Tea is very popular as a healthy beverage. The presence of potent antioxidants makes it special. From boosting your immunity to helping you lose weight, drinking tea has been associated with a number of health benefits. However, you may also have heard about a disadvantage of tea. Some experts say that drinking tea can block your body’s absorption of dietary iron. Well, before you decide to ditch your habit of drinking tea because of this, let’s get the facts correct.
Is Iron Deficiency A Concern?
Iron is an indispensable mineral for the healthy functioning of your body. The oxygen-carrying proteins hemoglobin and myoglobin are formed depending on the availability of iron. Hence, the dietary intake of iron is very crucial. During growing stages, everyone should have access to foods rich in absorbable iron. Because of the poor iron absorption from the diet, iron deficiency is now a major health problem. As you cannot replenish iron loss due to impaired absorption, you will not be able to meet the metabolic demands for iron, which is essential to sustain growth. And the shortage of iron in your body could lead to anemia. The iron-dependent functions of your body will also be adversely affected. Fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and headaches are other symptoms of iron deficiency. So, can drinking tea be linked with iron deficiency?
Tea And Iron Absorption
Yes, it is true that compounds in tea can affect your iron absorption. Tannins, chemical compounds in tea, combine with iron and thus, inhibits the body’s ability to absorb them. This can, in fact, reduce the level of iron in your body. But, how bad is the impact? Even though tea could lower iron level, it is unlikely to have a huge impact. This should not be a concern for healthy people with no risk of iron deficiency.
Another interesting fact is that the compounds in tea affect only the levels of non-heme iron. Wondering what is non-heme iron? Dietary iron has two main forms: heme and nonheme iron. The plant-based sources contain non-heme iron. These kinds of iron are found in grains and vegetables. At the same time, foods of animal origin contain both heme and nonheme iron. Thus, the compounds in tea do not have any influence on heme iron, which is present in meat, fish, and poultry.
A research has been conducted to look into the effect of various drinks on the absorption of non-heme iron.1 They studied the impact of various drinks when taken with a hamburger, string beans, and mashed potatoes. The iron absorption was reduced by 62 percent with tea consumption whereas coffee with meals lowered iron absorption by 35 percent. Meanwhile, orange juice increased iron absorption by 85 percent.
Enhancing Iron Absorption
Those who are with iron deficiency need to be careful while drinking tea in order to reduce its effect. Children, adolescents, pregnant women, and elderly are at a greater risk of iron deficiency. Also, vegetarians who solely depend on plant-based sources for iron intake need to take precautions to prevent any deficit. Incorporate foods rich in vitamin C in your diet, as they can enhance iron absorption.
If your iron levels are low or if you are at risk of iron deficiency, consume tea between meals instead of during the meal. It is best to drink tea at least 1 hour after eating your meals.2 Drinking tea with lemon, which is rich in vitamin C, helps you with iron absorption. Keep in mind that there is no harm in drinking tea in moderation.
|↑1||Hallberg, Leif, and Lena Rossander. “Effect of different drinks on the absorption of non-heme iron from composite meals.” Human nutrition. Applied nutrition 36, no. 2 (1982): 116-123.|
|↑2||Nelson, M., and J. Poulter. “Impact of tea drinking on iron status in the UK: a review.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 17, no. 1 (2004): 43-54.|