How Can Orange Juice Make Your Kale Better?

How Can Orange Juice Make Your Kale Better?

September 16, 2019 0 By Ewald Bahringer


This episode of SciShow is sponsored by Wix. 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
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