Tannins are a bit of a double-edged sword - although they provide some health benefits, tannins can interfere with digestion and absorption of minerals from our food, especially iron. Eating large amounts of tannins can induce constipation and stomach pain since these plant-based compounds affect the gut mucosa and prevent relaxation of the digestive tract muscles, which is crucial to "moving things through" in the bathroom.
Here is a sample of tannin-rich foods...
What to do?
If you are in shock and your jaw is dropping to the ground right now, don't worry - there is hope! You don't have to restrict all tannin sources from your diet - this would be virtually impossible. There are some simple steps you can take to reduce your overall tannin intake:
- Steep your tea less - Pour near boiling water over your tea, cover, and steep for 60 seconds. If your tea does not taste bitter, there are fewer tannin compounds in your tea. Yes, you can have your tea and drink it too!
- Go with ripe fruit - As fruit ripens, the tannin content naturally decreases. Be sure to avoid underripe fruit, especially green bananas and tough grape skins, which are considerably high in tannins.
- Choose lighter-colored legumes - Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), butter beans, and Great Northern Beans are lower in tannins than darker-colored beans, such as black beans, red beans, and kidney beans. Eat beans in moderation.
- Get more sleep - More shut eye time means you don't have to rely on multiple servings of coffee and tea to get through the day.
- Opt for other acids - Instead of relying heavily on balsamic vinegar, try using white distilled vinegar, pure lemon juice, or other citrus juice (grapefruit, orange juice, lime) as your acid of choice.
- Hold the walnuts (and pecans, and pistachios...) - Choose walnut oil instead, which is low in tannins! Blanched almonds (skinless almonds) and peanuts without skins are also safer bets.
- Drink wisely - Save wine and beer for special occasions, not a nightly dinnertime staple. Plus, alcohol can interfere with a quality night's sleep, and can make it tempting to drink multiple servings of coffee and tea the next day (see tip #4 above).
With a few simple, strategical food swaps, you can live your life without tannins slowing you down!