Do You Absorb the Minerals From Fortified Cereals?

Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals with added vitamins and minerals can help you meet your daily nutritional needs. Fortification and enrichment of cereals and other foods has helped reduce malnutrition in the United States and around the world, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Studies have shown that the body successfully absorbs minerals from fortified cereals.

A bowl of cereal on an outdoor table. (Image: gregory_lee/iStock/Getty Images)

Zinc and Iron

In some cases, zinc can interfere with the body's absorption of iron and the other way around, notes MedlinePlus. However, taking these minerals with food prevents the interaction, according to MedlinePlus. A 1995 study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" found no significant difference in subjects' absorption of zinc from foods fortified with iron and zinc from non-iron-fortified foods. The researchers concluded that iron fortification of cereals does not impair the absorption of zinc from those cereals.

Nonheme Iron Absorption

The body absorbs only about 2 percent to 20 percent of nonheme iron, the type of iron added to fortified cereals. A variety of food components can affect the body's absorption of this type of iron, including calcium, soy, coffee, tea and phytates in whole grains and legumes. For people with sufficient iron stores, however, this interaction probably does not pose a problem, notes MedlinePlus. Individuals with iron deficiency or a high risk of iron deficiency, such as pregnant women, teenage girls, women of childbearing age and individuals with renal failure, should avoid having iron at the same time as dairy products, soy, coffee and tea. However, some studies have shown that calcium in milk and fortified cereals does not hinder iron absorption. Vitamin C can boost iron absorption, so consider having iron-fortified cereal with a glass of orange juice.

Calcium and Iron

A 2001 study published in the "Journal of Pediatrics" found that children absorbed similar amounts of iron from calcium-fortified cereals and cereals without added calcium. Children absorbed similar amounts of calcium from calcium-fortified cereals and milk. The researchers concluded that calcium-fortified foods can help children increase their daily calcium intake without hindering iron absorption.

Other Nutrients

Other minerals often added to fortified cereals include magnesium, copper, phosphorous and selenium. Other food components do not affect the absorption of these minerals. Most fortified cereals also contain added vitamins, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folic acid.

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