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Cast Iron Skillet and Iron Teapot Can Boost Iron Intake from Food

Using iron cookware is a simple approach to increasing the iron intake from food.

Iron is an essential mineral. It is a component of the protein hemoglobin that carries oxygen to tissues throughout the body. That’s why iron-deficiency anemia is a concern. This reader found a time-honored way to increase the amount of iron in the diet.

Q. When I was eating meat regularly I was low in iron for several years although I took iron supplements.

Now that I am mostly vegan, my iron levels are high. To counter the elimination of meat from my diet, I started cooking mostly in iron cookware and I often drink hot tea from an iron teapot. Though my iron is not dangerously high, I am above the normal range and my doctor has advised me to stop cooking and steeping in iron pots.

Perhaps those who are low in iron might consider cooking in an iron skillet. Foods that are acidic like tomato-based dishes are especially good at picking up iron from the pan. This could raise iron levels.

How to Raise Iron Intake from Food

A. Thanks for this tip. Using cast iron cookware is a simple but effective strategy to increase the amount of iron available in the diet (Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 1997).  

This tactic may be especially important for those following vegetarian or vegan diets, since plant foods tend to be lower than meat in iron and zinc (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Sep., 2003). You are quite correct that acidic foods leach the iron out of the pan most effectively.

It’s good that your doctor is paying attention to your iron level. When iron levels become too high, the body may have difficulty getting rid of this mineral and it can cause damage to the liver and increase the potential for heart disease. Most people who have difficulty with excess iron have a genetic propensity for hemochromatosis and need to be cautious about using iron cookware.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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