Tannins in tea and coffee affect iron absorption
Tea, coffee, red wine, dark chocolate, most berries and other food sources contain substances called tannins. Tannins cause the dry feeling in your mouth after having these drinks and foods. There are two types of tannins and one of the types stops our body from absorbing non-heme iron because it latches on to it. Non-heme iron is the type of iron that comes from iron supplements and plant foods.
What does this mean for iron absorption?
What all of this means is that having a cup of tea or coffee with a meal or iron supplement can reduce the amount of non-heme iron we absorb from this by up to 70%. I used to be guilty of taking my vitamins with a cup of tea until I discovered this.
What you should do to improve iron absorption
It was discovered in a study that adding milk to tea or coffee made no difference to iron absorption. It was, however, found that adding lemon reduced or took away the effect of tannins on iron. This is due to the vitamin C in lemon. Vitamin C in food or supplement form helps our body to absorb iron. Some iron supplements contain vitamin C for this reason. It is also suggested to take an iron supplement with orange juice.
For those of us that love our tea and coffee it is advisable to drink this between meals and not with meals. Having an hour between meals/supplements and a cup of our brew is a good idea. Black tea contains the most tannins though green tea contains a small amount. Herbal teas that are high in vitamin C probably don’t affect iron absorption.