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Cast iron cookware-whats best to increase iron levels?

nicoled816 Jan 30, 2011 07:28 PM

My 2 daughters (9 & 6yo) & myself all have low iron. My doctor recommended cooking with cast iron. My question is...do the enameled cast iron pots allow iron to seep into food the same as the plain cast iron cookware? Ive been eyeing the Le Crueset & Staub but they are enameled so will they help? Or do I need to get a regular cast iron pot.

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  1. Chemicalkinetics RE: nicoled816 Jan 30, 2011 07:52 PM

    "do the enameled cast iron pots allow iron to seep into food the same as the plain cast iron cookware"

    Absolutely and positively a "NO"

    Now, there are other ways to get iron such as iron supplement pills and iron-rich foods:


    Both bare cast iron and bare carbon steel cookware will impart iron into your foods, but enameled of these will not work. While at it, slow cooking in a iron cookware will release more iron than fast cooking.

    1. kaleokahu RE: nicoled816 Jan 30, 2011 08:17 PM

      nicole816: My friend Chem is right--as usual: enameled CI won't get you anywhere. Barenaked CI is the way to go, as is cooking red meat and other iron-rich foods in it.

      Bear in mind that if you boost your and your daughters' intake this way, so are you boosting everyone else's you're cooking for. Men who already eat a lot of beef (whether in CI or not) and take multivitamins can have too much. It's good to know if anyone is borderline too high before you up them. But if it's just you and the girls, get yourself a plain Lodge and have at it.

      5 Replies
      1. re: kaleokahu
        c oliver RE: kaleokahu Jan 31, 2011 12:11 PM

        Isn't it unusual for someone to have a real problem with too much iron? I know a man who's waiting for a liver transplant because his body stores too much and it's destroyed his liver. There's a name for his condition but I don't recall it. And, yes, the longer cooking things get more iron than, say, spinach quickly sauteed. I found a chart once; I'll see if I can find it again.

        1. re: c oliver
          Sherri RE: c oliver Jan 31, 2011 01:27 PM

          I believe the name of the condition is: Hemochromatosis.

          1. re: Sherri
            c oliver RE: Sherri Jan 31, 2011 01:35 PM

            And I believe you're correct :)

          2. re: c oliver
            kaleokahu RE: c oliver Jan 31, 2011 02:14 PM

            c oliver: It's not only hemochromatosis.

            When too much iron is absorbed from the diet, it can cause a wide variety of health problems. High levels of iron are associated with an increased risk for cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses such as endocrine problems, arthritis, diabetes, as well as liver disease. See, http://www.menweb.org/alexiron.htm.

            I only found out about this because my mens' formula multivitamin/mineral is offered with and without supplemental iron. I asked why. Now I donate blood to get rid of excess iron.

            1. re: kaleokahu
              c oliver RE: kaleokahu Jan 31, 2011 02:23 PM

              Wow. Good info. I know the man I talked to sold all his CI. He's still waiting for the call.

        2. paulj RE: nicoled816 Jan 30, 2011 10:46 PM

          This looks like a useful page
          Notice that is quoting a 1986 Dietary journal article.

          According to this you get the greatest benefit from cooking acidic foods (apple sauce, tomato sauce) a long time in a newish cast iron skillet. This is the exact opposite of what is recommended if you want a well seasoned skillet as a replacement for a plastic coated nonstick pan - the topic of most cast iron threads.

          A Lodge 5qt dutch oven would be an inexpensive but good option. It is pre-seasoned, but I think that seasoning will largely disappear after a few pots of spaghetti sauce or chili.

          1. DpBluSea RE: nicoled816 Jan 31, 2011 12:55 AM

            I've gotten all of my favorite Lodge pans a thrift stores - clean and season, you're good to go! They last forever, and although heavy like my Le Creuset, the cast iron can't be beat for cooking some things.

            A friend with low iron recently found out that Iron can not be absorbed correctly if you drink TEA. I don;t know what kind (she drinks hers iced), but you might want to check that out, if you are a tea drinker.

            1. n
              nicoled816 RE: nicoled816 Jan 31, 2011 05:40 AM

              Thanks so much for the great info. As far as iron supplements, I take them when I remember (usually 4x/wk). My 6yo is sooo resistant to veggies & vitamins so I figured the CI pot would do the trick. My plan is to use it for MBs & sauce on Sunday & for soup once a week. So I figure that could boost our iron a bit. I found a Lodge pot on ebay. Is this the type that is good? Im going to take a trip to a few thrift stores in town to see if there's anything.


              3 Replies
              1. re: nicoled816
                Chemicalkinetics RE: nicoled816 Jan 31, 2011 07:14 AM

                I have it. This is the Logic version from Lodge is good, but I also have the Pro-Lodge version which I like a bit better.


                They both good anyway.

                1. re: nicoled816
                  c oliver RE: nicoled816 Jan 31, 2011 12:12 PM

                  Iron supplements for me give me very unpleasant gastric side effects.

                  1. re: c oliver
                    E_M RE: c oliver Feb 1, 2011 05:21 AM

                    Me too!

                2. p
                  pabboy RE: nicoled816 Jan 31, 2011 07:31 AM

                  How much iron can you really get from a well seasoned cast iron pot? The food never really comes in contact with bare iron right?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: pabboy
                    Chemicalkinetics RE: pabboy Jan 31, 2011 07:37 AM

                    I don't have the data right now, but I remember reading iron leaching data from seasoned cast iron. Seasoning does decrease the level of iron leaching, but there are still sufficient amount coming through. If I find that data, I will post them later.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                      pabboy RE: Chemicalkinetics Jan 31, 2011 11:16 AM

                      Interesting! I knew you would have the answer to this!

                      1. re: pabboy
                        Chemicalkinetics RE: pabboy Jan 31, 2011 11:37 AM

                        I found one of the sources, but I don't seem to able to find the one I really want. The following is from a lab test of various cookware materials. The company actually wanted to show how metals are leached out of other cookware (as a bad thing) and here it showed as much as 2,817 mg/L iron was leached out of a seasoned cast iron pan.


                        The article I wanted to find was comparing seasoned vs unseasoned cast iron cookware. The seasoning did reduce the iron amount, but far from stopping it. I will see if I can find that one.


                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                          paulj RE: Chemicalkinetics Jan 31, 2011 11:47 AM

                          May be the 1986 article that is quoted in my link (above) has that information.

                          1. re: paulj
                            Chemicalkinetics RE: paulj Jan 31, 2011 01:37 PM

                            Too bad that 1986 issue is not online. I can only go to 1990 for the earliest.

                    2. re: pabboy
                      tanuki soup RE: pabboy Jan 31, 2011 02:17 PM

                      As a side note, I'd expect that you'd get more iron if you used metal utensils. After all, the smoothness of well-used cast iron pans is because all the rough little bumps have been scraped off.

                    3. f
                      ferret RE: nicoled816 Jan 31, 2011 07:56 AM

                      Doesn't sound like a very good approach to dealing with iron deficiency. You can't get a 9-year-old to eat a Flintstone or gummy vitamin?


                      5 Replies
                      1. re: ferret
                        nicoled816 RE: ferret Jan 31, 2011 08:45 AM

                        Kids vitamins dont contain iron :(

                        1. re: nicoled816
                          ferret RE: nicoled816 Jan 31, 2011 01:23 PM

                          Like the Flintstone's +Iron I linked to?? ("As much Iron as 5 cups of cooked spinach").

                          1. re: ferret
                            nicoled816 RE: ferret Jan 31, 2011 01:44 PM

                            Ah! i totally missed the link u posted!! So sorry...I like that website.Lots of good stuff. i will check out those vits. I havent seen them in the store.

                            1. re: ferret
                              c oliver RE: ferret Jan 31, 2011 01:56 PM

                              I thought I had posted but maybe it didn't go through.

                              A common side effect of iron supplements is constipation. It can be quite severe. Offsetting it can require consuming lots of fiber filled food and drinking lots of water.

                              1. re: c oliver
                                nicoled816 RE: c oliver Feb 1, 2011 05:58 AM

                                Yes, thats a big problem. I find that flaxseed meal does the trick. I love it sprinkled on pasta....And I can sneak it into many of their foods :)

                        2. ipsedixit RE: nicoled816 Jan 31, 2011 02:08 PM

                          Lots of good info already.

                          As a former person who suffered through mild iron-deficiency anemia, I can attest to the fact that cooking with cast iron is *one* good way to get Fe into your system.

                          By the way, unless your family is vegetarian, why not just mix in a good juicy burger every once in a while? Better yet, why not cook up a big pot of beef stew in a cast iron pot with copious amounts of tomatoes? As they say, easier to absorb heme iron than non-heme.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            nicoled816 RE: ipsedixit Feb 1, 2011 06:10 AM

                            We are not vegetarian & eat meat 3-4x a week. My iron was a 9 (12.5 norm) last year & i have it up to an 11 now. And thats with taking supplements every other day cuz I usually forget! Its frustrating b/c I want to donate blood & Ive been turned down 3 times in the last 2 years! Even tried taking extra iron 1-2 days b4 the blood drive. Whats also frustrating for me is that I love spinach, dk choc, etc BUT I also had kidney stones 2 yrs ago & alot of the iron rich foods can cause kidney stones!

                          2. t
                            taos RE: nicoled816 Feb 1, 2011 01:55 AM

                            Since all three of your have this deficiency, I would examine your overall diet and see if you can improve it to increase the level of iron in that way rather than depending on your cookware to provide nutrition.

                            Hopefully your doctor has tested for and ruled out serious medical conditions. If he/she has not done these tests, get another doctor. Here is a list of foods high in iron (scroll down halfway):


                            1. Chemicalkinetics RE: nicoled816 Feb 1, 2011 06:02 AM

                              A bit off topic, but there are foods known to possibly inhibit iron absorption like coffee and tea and others...:



                              It is an uphill battle if you are trying to increase iron in your blood while consuming iron inhibition foods. So, first thing first, try to look at your current diet first, and maybe ask your doctor about the question of "what not to eat?" and not only "what to eat?"

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                c oliver RE: Chemicalkinetics Feb 1, 2011 06:26 AM

                                And not everyone who's anemic is iron deficient. I'm one of those. Normal levels of iron but a little anemic. Maybe that's just my normal.

                                1. re: c oliver
                                  Chemicalkinetics RE: c oliver Feb 1, 2011 06:36 AM

                                  Agree. agree. They don't have to be straightly correlated.

                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                  E_M RE: Chemicalkinetics Feb 1, 2011 06:29 AM

                                  I'm not giving up my coffee. I don't care if I lose all my blood iron. If I give up coffee I may as well be dead anyway.

                                  1. re: E_M
                                    Chemicalkinetics RE: E_M Feb 1, 2011 06:34 AM


                                    Wow. We ought to have a new post on this one

                                    "How much are we willing to sacrifice for a great cup of coffee (or tea)?"

                                    That said, the first article I cited actually states that "No decrease in iron absorption occurred when coffee was consumed 1 h before a meal". In short, foods and coffee should not be consumed at the same time or after a meal, but ok before a meal.

                                3. b
                                  barbaradeden RE: nicoled816 Jun 17, 2014 06:37 PM

                                  If your doctor is concerned about low iron, you need regular cast iron If you purchase the enameled type of cast iron wil not give you the benefits of the regular cast iron your doctor is recommending. Besides the cost of the Le Crueset & Staub are outrageous. You can get a set of Lodge Cast Iron @ Walmart. com for less than $70.00 and just supplement it with pieces if needed. The Lodge company has a website lodgemfg.com that has information on cleaning and caring for your cast iron and there are several links that you can access on their site that are very interesting.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: barbaradeden
                                    c oliver RE: barbaradeden Jun 17, 2014 06:51 PM

                                    I've not researched it so don't know just HOW much iron is provided by CI cookware.

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