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 Vitamin Absorption


In an ideal world your diet consists of a perfect balance of foods that give your body the tools to grow and flourish. But what happens when some of those foods interfere with the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc?


Healthy, protein-rich foods like eggs or tofu are a great meat-free alternative, but, when eaten in excess, have been shown to inhibit iron absorption, leaving you feeling sluggish and slow. The fact is, in an environment as complex as the body, everything you consume has a flow-on effect that both positively and negatively affects different elements. Finding balance is key. Here, some foods you should look out for when considering vitamin absorption.



Don’t be fooled, eggs are a powerhouse of goodness when it comes to protein and essential nutrients, but when looking solely at their effect on iron absorption, eggs can have an impact. According to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, having as little as one boiled egg can inhibit the absorption of iron by 27 percent. But that doesn’t mean you should steer clear of them altogether, simply enjoy your eggs as a stand alone meal to ensure they don’t get in the way.



Like eggs, soy products such as tofu and soy milk are a popular vegetarian option, but due to the presence of an acid called phytate, which binds with iron and prevents its absorption, it too has an impact on how your body absorbs this essential nutrient. Unfortunately it’s vegetarians who are one of the highest risk groups of low iron levels, so choosing when to eat your soy (and egg) products is key. In addition to iron, soy has also been shown to affect absorption of vitamin B12 and essential minerals such as zinc, calcium and magnesium. Try to eat soy-based products on their own, or in a soup like miso for best results.



Dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are widely recognised for their high levels of calcium, but according to a number of studies on the subject, consuming dairy with iron or zinc-based foods can inhibit the absorption of these essential vitamins. There’s no denying your body needs calcium to build strong bones and to promote muscle contraction, nerve transmission, hormone secretion and vascular function but did you know your body only absorbs about 30 percent of the calcium found in dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese? Bottom line: try reducing your dairy-based intake of calcium in main meals high in iron, particularly for groups at risk of iron deficiency such as pre-menopausal women, adolescents and children.



For many, there’s nothing more satisfying than your morning brew of tea or coffee, but here’s a word of warning: it may be impacting on your vitamin absorption. Research suggests caffeine can inhibit the absorption of calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, iron, manganese, zinc and copper. But before you put down your coffee cup, there is some good news: caffeine has also been linked to positive health benefits like increased memory function, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s Disease, and even cancer. So, it comes down to balance and keeping your intake to one cup of tea or coffee per day for optimal health.



 Words by Yasemin Trollope, image under license of