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Does cast iron cookware add iron to our foods?

Does that old skillet or Dutch oven add any iron to the foods we put in them?

Yes, cooking in a cast iron skillet can add significant amounts of iron to your food and into your body. In addition to eating more iron-rich foods like meats, beans, and spinach, using cast iron cookware is an easy way to boost your iron intake.

Iron is an essential nutrient for all the cells in our body. Iron’s main job is to help transport oxygen through hemoglobin in the blood and myoglobin in muscles. In order to function well, your body needs just the right amount of iron, which depends on your age and sex. A lack of iron in red blood cells leads to a condition known as iron deficiency or anemia. On the other hand, too much iron can lead to a dangerous condition called iron toxicity (link is external). Children under age three are particularly susceptible to iron toxicity, and symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, and hemorrhaging. To be on the safe side, avoid cooking foods for young children in iron pots.

Researchers have found that cooking in an iron skillet greatly increases the iron content of many foods. Acidic foods that have a higher moisture content, such as applesauce and spaghetti sauce, absorb the most iron.  Other factors that boost the iron content of foods include longer cooking time, frequent stirring, and using a newer iron skillet.

However, not all foods benefit from cooking in an iron skillet. For example, hamburger, corn tortillas, cornbread, and liver with onions didn’t absorb as much iron. This was probably due to the shorter cooking times, and the fact that they were either turned once or not at all, resulting in less contact with the iron. It’s good for cooks to be aware that that iron pots and deep-frying don’t mix. Iron can oxidize fats, causing the cooking oil to become rancid. If you want to deep-fry foods, stick with an aluminum or stainless steel pot, or better yet, try a healthier cooking method that still packs a lot of flavor like roasting, grilling, or using a marinade.

Foods cooked at home may vary in iron absorption based on the age of the skillet used and the amount of time the foods are heated. So, if you’re looking to increase your dietary iron, use a new cast iron skillet. After all, the iron in cookware is no different from the iron in our bodies — except we have much smaller amounts!

What are your thoughts on iron leaching into your foods?  Please comment below.

4 thoughts on “Does cast iron cookware add iron to our foods?

  1. Well, the way I see It, people was always healthy, lived long lives, and grew up strong and worked. I think that iron skillets were a good way to cook, I miss them.

    1. Thanks Fred for stopping by my site. I do like the comments and appreciate you taking the time to fill one out.
      Sure seems like that was the good old days. Maybe they kept in shape by lifting the iron skillets and other cast iron cookware turning cooking into a workout.
      I always say that everything taste better in cast iron. Thanks again.

  2. This is very interesting information! My son is always low on iron, and I have him taking iron supplements. We do not have a cast iron skillet, but I have always wanted one. Now, I am for sure going to get me one! Do you have a link for a good iron skillet?

    1. Thanks for the comment and please come back anytime.
      Not only can you cook a great meal in cast iron, you also can give them all the iron they need without telling them about it.
      Yes, I have plenty of links to some really good cast iron cookware.
      Thanks so much for your comment.

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