Catechins and vitamin C
Green tea is highly prized for its countless health benefits. And what makes green tea so great for you is its catechins, or plant-based chemicals that have antioxidant effects. But you don’t have to drink cup after cup of tea to get these good-for-you compounds. Catechin supplements make it simple.
But there’s one disadvantage to taking catechin supplements: They’re unstable when taken alone. Once catechins hit your intestines, as much as 80 percent of their bioavailability disappears, leaving your body with just 20 percent of the total to work with.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to retain those precious antioxidants. Just take some vitamin C! A 2007 research study found that vitamin C (and citrus juices) stabilizes catechins and allows you to increase the amount available after consumption by as much as five times. This gives your body more to work with, and it allows you to actually reap the benefits catechins have to offer.
So, if you’re taking green tea extract or other kinds of catechin-rich supplements, you can pair them with a simple vitamin C supplement. You can even take catechins along with your vitamin C and non-heme iron pairing. Research suggests that catechins likely have little to no impact on your iron intake.
Perfect your supplement schedule to get the biggest benefits
While it’s easy to take all of your dietary supplements at one time when you first wake up or with a meal, it’s not necessarily the best way to make the most out of them. These vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients are supposed to increase your intake – but they can only do that if you know how they’re best absorbed or used by the body.
Pairing certain vitamins and supplements together can have the biggest impact and offer the most benefits. And, of course, it’s important to remember that eating a balanced diet can also help you take advantage of all of the nutrients you’re getting from your supplements. Getting your vitamins and minerals from your diet first is always the best approach.
Learn more about different vitamin and supplement pairing, including when and how to take different vitamins and supplements: