Water, wine, beer or soft drink: when we eat, the most logical thing is to accompany the dishes with a drink. There is no doubt that Choosing it well can make the dining experience much better. However, beyond the pairing with the dishes, choosing one or another drink can make our body take better or worse use of the nutrients we are ingesting. Something that happens, for example, with iron.
The dietary factors that can increase the absorption of other nutrients are called enhancersWhile those that can reduce the absorption of other nutrients are called inhibitors or antinutrients. One of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world is iron, a circumstance that can lead to a condition called anemia.
This can develop when we do not get enough iron or do not absorb iron to the extent that our body needs it. It is more common in women and can cause weakness and fatigue, among other symptoms.
There are two ways to iron in our diet: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme is a protein that contains iron and is part of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. It is found in animal food sources, such as meat, and is more easily absorbed by the body.
The non-heme iron can be found in meats, but also in plant foods, such as cereals, legumes and nuts, and it is less easily absorbed. For those who suffer from this type of anemia due to iron deficiency, and want to make sure they increase their levels, a good option is to think not only about the solid food that is put in the mouth at every moment of the day, but about the drink that will accompany it. .
Enhancers vs. Inhibitors
Some nutrients play an enhancing role for others. For example, vitamin C, so present in many fruits and vegetables, such as orange, kiwi or grapefruit, is one of those that facilitate the absorption of iron. In one study, 100 mg of vitamin C increased iron absorption fourfold. This is roughly equivalent to what you would get with a glass of orange juice.
A piece of information that is especially important for people who do not eat meat, as all the iron in their diet will be non-heme iron. Therefore, accompanying meals with a drink that has vitamin C is a way to ensure that iron is used to the maximum by our body.
Similarly, alcohol is another product that increases iron absorption. Therefore, the white wine or beer can help this absorption. However, we must remember the many damages that alcoholic beverages have for our health, so, despite this, they are not recommended.
Instead, some foods have the exact opposite effect. This is the case of tea, a very popular drink which, above all, is a common companion to meals in Asian cuisines. This drink contains a bioactive compound called tannin, which is a non-heme iron absorption inhibitor.
Tannin is classified as an organic compound called polyphenol. It is also found in many foods, including cocoa, almonds, grapes, berries, pomegranates, and spices (for example, vanilla and cinnamon), that can be incorporated into drinks such as smoothies.
An increasingly fashionable drink in the western world, also in Spain, is kombucha. It is a product of fermented tea containing some tannins. Another drink that generates this effect, because it also contains tannins, is coffee, further enhanced by its chlorogenic acid content..
Thus, accompanying meals with a cup of tea or coffee, something many of us usually do at breakfast, can reduce iron absorption by approximately 60% and 80%. An effect that will be greater the more charged it is. In addition, it will also be better to avoid them not only while eating, but in the moments before and right after, something also very common in after-dinner meals.
Although we have said that alcohol helps the absorption of iron, in some cases, this is not always the case. Is what happens with red wine too, whose high content of tannins and other polyphenols, minimizes the enhancing role of alcohol.