Crohn's Disease Forum » Diet, Fitness, and Supplements » Iron supplementation? - cast iron pans

02-15-2012, 04:07 PM   #1
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Iron supplementation? - cast iron pans

I've always heard that food cooked in cast iron cookware absorbed iron from the pans but was never sure if it was true or not. But, did some searches last night and found this article (actually a few ) confirming that some food actually absorbs significant amounts of iron simply by being cooked in a cast iron pan - the article below lists foods and their iron levels before and after cooking.

Also included some of the links I found... Just something to consider if you are low in iron.

Cooking in a cast iron skillet can add significant amounts of iron to your food and into your body... if you eat it. This was proven by researchers who tested 20 foods, the results of which were published in the July 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. They measured the iron and moisture content of these items when raw, and after cooking in an iron skillet and a non-iron (Corning ware) dish, separately. A new, seasoned iron skillet was used, in the event prior use might have affected iron absorption. The researchers also compared iron absorption when using a new iron skillet versus an older one.

Researchers 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, absorbed the most iron. As a matter of fact, the big winners in the foods tested were these two items. For 100 grams of each (about 3 oz.), the applesauce increased in iron content from 0.35 mg. to 7.3 mg., and the spaghetti sauce jumped from 0.6 mg. to 5.7 mg. of iron.

Food cooked for longer periods of time absorbed more iron than food that was heated more quickly. They also found foods prepared with a newer iron skillet absorbed more iron than those cooked in an older one. Foods that were cooked and stirred more frequently absorbed a greater amount of iron as well, probably because they came into contact with the iron more often. 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.

Here are the changes the researchers found. 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. This list can give you a general idea of the difference in dietary iron content cooking in an iron skillet can provide.

(Table below loses it's format when I paste it here - first figure is the iron content before cooking, second is after cooking.)
Foods tested (100 g./3 oz.)
Iron content when raw
Iron content after cooking in iron skillet

Applesauce, unsweetened
0.35 mg.
7.38 mg.

Spaghetti sauce

Chili with meat and beans

Medium white sauce

Scrambled egg

Spaghetti sauce with meat

Beef vegetable stew

Fried egg

Spanish rice

Rice, white

Pan broiled bacon

Poached egg

Fried chicken


Pan fried green beans

Pan broiled hamburger

Fried potatoes

Fried corn tortillas

Pan-fried beef liver with onions

Baked cornbread

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!
02-15-2012, 04:14 PM   #2
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I've been relying on cast iron for some time. I largely credit the fact that I'm not actually anemic with the use of Cast Iron cookware.

Also, cast iron is nice because it generally heats more evenly and is more durable. It takes slightly more effort to keep clean than Teflon pans (yuck) but you dont have to worry about babying them like you do teflon.
02-15-2012, 04:34 PM   #3
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Thanks for this info! We have both cast-iron and teflon pans at home. From now on, I think I'm just going to use the cast-iron ones! They are annoying to clean but it sounds like the rewards are worth the extra bit of work. The teflon pans are "easy" but are probably doing me no favors.
02-15-2012, 06:08 PM   #4
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I dont bother cleaning my cast pans as such (got a cast steel wok). I use a bamboo cleaner and water. It keeps the oil seasoning on to make it non stick, removes all the food and once hearted up kills the bacteria
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02-15-2012, 06:59 PM   #5
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I don't fry even tho I I have two cast iron pans. I have a greenpan frying pan and through out all the non stick ones, they are toxic in high heat.

It would explain why my husband is healthy as a horse, because he lived on a farm and used cast iron pans, stoves, lived off their own livestock and chickens and milk. It is the world we live in and packaged foods and convienent cooking. I use our porcelain crock pot alot. BBQ in the summer.
02-23-2012, 03:13 AM   #6
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That's awesome. Wish I cooked more because I am heavily anemic and can't seem to get enough iron.
02-23-2012, 11:46 PM   #7
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Excellent. I found out recently that my iron is a bit low. We just found a great deal on a Lodge cast iron skillet and it is on the way
05-02-2012, 12:40 PM   #8
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Has anyone found that there is a 'coating' on their cast iron pan than wears off?

I'm finding that one of my pans has some discolouration and looks likes some coating is coming off... it even looks like there are very small specks of it mixing into the food. Is this normal?

I don't clean my pan with soap - just scrub clean with warm-hot water and a brush, dry completely (can't be rust) and then coat with olive oil.

By the way, don't know if it's coincidental but my son's HGB levels have been low since his diagnosis last May, since I started this thread (Feb.), I've been making a conscious effort to use our cast iron pans more often - last blood results showed he's reached normal HGB levels!
05-02-2012, 03:05 PM   #9
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You want to be cleaning the pan with a soft sponge and no water.
The coating is made by the oil being heated, if you scrub too hard it removes this coating. The small specks will just be the burnt food/oil and wont cause any problems

The Pan when seasoned properly should be a dark black colour, this will be heavily coated and very none stick. The more you use it the better it will become
05-02-2012, 03:25 PM   #10
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Are they referring to non enameled cast iron pans? I have a cast iron pan but it's enameled..


Crohn's disease since 2002, with multiple fistulae

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16 October 2015 - open parastomal hernia surgery to be performed

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05-02-2012, 03:52 PM   #11
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Yes as the enameled cast iron pans have a coating to stop food from sticking you wont have any of the food coming into contact with the iron
05-02-2012, 10:05 PM   #12
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My pans are not enameled. I'm guessing I've been scrubbing too hard when cleaning???

Are there levels of 'quality' for cast iron pans? I purchased mine at separate times, separate stores (department store and a kitchen/bath store) and didn't find much selection in brands of cast iron pans. I don't remember their cost but do remember that they didn't cost as much as I'd expected. Is there such a thing as a 'cheap' cast iron pan?
05-03-2012, 01:15 PM   #13
Join Date: Apr 2012
You know, I haven't actually checked my iron levels before and after starting to use cast iron pans, but I DEFINITELY do know that a nice amount of iron does come off in the cooking process when you use cast iron pans. And if you take good care of them (scrub with hot water, NO SOAP, let them dry, and then "re-season" with oil") they last forever. So I would say they are worth the investment.

Crohn's Disease Forum » Diet, Fitness, and Supplements » Iron supplementation? - cast iron pans
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