By Aly Walansky
Updated March 14, 2016
Credit: © vaiv/Getty Images

Green tea certainly comes with some benefits—helping prevent conditions like high cholesterol and heart disease, but a new study reveals that the foods we enjoy while sipping on our tea can nullify its health benefits.

The study, which was conducted at Penn State University and published in The American Journal of Pathology, researched the correlation between green tea and dietary iron. They analyzed mice suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, and discovered when the mice drank green tea along with iron-rich foods – such as kale or red meat – the anti-oxidants in the tea would ‘bind’ to the iron. This binding made the green tea less effective for the IBD patients, who were given the tea in order to relieve their symptoms.

As many people with inflammatory bowel diseases have iron-deficiency and take iron supplements, the correlation reveals an issue in the forms of relief working against each other.

“The benefit of green tea depends on the bioavailability of its active components,” said Beng San Yeoh, author of the study, in a media release. “It is not only a matter of what we eat, but also when we eat and what else we eat with it.”

But what does that mean for those of us who try to healthy up our lunch by enjoying a green tea with iron-rich food? “There is no question that green tea offers a multitude of health benefits. It is also known that iron is required for the production of red blood cells and the transfer of oxygen throughout the body,” says Allison Schulman MS, RD, Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian with Allison Schulman Nutrition. “Recent studies suggest that eating iron-rich foods and/or taking iron supplements may reduce or all-together eliminate the benefits of consuming green tea. For those that enjoy a green tea with their kale salad, I suggest that they be consumed separately (several hours apart) in order to ensure that you are enjoying the health benefits of both.” If nothing else, this sounds like a good excuse to take afternoon tea.