You’ll absorb more nutrients and avoid nasty side effects.
Vision- and immunity-boosting vitamin A is fat-soluble, meaning the body absorbs it with fats in the diet, so it’s best taken with food. A study of preschool children found that when they ate more spinach (which is full of beta-carotene that the body converts to vitamin A), their vitamin A levels increased more when they ate it with a bit of fatty oil. Learn the truth behind the vitamin myths you need to stop falling for.
“Probiotics, which can be the most expensive of all your vitamins, should be taken just before or at the time of your meals to help decrease the effects of stomach acid that can kill the probiotics,” says Elsie Koh, MD, medical director of Azura Vascular Care. Waiting until after the meal won’t have those same benefits—one study found that probiotics survived when taken 30 minutes before or during a meal, but there were less benefits when taken half an hour after eating. A bit of fat also seemed to help; more survived with 1 percent milk or oat milk than with apple juice or water.
Your skin produces “the sunshine vitamin” when it’s exposed to sunlight, but it can be tough to get enough in just food sources. If you take a supplement to boost your body’s levels, you’ll want to have a bite to eat with this fat-soluble vitamin, says dietitian Rachel Fine, RD, owner of To The Pointe Nutrition. “Vitamin D supplements should be taken with food, preferably with your largest meal of the day, which is likely to contain the most fat,” says Fine. “Research has shown that this can increase absorption up to 50 percent.”