September 24, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Tea & Iron Absorption

The macrobiotic way of eating includes hojicha and kukicha (2 different kinds of teas) as a main beverage usually around meals, [so in light of your posting about tea affecting iron absorption,] is this a problem?

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

-- "gd"

Via the blog

The issue of phytates and tannins in tea reducing iron absorption is only problematic for people with borderline iron consumption and/or whose only sources of iron are of the non-heme variety.

After all, it is only that kind of iron --found in plants, eggs, and dairy -- which tea binds (heme iron, found in meat, actually helps absorb non-heme iron.)

If the two teas you mention are recommended as accompaniments to meals, it will certainly cause a higher reduction of iron absorption than if they are consumed between meals.

I recommend playing it safe and separating "tea time" and "meal time" by at least 45 minutes.

I want to make it clear that total tea consumption does not affect non-heme iron absorption; it is the TIMING of the consumption that matters.

Remember, too, that vitamin C aids in the absorption of non-heme iron.

So, squeezing a wedge of lemon into tea, or including potent sources of vitamin C in our meal (i.e.: tomatoes, red bell peppers, kale, and broccoli, to name a few) can help counteract some of tea's iron-blocking properties.

Although all teas contain phytates and tannins and affect non-heme iron absorption, black tea contains the highest levels of these inhibitors, while herbal varieties contain lower amounts.

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