Q. I have raisins in my oatmeal every morning for breakfast, with milk. Now I’m told that the iron in the raisins will cancel the benefit of the calcium in the milk. True? If so, what would you suggest as a substitute for the sweetness of the raisins?
A. Diane McKay, PhD, a scientist in Tufts’ HNRCA Antioxidant Nutrition Laboratory, answers: “The amount of iron in 1/4 cup of raisins is only about 1 milligram, too little to interfere with the absorption of the 300 milligrams of calcium present in 1 cup of milk. If anything, the amount of calcium in this meal might inhibit the absorption of some, but not all, of the iron from the raisins. However, if your body is low in either mineral, it will adjust by increasing the absorption of these essential nutrients from the foods you eat. Raisins are still a good choice here as they also provide vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals— something you won’t find in sugar or other sweeteners. Other good choices would include a sliced banana, chopped apple or ripe pear.”