Does drinking matcha tea have an impact on your iron levels and iron absorption? The better question would be, "how exactly do matcha tea and dietary iron interact when consumed around the same time?"
In the following article, we separate fact from fiction regarding matcha and iron absorption – and how you can maximize the health benefits of drinking matcha and eating iron-rich meals.
According to research, matcha tea does contain compounds that may limit the absorption of iron in the bloodstream. If you are concerned about your iron levels and at risk of iron anemia, try to avoid drinking your matcha or green tea after or within an hour of an iron-rich meal or iron supplements.
This is because the main healthful compounds found in matcha tea will bind to iron and cause both to lose their ability to be as readily absorbed.
Let's break down the details of why:
What is matcha?
Matcha is a finely powdered, super-powerful type of green tea that has a plethora of different health benefits. Although it has a long list of health benefits, matcha green tea is said to impact your body's ability to absorb iron.
What is iron? Heme iron and non-heme iron
Iron is an essential trace mineral that our body needs to function correctly. It enables us to transport oxygen from our lungs to all the other organs in the body – and our body absorbs iron from food sources.
There are two types of iron: heme iron, which is found in animal sources (think meat, fish, poultry, and milk) and also non-heme iron, which comes from plants (think dark, leafy green vegetables like kale or spinach).
Oxalates and tannins are some of the naturally occurring green tea compounds studied to impact iron absorption. Specifically, researchers have found these compounds in green tea bind with non-heme iron in plant foods such as beans, peas, leafy green vegetables, and nuts.
What happens when you drink green tea and consume iron simultaneously?
Food chemistry is complicated, to say the least. What you eat and when you eat make a big difference in maximizing your nutrition. So how exactly does matcha tea and dietary iron interact with each other?
So, if you drink matcha tea or green tea right after a very iron-rich meal, the main compound in the tea often binds to iron. When this happens, your matcha loses its potential as a potent antioxidant in the body. In other words, if you have your matcha tea with an iron supplement or an iron-rich meal, you may be potentially minimizing the health benefits of both.
If you are at risk for an iron deficiency, you can consider taking your iron supplement at least an hour before or after enjoying your matcha tea or green tea to maximize absorption."
In one study, researchers found that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) – the major catechin found in matcha – potentially inhibits myeloperoxidase, an enzyme released by your body's white blood cells to trigger inflammation. In other words, this means that when ECGC and iron are consumed simultaneously, the iron-bound EGCG loses its ability to inhibit inflammation in the body.
How far apart should you drink matcha tea and consume iron? The one-hour rule
If you are worried you are at risk of iron deficiency or want to maximize the healthful benefits of matcha, then researchers have found it is best to wait at least one hour after eating an iron-rich meal before drinking green tea. (or, enjoy your morning matcha and then wait an hour before taking your iron supplement or enjoying an iron-rich meal)
By simply spacing out the consumption of matcha from your iron-rich meals, you will be able to reap the healthful benefits of both!
Who's at risk of iron deficiency? How does this impact tea drinking?
Are you at risk of iron deficiency?
Women ages 14-50
Generally speaking, iron is essential for teenage girls and women on their menstrual cycles. According to studies, two out of every five women aged 14-50 have low iron intake.
Learn more about the benefits of matcha tea for women’s health here.
Meat eaters have less of a risk?
According to a study conducted back in 2004, individuals who get enough iron from meat, fish, and poultry will likely not experience issues with their tea drinking impacting their body's ability to absorb iron – even if they are drinking large amounts regularly. This is also because the body more readily absorbs heme iron (animal-sourced iron) than non-heme.
Vegetarians, vegans, and raw vegans
Vegetarians and vegans may need to exercise a bit more caution when it comes to when they choose to drink their matcha tea and consume an iron-rich meal. This is because plant-based eaters' primary source of iron is non-heme iron, which the body does not absorb quite as readily as iron from meat sources.
Furthermore, studies and research over the last 60 years have shown that the iron-blocking effects of tannins (antioxidant-rich compounds found in tea) are most pronounced in uncooked plants.
On the other hand, iron consumed in cooked foods has been shown not to be blocked or have issues with absorption.
So it's more crucial for those following a raw vegan diet to wait an hour between consuming their iron and green tea. If you are vegetarian, vegan, or abiding by a raw vegan meal plan, you should talk to your doctor about iron supplements if you wish to continue drinking large amounts of green tea and have it not impact your iron absorption or antioxidant levels.
Matcha tea and iron anemia?
Before we talk about matcha and iron – Let's take the hallmark example of Vitamin D absorption.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means your body absorbs vitamin d best in your bloodstream when it is taken with high-fat foods – such as yogurt, cheese, or milk. Vitamin D also enhances calcium absorption, and iron is enhanced when you pair it with vitamin C. Then there are foods that do the opposite and diminish your body's ability to absorb nutrients.
Studies have shown the tannins, and antioxidant-rich compounds in tea may impact our iron absorption. Luckily, most health experts agree that the benefits of green tea are so considerable that drinking normal amounts of green tea daily will likely not cause iron anemia.
Are there any clear cases of green tea drinking being associated with anemia?
In one case study, a 48-year-old man with consistently low iron levels in his blood was traced back to his daily green tea consumption. BUT - and this is a big BUT - it turns out he was drinking over a quart and a half (1500ml !) of green tea every day for over twenty years.
You can rest assured that unless you drink over 6 cups of matcha a day, your iron absorption will not be significantly impacted by drinking 1-2 cups of matcha daily.
Things to keep in mind if you are prescribed an iron supplement
If your healthcare provider has recommended you take an iron supplement, then you likely already know that taking it to maximize its effect comes with rules to follow.
For example, you should take your iron supplement with a meal if you have a sensitive stomach – though you should avoid consuming it with milk, calcium, or antacids, which can inhibit your body's absorption of iron.
How else can you compensate for a decrease in iron?
Besides taking a supplement, a variety of natural, plant-based foods are high in iron, which are healthful and can provide an extra boost of iron.
The bottom line: Timing matters when it comes to nutrients
If you love matcha tea but are also prescribed an iron supplement, you can still do both!
If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you are more likely to have some of your iron blocked if you have green tea with your meals. Just remember to consume them at different times. Give yourself 1-2 hours between your iron supplement and enjoying your daily (or double) matcha ritual. The fear of an iron deficiency should not make you eliminate matcha from your daily routine!
To reap the full benefits of the compounds found in matcha green tea, you need to consider how other things you're eating or the supplements you take impact the bioavailability of its active components.
It's not a matter of just eating healthy or drinking matcha tea daily – but also when you choose to consume it and what else you consume it with.
Are you concerned about an iron deficiency? We always recommend touching base with your doctor, who can give you the best advice and guidance specific to your needs.
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