If you have unanswered questions about vitamins and supplements, you are not alone. The majority of Americans take supplements daily or occasionally, yet many aren’t sure which ones to take, how much to take, or even when to take them. To clear up the confusion, we have created this vitamin guide below to provide answers to your most commonly asked questions about vitamins and supplements. By the end of this guide, we’ll answer many of the most frequently asked vitamin questions, so you leave feeling confident in your nutritional supplement knowledge!
Why Should You Take Daily Supplements?
Don’t know which vitamins you should be taking daily? Before you can choose a daily vitamin supplement, it’s important you understand why you should be taking one in the first place. For starters, most vitamins, minerals, and nutrients come from the foods you eat on a daily basis. However, even if you are health conscious, choosing a wide variety of foods and eating fortified foods, you still might not be getting enough nutrients that your body requires from your diet.
If you are not getting enough nutrients from the common foods in your everyday diet, you may want to consider taking a daily dietary supplement. A daily multivitamin provides a number of essential nutrients to support your health. The B Vitamins (including folic acid, biotin, niacin, and others), omega-3 fatty acid, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin D, and calcium are among some of the nutrients that can be found in a multivitamin. When adding a multivitamin dietary supplement into your daily routine, you'll help ensure that you are getting an adequate intake of the most important nutrients. Not only does it help to fill any nutritional gaps, but it also supports your overall health and wellbeing.†
What Time of Day Should I Take My Supplements?
Most of your supplements—your daily multivitamin, vitamin D or fish oil—can be taken with your largest meal of the day, which should contain some fat, such as lunch or dinner. The most important point to remember is that you should take these supplements with food in order to help with digestion and absorption.
However, not all supplements should be taken with food. There are some exceptions to that rule that you should be aware of. Some supplements should be taken on an empty stomach before a meal. For example, SAM-e, a supplement to help support healthy mood†, should be taken on an empty stomach by at least 30 minutes before you consume food. This is important because taking SAM-e with food may impair the way your body uses SAM-e and consequently its overall effectiveness. If you are taking SAM-e and wondering how to include it in your daily regimen, you might consider taking it in the morning when you first wake up. Your stomach is most empty at this time, and you might find this plan to be convenient and feasible for you. Be sure to check the Suggested Use on the product label for how to take your dietary supplements.
How do I decide which supplements are best for me?
Determining what supplements you should take begins with understanding your diet. You can learn more about whether nutrient gaps exist in your diet and what they are by talking to your primary health care provider.
To fill potential nutrient gaps, many people choose a daily multivitamin. This tends to be a convenient and effective way to obtain daily nutritional support. If you are looking for an appropriate formula, be sure to find one that is designed to meet your specific age-related and gender needs. For example, iron needs for women over the age of 50 years are 8 mg per day, while the needs for women under 50 are 18 mg per day. Multivitamins for women over the age of 50 may contain little to no iron because 8 mg per day can usually be obtained through the diet. A multivitamin for men over the age of 50 may not contain iron and may often include other ingredients that may not be added to a woman’s multi.
While a multivitamin is great, some people need more than just a single combination formula. For example, many people today are advised to take extra calcium and vitamin D. Some people cannot tolerate milk, one of the best food sources of calcium, and many people fail to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D. It is estimated that 95% of Americans don’t receive enough vitamin D from their diet.  Although a multivitamin tends to provide both nutrients, it may not deliver enough of each to keep your levels adequate.
In addition, multivitamin supplements are typically formulated with a blend of vitamins and minerals only—not other nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids or coenzyme Q10. If you don’t consume at least two to three servings of fatty fish (i.e. salmon, anchovies, sardines) each week, then you will likely benefit from taking a daily fish oil supplement. In addition, certain statin drugs can lower your body's levels of coenzyme Q10—a nutrient that helps support heart function and cellular energy production†. Thus, if on a statin drug, taking a coenzyme Q10 supplement may be very beneficial. Again, be sure to talk to your primary health care professional when deciding on a safe and effective supplement program.
Many vitamins and supplements can be safely taken in amounts greater than the Daily Value (DV). The DVs are used to calculate the % Daily Values that you see on Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels. The percent daily value (%DV) displayed on the label indicates how much of a nutrient per serving a supplement provides in the context of the total daily diet. Taking certain nutrients in amounts greater than 100% DV may have health support benefits. A recent study found that one third of U.S. adults are vitamin D deficient. The recommended amount of vitamin D is 600-800 IU (15-20 mcg) per day. However, the Endocrine Society recommends 1500-2000 IU (38-50 mcg) per day to help maintain vitamin D levels in the body, and doses up to 10,000 IU (250 mcg) may be needed for adults 19 and older to treat a diagnosed vitamin D deficiency. 
However, it should be noted that there are also defined upper intake levels for fat-soluble vitamins, as excesses are stored and not excreted in the urine.
Before taking any vitamin or supplement, be sure to carefully review the precautions and instructions available on the product’s label. If you have any questions regarding the vitamin or mineral supplements you are taking, consult your primary health care provider or pharmacist.
Can I Take Supplements with My Current Medications?
Inform your primary health care provider about all the dietary supplements you take, even if you take them infrequently. This is especially important because some dietary supplements may interfere with prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs causing those prescriptions and OTCs to be less effective.
On the other hand, some medications cause certain nutrient levels to drop and so taking supplements can help support nutrient needs and overall health when taking such drugs. As previously mentioned, some statin drugs, for example, have been known to lower blood levels of coenzyme Q10. To that end, individuals taking statin drugs are often advised to supplement with CoQ10. 
It’s important to let your doctor know the dosage and the frequency of use for all the supplements you are taking. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about potential nutrient depletions that may occur with your medication(s) so you can be sure to supplement wisely and restore those nutrient levels.
Can I Take Supplements After the Expiration Date?
Once a product expires, it is not necessarily harmful to consume. However, the active ingredients may no longer be up to their labeled potency. In the case of an expired product, it is best to discard that product and purchase a new bottle. When purchasing supplements, always check the expiration date printed on the label, as some products may expire within a year from the date of purchase. You should definitely discard any unused fish oil or omega-3 from fish oil product, by its expiration date.
Can I Cut Supplements in Half if I Can’t Swallow Them Whole?
Some tablets may be cut up or crushed if swallowing is a challenge (just be sure you are still consuming the entire tablet or you may be missing the recommended dose).
Softgels that are too large to swallow may be punctured or cut in half to release the contents into a spoon or food source (such as apple sauce). The only products of exception are those that are time-release or enteric coated, and keep in mind that some softgel supplements may contain dietary ingredients in the gel coating. Such supplements should be swallowed whole for optimal product effectiveness.
Storage directions are commonly explained on the supplement label. In general, storing a bottle in a cool, dry place with the lid tightly sealed is advised. Be aware that some formulations may require special conditions and always keep supplements out of reach of children and pets.
Choosing Vitamins & Supplements
Whether you are looking for a prenatal vitamin or a vitamin D supplement, Nature Made has a wide selection of dietary supplements to help fill nutrient gaps and to support your health and wellness goals. From supporting digestive tract health to supporting a healthy heart, our vitamin and supplement products make it easy for you to support your body exactly how you want to. If you're ready to take your health into your own hands, shop our vitamin and supplement line today.
More Frequently Asked Vitamin & Supplement Questions:
Senior Manager, Medical and Scientific Communications
Melissa is a Registered Dietitian and provides leadership to Pharmavite’s Medical and Scientific Education team. She has over 20 years of experience educating consumers, healthcare professionals, retailers and employees about nutrition, dietary supplements, and overall wellness. Prior to joining the Medical and Scientific Communications team, Melissa launched and managed Pharmavite’s Consumer Affairs department and worked as a clinical dietitian throughout Southern California. Melissa received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, and completed her dietetic internship at Veteran’s Hospital in East Orange New Jersey.