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No matter how much kale or spinach you eat, the bioavailability of non-heme iron doesn't increase, but the vitamin C in orange juice can actually help your body absorb more of it.

Hosted by: Stefan Chin

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Sources:

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/91/5/1461S/4597424#110776016
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/increase-iron-absorption#section2
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2725368/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25048971
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891584914003220
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30272083
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Go to wix.com/go/scishow to create your own website. [♪ INTRO]. Now, there’s no shortage of classic food pairings out there: peanut butter and jelly, chicken and waffles, spinach and orange juice...

Wait, what? Well, that’s right. Thanks to a bit of food chemistry, spinach and orange juice are a nutritional dream team.

The vitamin C in orange juice can actually help your body absorb the iron found in vegetables like spinach. Now this matters because our bodies absorb certain types of iron much better than others. While you only see the word “iron” on a nutrition label, what it doesn’t tell you is that dietary iron comes in two main varieties.

Heme iron comes attached to a chemical structure called heme, which is in turn bound up in various proteins, mainly hemoglobin and myoglobin. Non-heme iron doesn’t come with those accessories. In general, heme iron comes from animal products like muscle or liver, while non-heme comes from plant sources, including leafy greens like spinach.

Although meat does have quite a bit of the non-heme variety also. And no matter how much kale you eat, that doesn’t change the amount of non-heme iron that actually enters our bloodstream, which is also known as its bioavailability. The bioavailability for non-heme iron is much lower than for heme iron.

Unfortunately, non-heme iron is way more common in our diets, even for meat-eaters, so scientists look at ways to increase how much non-heme iron we can actually absorb, because we need that stuff. One of the problems is that non-heme iron oxidizes really easily, meaning it loses electrons and picks up a more positive charge, and that new form is insoluble in our blood, making it unusable by our bodies. A few different chemicals can help, but Vitamin C, or ascorbate, is a common and effective way of bumping up the bioavailability of non-heme iron.

It does this by sharing an electron with the iron, taking it from a +3 charge to a +2. This less positively charged iron is the kind that’s absorbed by our bodies. And vitamin C is capable of a second chemical trick, as well: similar to how heme iron comes attached to a protein, the ascorbate molecule grabs onto non-heme iron and forms a complex with it.

That keeps it soluble long enough for your gut to absorb it. But the benefits of ascorbate on iron absorption don’t stop there. When the body senses it’s low on iron, a protein called transferrin carries it off to its target cells.

You might say it ferries it into your system. But at the cellular level, ascorbate helps again by stimulating the production of ferritin, a protein in the cell that receives and stores iron. So ferritin acts like a storage closet for iron, allowing its release when it’s needed.

So while orange juice might not enhance the taste of your kale salad, it’s doing a whole lot more than you’d think for its nutritional content. If you’re looking to share your newfound knowledge of OJ’s hidden benefits on your own health blog, why not try a website builder to make it look amazing? With Wix, you can get a professional website created in just a few minutes.

Wix is a website builder that offers you multiple levels of customization and control. From letting their Artificial Design Intelligence take the wheel, to adding functionality with Wix Code, you’re sure to find the level that suits your needs. And that includes over 500 designer-made templates sure to fit everything from a travel blog to an online resume.

And since all Wix websites are optimized for mobile, it’ll look just as great on your phone. So if you want to create your own website using Wix, all you have to do is go to wix.com/go/scishow to get started! [♪ INTRO].