Will I get iron deficiency from tea?
Because of its substantial flavonoid content, notably tannins, tea is among the foods that partially impede the absorption of iron. Research indicates that when black tea and iron-rich foods are consumed together, iron assimilation is hindered by approximately 60 to 70%, regardless of the tea's strength. However, consuming tea between meals reduces this inhibition to around 20%.
However, this inhibitory effect specifically applies to what is known as "non-heme" iron, which is the type found in plant-based sources such as dried vegetables, seeds, whole grains, and more. Non-heme iron is inherently challenging for the body to absorb, with only a 5% to 10% absorption rate. It does not affect "heme" iron, found in animal-based products like meats, poultry, eggs, fish, and offal, which the body absorbs at a higher rate of 20% to 30%. Consequently, tea consumption primarily impacts the absorption of plant-based iron, which is already less efficiently assimilated by the body.
As a result, scientists suggest that for individuals who maintain a diverse diet rich in iron sources like meat, poultry, and dried vegetables, tea consumption typically doesn't present an issue. However, exceptions may apply to heavy tea consumers (3 to 6 cups daily) and specific high-iron-requirement populations, such as pregnant women and growing children.
Can you drink tea/rooibos if you have an iron deficiency?
Enjoying tea is possible even when dealing with iron deficiency, as long as specific precautions are observed. These precautions include consuming tea separately from meals (allowing at least 1 hour before and 2 hours after a meal), reducing the steeping time (as tannin content increases with prolonged steeping), limiting tea intake to a maximum of 3 cups per day, or opting for rooibos, which contains considerably fewer tannins than regular tea. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure an ample intake of diverse iron sources like meat, fish, and dried vegetables, while pairing them with vitamin C to enhance iron absorption.