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Foods Affecting Nutrient Absorption

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
April 27, 2024
April 27, 2024

Ever wonder if you should be eating some foods together, or at different times of day? Well, certain food combinations can actually interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients.

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Here are some food combinations to be aware of:

  • Calcium and iron: Foods high in calcium, such as dairy products, can bind with iron and prevent its absorption. To maximize iron absorption, it's best to consume iron-rich foods separately from calcium-rich foods.
  • Tannins and Iron: Tannins create the dark color in black tea, coffee, and sodas. Tannins can bind with iron and reduce its absorption. If you drink tea, coffee, or soda, have it between meals or with a meal that is low in iron.
  • Grains and Legumes: Grains contain phytic acid, which can inhibit the absorption of minerals such as zinc and iron, while legumes contain trypsin inhibitors that can interfere with protein digestion. To maximize nutrient absorption, it's best to soak, sprout, or ferment these foods.
  • Caffeine and Calcium: Caffeine has been shown to reduce calcium absorption in the gut and increase calcium excretion in the urine. This can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures over time. Especially increasing risk of bone fractures in childhood and teenage years.


These are just a few examples. They are not hard-and-fast- rules to live by. So while it may be interesting information, know that nutrient interactions can vary based on individual factors and the specific food combinations being consumed. The human body is complex and can adapt to different food combinations, so overall, it's important to have a balanced and varied diet.

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