Rethinking Your Chai: ICMR Suggests Skipping Tea and Coffee Around Meals

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) advises against consuming tea or coffee before or after meals for better nutrient absorption. Learn why and how to adjust your chai habits.

Gobind Arora
Published on: 14 May 2024 1:26 PM GMT
Rethinking Your Chai: ICMR Suggests Skipping Tea and Coffee Around Meals


A recent advisory from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has sparked debate among tea and coffee lovers in India. The advisory recommends avoiding tea and coffee consumption both before and after meals. This recommendation stems from the potential impact of caffeine on nutrient absorption in the body.

Tea and coffee are staples in Indian households, with chai, a spiced milk tea, holding a particularly special place in many cultures. However, the ICMR suggests that the caffeine content in these beverages can hinder the absorption of essential nutrients, particularly iron, from meals.

The concern lies in caffeine's ability to bind with iron in the digestive tract, making it less readily available for the body to absorb. This can be particularly concerning for individuals prone to iron deficiency, a prevalent health issue in India.

The ICMR's advice aligns with principles of Ayurveda, India's traditional system of medicine. Ayurveda emphasizes the importance of proper digestion and nutrient absorption for overall health. Certain Ayurvedic texts recommend consuming tea and coffee at least an hour away from meals for optimal digestion.

While the ICMR's recommendation may seem like a drastic change for some, there are ways to adjust your chai habits without completely giving it up. Here are some tips:

  • Leave a gap: Maintain a gap of at least one hour between your meals and your chai or coffee. This allows your body to absorb nutrients from your food more effectively.
  • Choose wisely: Opt for herbal teas like ginger or chamomile, which are caffeine-free and may even aid digestion.
  • Milk alternatives: Consider using plant-based milk alternatives in your chai, as some studies suggest they may lessen the impact of caffeine on iron absorption.
  • Limit intake: If you can't imagine starting your day without a cup of chai, limit your intake to one cup in the morning, away from breakfast.

It's important to note that the ICMR's advisory is not a complete ban on tea and coffee. However, it encourages mindful consumption, particularly around mealtimes.

Ultimately, the decision of how much tea or coffee to consume rests with you. By understanding the potential impact on nutrient absorption, you can make informed choices that support your overall well-being. Remember, a balanced approach is key – enjoy your favorite beverages, but be mindful of timing and explore healthier alternatives when needed.

Gobind Arora

Gobind Arora

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