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Ask the experts: Tea and vitamin absorption

Does tea inhibit vitamin and calcium absorption?

Q: "I have heard that tannin, from tea, can inhibit vitamin and calcium absorption. Is this true? If so, how long should I wait to drink tea after eating a meal with lots of vitamins or calcium?"

Camellia

A: We asked nutritionist Tish Chalmers about drinking tea at mealtimes:

"Tannins belong to a group of compounds called phenols, which are found in plants and have antioxidant properties.

This antioxidant ability means they can protect our bodies from harmful compounds by tightly binding with them and preventing their absorption in the gut. Unfortunately, tannins can also bind easily with some minerals such as iron, zinc and to a lesser extent calcium, and this can interfere with their absorption. It's best to leave a 30-minute gap between eating a meal and drinking tea to make sure you have the best chance to absorb these minerals. You can also enhance your absorption of non-haem iron (from plants) by making your meals rich in vitamin C through fresh fruits and vegetables."

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