A drink with your breakfast, lunch or dinner can make your meal more enjoyable. But have you wondered if your drink of choice can affect how your body absorbs nutrients from your food?
Dietary factors that can increase the absorption of other nutrients are called enhancers, while those that can reduce the absorption of other nutrients are called inhibitors, or anti nutrients.
One of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world is iron and can lead to a condition called Iron deficiency anemia.
So if you’re looking to boost your iron levels, it’s worth thinking about not just what you eat, but also what you drink.
a bit of iron
Iron deficiency can develop when we don’t get enough iron or don’t absorb iron to the extent that our body needs. It’s more common in womenand can cause weakness and fatigue, among other symptoms.
If you are concerned about iron deficiency, you can ask your GP to do a blood test.
There are two forms of iron in our food; heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme is an iron-containing protein that is part of hemoglobin, a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body.
Heme iron is found in foods of animal origin, such as meat, and is more easily absorbed by the body.
Non-heme iron is found in plant foods, such as grains, beans, and nuts, and is less easily absorbed.
Choosing a beverage with vitamin C – such as orange, tomato or grapefruit juice – with your meal will increase the amount of non-heme iron you can absorb.
In one study, 100 mg of vitamin C quadruple absorption of iron. This is roughly equivalent to what you would get from a glass of orange juice.
Keeping this in mind is especially important for people who don’t eat meat, as all of their dietary iron will be non-heme iron.
Tea is a popular drink with meals and is often enjoyed with Asian cuisine. But tea contains a bioactive compound called tannin, which is an inhibitor the absorption of non-heme iron.
Tannin is classified as an organic compound called polyphenol. It’s also found in many foods, including cocoa, almonds, grapes, berries, pomegranates, and spices (eg, vanilla and cinnamon), which can end up in drinks like smoothies.
Kombuchaa popular fermented tea drink, still contains tannins.
Unfortunately, the news is not better for coffee drinkers – coffee also contains tannins. And the chlorogenic acid in coffee is also an important inhibitor of iron absorption.
Tea and coffee are considered the strongest iron blockers. A cup of tea reduces iron absorption about 75% to 80%and a cup of coffee about 60%. The more you strengthen them, the greater the effect will be.
It is therefore best to avoid tea and coffee while eating and for two hours before and after the meal. It’s about the a length of time food and drink sit in your stomach before they are completely absorbed.
This includes breakfast, a meal at which many people most often consume tea and coffee. For most of us, breakfast normally consists of cereal and/or bread. Both of these naturally contain important iron rate and sometimes these products contain added iron.
So if you’re iron deficient, it might be time to consider going for a small glass of orange juice for breakfast, or preferably the whole orange (because you’re getting fiber too), and save the tea or coffee for later. .
A little from column A, a little from column B
There has always been speculation dairy products can inhibit iron absorptionbut so far the evidence seems to suggest it has no effect.
However, plant milks, such as soy milk, contain phytates, a compound that stores phosphorus in plants, which inhibit iron absorption.
Meanwhile, alcohol increases iron absorptiontherefore a beer would be classified as an enhancer.
If you prefer a glass of wine, you should choose a white rather than a red. Red wine contains more tannins and other polyphenols, so overall Red wine inhibits iron absorption.
So what is the take home message?
The bioactives I mentioned also offer many nutritional and health benefits, and they are all found in plant products. It would be next to impossible to avoid tannins in your diet and still eat the healthy number of servings of fruits and vegetables.
This advice is especially relevant if you have been diagnosed with iron deficiency or iron deficiency anemia. And even if that’s the case, you can still enjoy these drinks outside of mealtimes.
If your iron levels are within the normal range, there is no need to worry because your body absorbs enough to meet your needs from what you eat and drink.