Are You Taking Your Vitamins and Minerals Correctly?

One of my last posts was about the top 5 things you should know about taking vitamin and mineral supplements. As a reminder, those top things are: quality; excipients and fillers; Dosage; best bioavailable nutrient form; and when and how to take your vitamin and minerals for best absorption.

When writing that article, I wanted to incorporate a link to a comprehensive chart or list that included the best and worst forms of each vitamin and mineral and how they are best taken to ensure the strongest bioavailability (absorbability). At the very least, I was hoping to find this resource in one document or one article or one page of something. Years ago I have wanted this for myself and never found one. Surely, I thought there would be one available now. Nope, still could not find one. In my last post, I indicated I would develop one and after much research, here it is.

Although this is not an exhaustive list of every possible form for each vitamin and mineral, it is quite comprehensive. It contains most of what is available in supplement form.

I am excited to share this great resource with you.

With or Without Food and Other Nutrients
NOTE: For most vitamins and minerals, the whole food form is generally best but that is not always possible.

· Excesses of fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues. Thus, it is easier to overdose on fat-soluble nutrients. On the other hand, if you forget to take your supplement or your diet is lacking (short term) in a fat-soluble vitamin, you may have reserves stored in your body to compensate.

Best:   Beta-Carotene and other provitamin A carotenoids
Worst: Retinol forms such as Retinyl acetate, Retinyl palmitate· Beta-Carotene and Carotenoid forms are best due to not causing toxicity in excessive amounts.· The Retinol forms are absorbed well but not worth the risk.
· Must be taken with meal that contains fat.
Best: Cholecalciferol (D3)

Worst: Ergocalciferol (D2

· Must be taken with meal that contains fat, preferably in the morning or earlier in the day.
Best: natural form d-alpha-tocopherol (α-tocopherol) which may be followed by the words – “succinate” or “acetate” or “acid succinate”

Worst: Synthetic forms starting with “dl”

· It is best to consume an intake of all 8 forms. Tocopherols (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta) and Tocotrienols (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta) to avoid excess of only Alpha-tocopherol.

· Must be taken with meal that contains fat.

· Best to take vitamin E with selenium as they enhance each other’s absorption.

Best: K2 Menaguinone most important to take but may also include K1.

Avoid: K3 Menadione· Vitamin K includes a family of compounds including vitamin K1 (phylloquinone), vitamin K2 (menaquinone), vitamin K3 (menadione)

· Must be taken with meal that contains fat.


· Excess of water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and are excreted in urine.

· Most water-soluble vitamins do not stay in the blood stream for more than a few hours.   Taking them throughout the day maximizes blood levels over a longer period.

Best: d-biotin

· Also known as Vitamin H, Vitamin B7, or coenzyme R)

· Take with meals unless supplement directs otherwise.
Best: Alpha GPC or Citicoline (CDP Choline or cytidine 5′-diphosphocholine).

OK: Phosphatidylcholine, and Lecithin

Worst: Chloride, Bitartrate, Citrate

Note: CDP Choline not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

· Take with meals unless supplement directs otherwise.

(Vitamin B9)
Best: Methyl Folate or 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate)

Worst: Folic Acid, Pteroylglutamic Acid

· Methylated Folate is the natural, active form and folic acid the synthetic form.

· Taken with meals unless supplement directs otherwise.

· Absorption increases when combined with vitamin C.

· Absorption decreases when combined with zinc.

VITAMIN B1 (Thiamine)
Best: Pyrophosphate

Worst: Mononitrate (somewhat better than HCI/HCL) and Hydrochloride (HCI/HCL).

· A fat-soluble version of Thiamine is “benfotiamine” and studies show it is absorbed greater than water-soluble version and enhances thiamine levels in the blood and liver but not the brain. This version is generally used for therapeutic purposes.

· Take with meals unless supplement directs otherwise.

VITAMIN B2 (Riboflavin)

Best:  Riboflavin 5-Phosphate (r5P)
Worst: Riboflavin free form

· Take with meals unless supplement directs otherwise.

VITAMIN B3 (Niacin)
Best: Nicotinamide (Niacinamide)

Worst: Niacin (Nicotinic acid), inositol hexanicotinate

· Take with meals unless supplement directs otherwise.

· Absorption increases when combined with folic acid/folate.

VITAMIN B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Best: Pantethine

Worst: Calcium D-Pantothenate

· Take with meals unless supplement directs otherwise.

Best: Pyridoxal 5′-Phosphate (P-5-P or PLP)

Worst: Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (HCI/HCL)

· Absorption decreases when combined with zinc.

· Take with meals unless supplement directs otherwise.

Best Oral Forms: Methylcobalamin, Adenosylcobalamin

Best Other Forms: Sublingual, Intranasally, Injections

Worst: Cyanocobalamin, Hydroxocobalamin

· B12 is very poorly absorbed orally, even under ideal circumstances. This is the reason many supplements have very high dosages as we only absorb a very small percentage of it.
· B12 is one of the water-soluble vitamins that we store in our liver.

· Absorption decreases when combined with vitamin C ≥ 500 mg.

· Oral or Other Forms: Take with or without food.


Best: Most prevalent forms, which have strong bioavailability are Ascorbic Acid (if you do not need a buffered form) and Mineral Ascorbate forms (buffered).

· Ascorbic acid also comes in combination forms with bioflavonoids or as Ester-C®, which contains calcium ascorbate, dehydroascorbate, calcium threonate, xylonate and lyxonate. It has been debated whether these combination forms have higher or equal bioavailability.

· Mineral ascorbate forms include sodium ascorbate, calcium ascorbate, potassium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate, zinc ascorbate, molybdenum ascorbate, chromium ascorbate, manganese ascorbate.

· An even better, fairly new form is Liposomal.   This is much more expensive but a good source if you need high doses for a specific ailment.
Worst: D-Isoascorbic acid (Erythorbic acid)

· Some people need a buffered form of vitamin C for those who suffer GI problems when taking the ascorbic acid form. If you take the buffered form, it is important to take into account the mineral content as that is also being absorbed.

· Absorption decreases when combined with zinc.


· Minerals are water-soluble. Excess of water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and are excreted in urine.

· Most water-soluble vitamins do not stay in the blood stream for more than a few hours.   Taking them throughout the day maximizes blood levels over a longer period.

· Any mineral that is TRAACS chelated is good.2

Best: Citrate Malate, Orotate, Aspartate

OK: Lactate, Citrate

Worst:   Carbonate, Gluconate, Phosphate

· Calcium carbonate – take with food.

· Calcium citrate – take with food or without.

· Calcium best absorbed at amounts ≤ 500 mg.

· Higher doses of magnesium (≥ 250 mg), zinc, and phosphate inhibit calcium absorption.

Best: This one is debated. Some believe and studies show chromium picolinate is better absorbed and others, the niacin bound form to be more bioavailable, called chromium nicotinate or chromium polynicotinate.

Worst: Chromium Chloride

· Take with meals.

Not much on formal determination as to which form is best, yet chelate forms are winners.

Best:   Bisglycinate Chelate
OK:   Gluconate, Chloride, Sulfate and Carbonate
Worst: Acetate

· Take with meals.

· Form for iodine may depend on its uses. Different tissues of the body respond to different versions of iodine (iodine or iodide).

· Some respond to both equally and some have a better response to the Iodide version (i.e., Potassium Iodide) compared to the Iodine version.   The thyroid is believed to respond best to iodide. The breast, to iodine.

· Potassium Iodine is the form found in many multivitamins and mineral complexes.

· Nascent Iodine is generally found in a liquid supplement.

· Lugol’s and Iodoral have products with iodine/iodide combination.

· Take with meals earlier in day.
Best: Bisclycinate (due to gentler on stomach, non-constipating so good to take on empty stomach), Carbonyl Ironis (gradual release form).

Worst: Any Ferric form (Citrate, Sulfate)

· Be sure to convert the forms into their elemental dosage. Example: 325mg Ferrous sulfate contains 60mg of elemental iron.

· Iron best taken with vitamin C (from supplement or food form) for better absorption.

· High doses zinc or copper inhibit absorption of iron.

· Best absorbed when taken on empty stomach although not all forms allow for this due to the adverse stomach discomfort effects.

Best magnesium forms (for everyday use) will vary based on if you are managing a specific condition or taking for a certain purpose.

Great for overall oral use and has high bioavailability:
Glycinate (helps with magnesium deficiency and may help support sleep)

Best forms for referenced use – orally (some of these have high bioavailability too):

-ZMK (great for athletes and workout recovery);

-Malate (for those with fatigue or certain kinds of pain; chelates metals)

-Chloride (if low stomach acid);

-Taurate (for those with heart disease; also good for sleep)

-Arginate (mostly for bodybuilders);

-Lysinate (if you want to increase lysine intake);

-Ascorbate (laxative);

-Orotate (great for muscle or surgery recovery and heart health);

-L-Threonate (support cognitive function);

-2-AEP (helps those with MS)

– Citrate (for constipation; helps to get bowels moving)

  • Transdermal forms (through the skin as magnesium oil) – Chloride (best) and Sulfate. This is great for anyone as this form speeds up raising magnesium levels cellular levels when deficient. This works well for athletes due to and immediate recovery effect with muscle cramps.

OK: Gluconate

Worst:Carbonate & Sulfate (can be used for laxative effect in certain situations – Citrate better overall for constipation); Aspartate, Pidolate, Hydroxide, Oxide, Glycerophosphate, Lactate.

  • Other Minerals (e.g. iron, calcium,  zinc) can compete with absorption, especially at higher doses.
  • Higher doses of calcium (≥ 250 mg) and phosphate inhibit magnesium absorption.
  • Magnesium best absorbed at amounts ≤ 500 mg.

Magnesium Forms and best time to take – keeping in mind that if you are taking >250mg daily, good to take in divided doses:

  • Glycinate: At bedtime but ok other times too; no food necessary.
  • ZMK: At bedtime; no food necessary.
  • Malate: Throughout day w/food.
  • Chloride: W/food orally OR Transdermal (e.g., magnesium oil for external use)
  • Taurate: At bedtime; no food necessary.
  • Arginate: Throughout day w/ food.
  • Lysinate: At bedtime; no food necessary.
  • Ascorbate: W/Food
  • Gluconate: At bedtime; no food necessary.
  • Carbonate: At bedtime; no food necessary.
  • Orotate: At bedtime; no food
  • L-Theonate: At bedtime; no food necessary.
  • 2-AEP: Throughout day w/ food.
  • Citrate: Typically at bedtime (no food necessary) to support bowel motility yet also contributes to increasing magnesium levels in the body. If significant constipation, may be taken in divided doses during the day.
Best:   Bisglycinate Chelate
OK: Citrate, Gluconate, Ascorbate,
Worst: Aspartate

· Take with meals.


Best: Glycinate and Picolinate
Better: Citrate
Worst: Ammonium Molybdate / Potassium Molybdate / Sodium Molybdate
Avoid: Aspartate

· Take with meals.


No formal determination as to which is best. Most do not supplement potassium unless it is in a multivitamin or electrolyte.

Forms: Citrate, Chloride, Aspartate, Bicarbonate, Gluconate, Orotate, Glycinate.

· Take with meals.


Best: Selenomethionine (as L-selenomethionine; sometimes called selenium monomethionine), Methyselenocysteine
Ok: Selenium enriched yeast, Glycinate complex, Selenite
Worst: Selenate/Selenite, Aspartate

· Take with meals.

· Best to take selenium with vitamin E as they enhance each other’s absorption.


Best: L-monomethionine (from L-OptiZinc), Glycinate, Picolinate
Better: Monomethionine, ZMK, Gluconate
Ok: Orotate
Worst: Citrate, Oxide, Aspartate, Pyrithione, Acetate, Sulfate
Other: ZMK great for athletes (taken before bed); Zinc Carnosine (great for protection and healing stomach lining)

· Best absorbed when taken on empty stomach. However, this can cause stomach upset especially if dosage is high. If you have GI upset, take with food.

· Do not take zinc at the same time as calcium or iron.

1.     This is not an exhaustive list of vitamin and mineral forms but includes most and the ones that are most common.
2.     TRAACS is a patented technology for testing mineral amino acid chelate. http://www.albionminerals.com/human-nutrition/products-trade/quality/traacs-ft-ir?showall=1&limitstart=.


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