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Numbers Game: Answer

Having a cup of tea with a meal decreases the body’s absorption of non-heme iron (the only type of iron provided by plant-based foods, dairy products, and eggs) contained in that meal by roughly 60 percent.

Yikes!

This is particularly important for vegetarians as well as anyone diagnosed with anemia, as a meal moderately high in iron can lose quite a bit of that punch if you’re accompanying it with tea (thanks to substances known as phytates).

If you’re a tea lover, the safest bet is to drink it an hour before or after a vegetarian meal, so as to not inhibit absorption.

If you’re interested in increasing non-heme iron absorption during a meal, be sure to include vitamin C (meat also aids in the absorption of non-heme iron, but this is a moot point for vegetarians and vegans.)

A cup of orange juice, for instance, increases absorption by approximately 80 percent!

Tea isn’t the only inhibitor, by the way.

All foods containing phytates (mainly whole grains, coffee, and berries) decrease non-heme iron absorption rates.

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3 Comments

  1. Lacey Nicole said on September 19th, 2008

    This is terrible! I drink tea all day long, constantly re-filling. Is it ALL tea that is a concern?

    Also… I assumed since some berries have vitamin C they would INCREASE my iron absorption… and that’s not actually true? I’m so overwhelmed all of a sudden, it is almost like I will never absorb iron.

    Must I cut out tea an hour before and after meals and also not eat whole grains or berries anytime I want to absorb iron? And I’m also just finding out that even though spinach is a “source” of iron it actually works against itself so that it’s not a good source to absorb iron from?

    eek.

  2. Anonymous said on September 20th, 2008

    If I microwave my vegetables instead of steaming/boiling them, will this prevent some of the vitamin loss (to water) which occurs? Seems like a lot of water still seeps out, for instance, in cooking veggies like spinach.

    Also, I know a lot of vitamins are heat-sensitive. To save time, I’ve started preparing a lot of foods beforehand, then storing them in the fridge to eat for the next few days. I’m wondering if, in doing so, I’m losing out on a lot of the nutrients the veggies had to offer through heating/cooling/reheating them again, or having them exposed to air (thus oxidation) through my dicing/cutting.

    Similarly, are frozen vegetables much less nutritious than their fresh counterparts?

  3. gd said on September 22nd, 2008

    the macrobiotic way of eating includes hojicha and kukicha (2 different kinds of teas) as a main beverage usually around meals. is this a problem?

    are there studies as to which types of tea have high amounts of phytates or iron inhibitors?

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