On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

What to Consider When Taking Vitamins

Dear Dr. Blonz: I am hoping you will answer these questions about vitamins and minerals. Is it OK to take water- and fat-soluble vitamins at the same time? Should vitamin C be taken with foods that contain vitamin C, or is it just as effective taken alone or with water? Should calcium be taken alone or with other nutrients, such as vitamins E, C and the Bs? What's the best time of day to take vitamins? Thanks for all your help. -- G.T., Las Vegas

Dear G.T.: There is no problem taking water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins at the same time. You can take vitamin C with or without C-containing foods. As a general rule, it is preferable to take supplementary vitamins and minerals at mealtime. When food is present, the body is more attentive to the digestive system, and its blood supply heads that way to pick up the incoming nutrients.

There are two key points to be raised here. The first is that it is more important that you get the nutrients than to be overly concerned about when during the day you get them. Second, and more on point, is the fact that it is the foods you eat that deserve the starring role. Supplements are just that: supplements. Taking supplements does not provide the equivalent of the whole-food symphony of substances produced by the plant for its growth, development and defense of the plant -- substances which then become available to benefit your body when you eat that food.

Dear Dr. Blonz: We found a couple of bottles of oil given as gifts that were tucked away in the cabinet. They have been on the shelf for approximately two years, kept away from heat and light. They are both top quality, extra virgin olive oils and have not been opened. Am I correct in thinking that they should present no problem when used? – O.S., San Jose, California

Dear O.S.: Unlike wine, oil does not improve in the bottle. An extra virgin olive oil will be at its best when first put in the bottle (or can), and it’s all downhill from there. Oils should be tightly covered and stored away from heat and light. An unopened container of a refined vegetable oil -- properly stored -- can maintain quality for about a year. Some oils, including extra virgin olive oils, claim they can last up to two years, so yours are certainly worth a check. But don’t wait! Given that they were stored properly after being opened, you have about six months. As a general rule, the more unsaturated the oil, the shorter the shelf life after being opened. Oils that have been sitting for questionable periods of time should get a sniff and taste test before being used. It is always best to buy your oil in containers that match an expected rate of use. To help you keep track, mark on the label the date of purchase, and the date the container was first opened.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.