The Health Hazards of Cast Iron Pans

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist April 19, 2011

 

This is How We Roll in VermontGiven the amount of time I spend in the kitchen preparing meals for my family, you might be surprised to learn that I do not own any cast iron pans.  What’s more,  I don’t intend to purchase or use cast iron pans anytime in the future.

While this may seem like heresy particularly since cast iron skillets are almost universally considered to be a healthy and durable choice for preparation of homecooked meals, I have good reasons for my head scratching decision.

Excess Iron is a Health Hazard

My primary reason for opting out of cast iron revolves around the health problems caused by excess iron in the diet.

Women do not typically need to worry about this problem as long as they are still menstruating as losing blood each month is a protective factor against this condition.  Growing children also are not particularly susceptible as growth obviously requires more blood and more iron.

However, for adult men (even fully grown young men) and menopausal women, cast iron can definitely pose a problem as the iron that naturally gets into food from utilization of this type of cookware can result in iron rising to toxic levels which is associated with a host of serious health conditions.  Iron is one of  the few minerals we cannot eliminate except through blood loss, therefore supplements should never contain iron and cooking with cast iron is a questionable choice for this segment of the population.

Most people view iron as a nutrient, and indeed it is.  It is also a powerful agent of oxidation in the body, which means it increases the chances of cancer and can severely damage the heart, arteries, and other organs when intake is excessive.  In addition, persons with an inherited condition called haemochromatosis, or iron overload disease, can be especially harmed from iron intake.  If you have any family members with this condition (about 1 million Americans), you should be especially careful with sources of iron in your diet.

Iron Overload Symptoms

Unfortunately, the symptoms of iron overload are similar to those of other conditions, therefore it may be wise to request a transferrin saturation test at your next check up to eliminate iron as a potential source of your health woes if you suffer from any of the following and are an adult male or menopausal female:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint or muscle weakness
  • Mysterious stomach or other gastrointestinal pain/nausea
  • Weight loss that cannot be explained
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Early menopause
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Impotence
  • Loss of body hair

Later stage symptoms include:

  • Greying or bronzing of the skin
  • Blood sugar issues
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Liver problems
  • Arthritis

If you’ve been cooking with cast iron for a long time and are an adult male or menopausal female, it might be wise to donate blood on occasion to reduce iron stores and switch to another type of nontoxic cookware such as enamel, glass, or titanium.

Anemia Problems Are Usually an Imbalanced Gut – Not Inadequate Iron Intake

Believe it or not, there is plenty of iron in the diet of the typical American. There is almost certainly adequate iron intake for a person eating a diet based on traditional foods and even in the diets of vegetarians.

Therefore, if you are anemic and feel the need to use cast iron to increase your iron levels, you may wish to consider an imbalanced gut as a  more likely source of the problem as common gut pathogens consume iron and are a frequent cause of anemia.   These pathogens include Actinomyces spp., Mycobacterium spp., pathogenic strains of E. coli, Corynebacterium spp., and many others.

Increasing iron intake with cast iron only makes these iron loving pathogens grow stronger and does little to remedy anemia.  Therefore, rebalancing the gut with beneficial bacterial strains through diet and lifestyle changes rather than use of cast iron or iron supplements is the best approach to solving this problem.

Sarah, TheHealthyHomeEconomist.com

 

Sources:  Excess Iron: A Health Risk?

Gut and Psychology Syndrome

Picture Credit

 

Comments (175)

  1. Pingback: Excess Iron is a Health Hazard | Health & Natural Living

  2. I recently switched to cast iron pans, mostly because I got tired about replacing my cookware every 2 years. So, I switched to the all American Lodge pans. Although they are pricey in my part of the world, they still are a lot cheaper then Le Creuset or Hackmann.

    Before switching to the scientific part- the shocking truth was how much tastier everything seems to taste. I was truly amazed.

    OK now the scientific part – as always, the truth is somewhere in the middle:

    According to some studies (e.g. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2621.2002.tb09582.x/abstract) apparently it CAN add to your iron intake:

    ABSTRACT: Amounts of iron released from iron pots vary from meal to meal. The effects of salt, pH, and organic acids as iron chelators were studied. Maize (corn) porridges were prepared in a cast iron pot from maize flour and 12 aqueous solutions with different pH (3.7 or 7.2), salt contents (0% or 0.5% NaCl), and organic acids (1% lactate, 1% citrate, or none). Salt had no effect, but acidic pH or organic acids (citrate > lactate) significantly increased iron amount, from 1.7 mg to 26.8 mg Fe per 100 g. The amounts released could be important in the treatment and prevention of iron deficiency.

    These levels are nothing to be worried about. And I will, for sure choose cast iron again.It is imho opinion, the safest, and tastiest way to cook.

    Reply
  3. 9 out of 10 doctors say that 1 out of 10 doctors are crazy.

    I supposed the doctor on this page recommends PFCs (perfluorocarbons) in everyone’s meals.

    Reply
  4. I wish there were some references here. I’ve read a gazillion blogs about this and everyone says different things and only one study is referenced in any of them.

    Reply
    • CJ i hope you get the updates to this – the latest was July 3-14 from Dirk and that might help you a little;
      otherwise go with your gut feeling – i just purchased an old cast iron pan, found it at the re-use it store- it seasoned quite well (will do one more layer) and it looks so much better than the new pan i have, i am not happy with the new one!
      love my cast iron pot with the ceramic coating however! takes all the guess work out of this subject here as well.

      Reply
  5. Hi Sarah,

    Old thread, but I find myself with a dropped jaw at your obvious lack of proper writing – a 12th grader knows to back claims of reason with data. Hopefully since the writing of this atrocious article you have taken it upon yourself to attend a couple college english/writing courses. Your propaganda does nothing to help your ’cause’; only to expose your poor writing skills.

    Please do everyone a favor and misinform your Facebook friends and not people looking for qualified and factual information.

    Reply
  6. PLEASE!!!! You are cooking in the pan NOT EATING IT! I use my cast iron cook ware maybe twice a month…I doubt VERY SERIOUSLY this poses any problem or risk. Spreading this type of PARANOIA helps NO ONE! If you want to be concerned about something focus your attention to non-stick surfaces which shed chemicals into your food over time.!

    Reply
  7. Hi, I work in the lab of a foundry that produces cast iron products. For any iron to transfer from an unprotected cast iron pot you would have to generate heats that normal every day cooking would never reach, cast iron also contains traces of lead, copper, aluminium, phosphorous and other elements that on their own are not good for ones health, however when mixed as an alloy of cast iron they are trapped within a complex matrix and so harmless. Stainless steel is also an alloy with iron in it but high chromium level protect it from rusting. I understand people want to be health conscious but I use cast iron cook ware with no worry. Hope this helps.

    Reply
  8. With cast-iron you’re basically cooking on a surface made up of charred, oxidized fats – the same thing we hear is bad for us on grilled meats. Has anyone heard anything about this issue?

    Reply
  9. I have heard a lot of this information and I have always made sure to properly season my cast iron and I use enameled for cooking sauces that have acidic properties than will eat away your seasoning. I believe that if you take care of your cast iron and keep it seasoned properly, the iron leaching into your food is negligible. You have to look at all the facts and who puts the studies out there. Here’s a fact: Once you buy cast iron you never have to buy anything else, ever.

    Now who hates this? People that market cookware of other kinds. Nothing against this site because i do believe the author has only the best intentions into maintaining our health. The internet and media is loaded with studies that are backed by marketing campaigns for the sole purpose of separating people from their hard earned dollars. I will never give up my cast iron. My father still cooks with it constantly and he has no problems with iron related disorders at all.

    Reply
  10. So many experts want to criticize this blogger, I certainly appreciate your insight and expertise. As a diagnosed sufferer of Hemochromatosis, let me enlighten everyone to two facts that no one seems to know through their extensive online research, 1. Every physician I have ever seen for treatment of this condition instructed me to NOT use cast iron cookware because I need to avoid every source of additional iron beyond that which is naturally occurring in the food I eat. 2. Hemochromatosis is much more common that people realize but goes relatively untested thus untreated. People die from it’s side effects never realizing Hemochromatosis was the real cause for their heart attack or cancer.

    What she is telling you is not a scare tactic, it is just information she didn’t cite well with references. Many people, especially anemic women could benefit from cooking with cast iron but everyone should consult with their doctor before making any decisions about their healthcare.

    Reply
  11. The worst problem is in cooking acidic foods like tomatoes, vinegar, etc. They will leach iron out of your pan, which makes them taste rather metalic too.

    Reply
  12. I apologize in advance for my bluntness, but this article is nothing but a bunch of bad facts. The human body only absorbs as much iron from the diet as it needs, which is why excess iron is excreted in feces and will turn it black. There is a rare condition in which the body absorbs too much, but that is MUCH more uncommon than anemia. Shame on you for discouraging the use of cast iron because many more people would benefit from using it than wouldn’t.

    Reply
  13. Here’s the thing:

    1) I don’t doubt that people can get an overload of iron. BUT, this article doesn’t discuss if, in fact, a traceable amount of iron is absorbed from food cooked on cast iron. I’ve heard from other sources that the iron from cookware is not absorbed.

    2) The philosophy behind this website is that of using traditional food preparation. Well, guess what? Cast iron has been in use for hundreds of years. One would think that concerns about using cast iron cookware would have surfaced earlier.

    3) The entire conveyance of this information is that of a “scare tactic”. Classic “tells” of a scare tactic include sharing controversial information about a topic of little consequence, while providing no referenced backing and no alternatives to the thing being bashed (Unless you’re a millionaire and can afford the gold-plated version of everything). Unfortunately, I’m seeing a trend of scare tactics in recent posts on this website. Certainly, sometimes the truth and facts are little-known and not well-received. (Take the truth about “healthy” fats like margarine!) I’m all about listing to the little-known voices, especially in the medical/health realm. But when a source is frequently and consistently “discovering” controversial information that has little to no scientific or historic backing, it makes the source less than credible. At this point, I feel this website is drawing at straws simply to keep fresh content going. I am disappointed, since I’ve appreciated and respected Sarah’s research in the past.

    Reply
  14. I’m wondering if anyone has used the “Cast-iron lite” pans made by Hertiage and if there are any health hazards with these pans? They are ceramic coated and state they are PTFE & PFOA free, but unfortunately they are made in China.

    Reply
  15. Hello Sarah,

    Your claims are not backed up by any cited research. The iron given off in American made cast iron cooking is miniscule. It does improve an iron poor diet. There is no proof that it harms menopausal women or men. It also is broken down in the body to be excreted. It also can be excreted whole through defecation. IT IS THE ONLY WAY OXYGEN IS CARRIED TO CELLS. It constipates the system because it has an Iron binding capacity that BINDS. Therefore if you have average to high iron levels, it is a good idea to regularly take stool softeners. New research is old research. There is growing eveidence that a theory produced in 1934 is correct in killing cancer cells. That is the ability to oxygenate cells, increasing ooygen inside a cancerous cell, thus killing it. Most cancer cells survive, mutate and grow through aneorobic means, i.e. fermentation and acidosis. It is the sugars from aneorobic conditions that feeds cancer cells. Oygen litterally reverses this process and eplodes and kills CA cells. Again the only way O2 gets into cells from the blood stream is through Fe+ or iron carrying through the blood.

    Reply
  16. crabtree jickle bone April 12, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Interesting article, but I have to disagree with you. No offense or anything but my own personal research and involvement in the health community has led me to favor cast iron (with proper use and seasoning). good luck to you.

    Reply
  17. Cast iron cannot be that bad using it just a few times a week. You stated that oxidation causes cancer ? Wrong ! It fights cancer cells and free radicals. Although you do have a point. You must be middle aged, using cast iron for breakfast and dinner cooking ? Users that use it 2 to 3 times a week may be good for you.

    Reply
    • you might mean oxyGENation but not oxidation Ken
      In a new scientific study, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have determined that oxidation inside the cell can lead to the onset and development of a large number of various tumors, linking the two phenomena together inseparably. In their experiments, the scientists used mouse models, and shut down the production of two genes involved in producing proteins that repaired damaged DNA. The results were immediate, and the rodents developed cancerous tumors.

      Experts from the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), and the New York University School of Medicine (NYUSM) also participated in the research, which was published in a recent issue of the scientific journal DNA Repair. They noticed that, when exposed to high levels of oxidation, the animals’ genetic material suffered a lot of damage, in the form of lesions, breaks, cross-links and deletions, which occur in humans naturally as well.

      Reply
  18. My wife and I have a chronic iron deficiency. In my wife case, it is really bad. We bought a whole Lodge Signature collection from the USA to cook two years ago. My levels of iron are now normal. My wife’s level improved but were not sufficiently good, so she takes some iron suplements sometimes.

    We were going to buy unexpensive old French cast iron pottery from the late XIX and early XX century, when we discovered that the old sale brochures (from 1914) of Pied-Selle cast iron (from Fumay in France) had a mild cover of tin. Then we realised that we have to buy something modern and made in Europe or in America, not Asian and not old, that is truly safe (no tin or heavy metals).

    The choice was then between the only two US or EU manufactures of non-enameled cast iron cookware: Lodge from the USA or Skeppshult from Sweden. We choosed Lodge Signature because it was the most beautiful one.

    Reply
  19. interesting! so by now i will not need to get me a cast iron pan any more -good to know :)

    actually i was looking to see if any one has written about this new stone ware ?? series orgreenic???

    Reply
  20. I am tired of you tools. Cast iron is fine to cook by. And if it is not what would you have us do, cook by the spit. You will only come in with comments about how we are using the wrong wood. Please do us a favor and use a proper knot to hang yourself.

    Reply
  21. I read today, (been researching fluorine), in a subtitle of an article that you have to pay for to read, that ceramic over cast iron has fluorine in it, not good, too bad since I love the old blue speckle ware. I am, however, tossing out my green teflon pan today, into the trash, I didnt realize that teflon had fluorine in it. Gonna go garage saleing for old cast iron immediately to add to my cast iron collection, not going to use anything else anymore if I can help it. except clay.

    Reply
  22. I have cooked in and have had my meals prepared in cast iron all my life. I have no intentions of using other alternative cookware. I have two stainless steel pans that I use rarely. I have generations of family that have used them, some I have are handed down, others purchased used 36 years back. They are well seasoned, and I occasionally reseason them. Most of what I use are over 50 years old and ALL made in USA. A rarity now. I have never heard anything so negative about cast iron skillet cookware before. It will be just a matter of time before other cookware will be in the spot light, titanium cookware included.

    Reply
  23. Pingback: The Virtues of Cast Iron Cookware — Granny's Vital Vittles

  24. I love cooking with my cast iron pan and I am a young male adult. I give a pint of blood every 2 months so I’m not worried about iron build up. Cast iron pans, like every other kitchen implement, has its time and its place. I wouldn’t recommend using it for everything, but it has no equal for recipes that benefit from browning… indoor steaks, skillet potatoes, etc. I agree its not the end all, be all, pan, but I strongly recommend having one on hand.

    Reply
  25. This article lacks any scientific data. You can find many opinions on the internet that supports your own, but please do not make medical decisions based on someone’s opinion. I honestly feel that people who write articles such as this one are doing more harm to their readers than good.

    Reply
  26. Enough of this BS. Everyone should just drink water and not eat. Oops, our water is contaminated too! Give it a rest, you can only live so long so why be over conscious on everything.

    Reply
  27. I fully disagree with this article. The blogger should not be posting this kind of medical advise
    Without scientific evidence. Very disappointing! Beware and make sure you do further research before falling for anything that is said in this article.

    Reply
  28. This is bull. Just look at the alleged symptoms. Your grandfather parented many children worked 12 hour days and lived more years than your father did. And he did this all on food that was cooked and cast iron. So get real folks stop being a bunch of lemurs.

    Reply
  29. I am looking at cookware from a health POV and also looking at cooking for ‘survival’. I don’t like aluminum, not crazy about other cookware and am investigating others. BUT, is there anything besides cast iron that can be used over an open fire or campstove? To me that is a big issue in this day and time.

    Reply
  30. Very interesting…funny thing is my adult son, age 22 is low on iron, so is my daughter-in-law age 28…so are many of their friends.,, this came from blood test. I was very surprised to hear that from their doctors…and I turned to cast iron to cook in increase their iron absorption.

    Reply
  31. Pingback: Cast Iron Cookware problems – Cast Iron Cookware | Cookware Guru » Blog Archive

  32. Sarah, in your blog (castigating cast iron cookware, I see absolutely no documentation of your charge against cooking in cast iron. Even the doctor in your source doesn’t refer to cast iron. I wonder if somehow you have ever looked into the dangers of teflon in ones diet. It is a given that it leaches into the food we eat that was cooked in a pan coated in the stuff.

    Reply
  33. Pingback: Why You Want a Vintage Cast Iron Skillet — Mrs Dulls Nourished Kitchen

  34. A wee tad of extremism here? There’s so little risk of iron toxicity from cast iron, this position is really pretty over the top. Especially from a well-seasoned pan which puts a barrier between the pan and the food. If you already have iron toxicity (almost certainly not CAUSED by your cookware), by all means lay off the cast iron, but this is a case of a little bit of knowledge leading to a ridiculous assumption being passed off as fact. Look at a few dozen other sites seeking out the stats, as I have been doing, and you will find no need for such dire action against your lovely cast iron ware.

    Reply
  35. Note:
    If using glass cookware make sure it is made out of BoroSilicate Glass. This is what the Europeans used and it was awesome, this is also the way pyrex used to make their cooking glassware. Now Pyrex uses soda-lime glass.

    Le Creuset is very good for enamel.
    All-Clad is one of the best if not the best for Stainless Steel.

    Reply
  36. Hemochromatosis runs rampant in my family. There is a genetic test for it, to know for sure. (1 in 8 Caucasian Americans carries it, by the way). It’s highly manageable by donating blood regularly (or getting medical phlebotomy every couple weeks if your iron is reeeeaally high). Ask your doctor for your iron levels (cheap and easy) if you can’t afford the genetic test. Also, enjoy a cup of iced tea with your cast iron cooked meal. Tea blocks iron absorption. Don’t panic, be informed. Hemochromatosis is only a danger when you DON’T know if you have it.

    Reply
  37. Pingback: Stocking The Dream Kitchen « The Mommypotamus

  38. Dear Sarah I wanted to know if cast iron pans were safe so I went to the web site and found you. I’m so glad I did. You helped me alot to understand about cast iron pans. My mother grew up using them and I started using them when I got married. But a few years ago I heard it was bad to use them so I stopped. I really didn’t understand why they were bad until I read your article. Thank you so much for all the information. If you can please let me know which brand is safer to buy I would appreciate it. On Sept 10,2011 Melisssa’s comment at the end of her letter about Dr.Mercola safe set of pots & pans, can you tell me where they are sold. Thank you again for all your Great help. I hope you and your family have a Blessed Holiday.
    Carmen

    Reply
  39. Hi, I know this is way late from when the post was actually written but I hope you will still see my comment and be able to respond. Thank you so much first of all for all your advice & opinion. I am so grateful for it and always seem to trust the advice you give because Iknow whatever you post you have put time and research into & deem it safe for your family, whereas I feel like I don’t have the time to do as much research because i have 3 children under the age of 3 so things tend to be a bit crazy :) (in a good way) I was curious what you think about Dr. Mercola’s Ceramic cookware (that supposedly??? isn’t supposed to leach anything?) I currently own Calphalon one anodized pans (Not sure how bad those are for you?) http://store.calphalon.com/calphalon-one-infused-anodized-8-piece-set/322565 a Large SS pot for making stock & a cast iron pan for frying eggs. I definitely would like to replace them with what would be best for my family, but tend to get overwhelmed in figuring out what!!!! I know you posted enamel (no lead), glass and titanium are best. Do you have any brands, links, or any pans specific you would feel safe using for your family? And is that Dr Mercola set safe & a good option or is there another set you would recommend?

    Thank you so much for your help! I greatly appreciate it! Blessings, Melissa

    Reply
  40. Ha! I guess there’s more than one way to cook an egg! I have great luck using a small stainless skillet with a heavy base (like All Clad or Emeril copper/stainless base). I heat it on super LOW heat and use homemade lard for the fat. It doesn’t stick at all — in fact, it practically floats right out of the pan. I fry farm-fresh eggs this way, low and slow, sunny side up, and it cooks the whites nicely while leaving the yolks less cooked, preserving their yummy goodness.

    Reply
    • P.S. Nitrate-free bacon grease works well, too.

      P.P.S. Speaking of enamel potentially containing lead, does anyone know if Rachael Ray enamel cast iron dutch ovens are lead free?

      Reply
  41. I really want to impress upon people to do their own homework and not allow fear to guide them.. as even HHE admits there are no studies that show cast iron usage directly causes abnormally high levels of iron. Abnormal Levels in the body are an indication of Dysfunction in the body and the mechanism that shuttle iron out of the enterocytes and into the blood.

    Just because your diet has iron in it from food or from cast iron…does not guarantee it is actually absorbed much less USED in the body. Prenatal vitamins that have iron in them often use an form of iron that is not good for the body and actually causes elevated iron levels. Iron from cast iron is not a significant source of iron in the diet… if you are consuming lots of greens…. they have quite a bit of iron as well…as do meats. So if you are allowing your fear to guide you…cut out meats, beans, veggies, grains….etc And go on an air and water diet.

    I PAYS to understand how iron is absorbed….: http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/smallgut/absorb_minerals.html

    Once you understand that the body actually controls it’s usage of iron… and it’s levels…. (unless there is a dysfunction present) you realize that if cast iron has been used for such a LONG TIME with out widespread excessive Iron levels… that it is pretty safe unless YOU, The individual, has a dysfunction that affects iron levels in some way.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 20, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      Hi EM, again … iron used in the past was by people who did not have the guts that are in the terrible shape of modern people. Even folks like me who eat well have very poor gut function compared with the pre-antibiotic/ pre-baby formula age. Folks like me (who are the majority of people) have imbalanced guts despite all our best efforts because the gut wall was improperly populated from the get go. We manage it with good diet, lots of probiotic foods, etc, but the fact remains that our guts hold the key to our absorption levels and people without excellent gut function (almost everyone) can be more easily poisoned by metals than folks who have excellent gut function. You cannot compare the 2 populations as Traditional Cultures had no pollution, no antibiotics, no birth control pill, no processed foods etc etc to mess up their gut flora.

      Reply
      • If the villi are as damaged as is supposed today… then you run into BOTH issues of poor performance in regulating absorption/usage AND the inability to ABSORB. If you are warning people about iron… you SHOULD have made gut health a major portion of your article… as such, you did not. You made it about cast iron…. not about the health of the individual and ended up spreading your own fear to others instead of providing the full information. I am not debating your intent… i am presenting the reality of one of the affects this article had. You only focus on the health of the gut being involved in the deficiency of Iron…when it is involved in both sides of the spectrum.

        I appreciate your blog as do many people…and what i do not like is having to do damage control (not here but in other places) from the fear triggered by the incomplete article…. by providing the rest of the information that should have been provided.

        I completely agree that we can not compare traditional cultures with modern…. and had you included this reply to my post in your original article…. you would have a lot less people focusing on cast iron… and a lot more people focusing on getting their gut health improved. ;)

        Reply
        • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

          You are correct .. gut problems are affected on both ends. Sorry you didn’t like the article. I stand by it regardless. It is what it is and I don’t apologize for what I write. I am glad the post has sparked debate nonetheless. I have found that no matter how I write a post, there is a segment of people that misinterpret what I write anyway. I do the best i can and don’t worry about the naysayers.

          It is very easy to back seat drive a blogger. The information on this blog is free after all. You are not paying me for it, so just accept the debate it sparks and be grateful that someone is brave enough to at least broach the issue at all.
          Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist\’s last post: The Health Hazards of Cast Iron Pans

          Reply
          • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

            I should also add that the comments are a critical part of the post. The gut issues are well covered here. If I tried to cover every single angle about a post before I wrote it, it would take me 20 hours to write a single post and I would never write anything. Therefore, I write what I know about in a reasonable piece of time and the very amazing readers of this blog discuss in the comments and the back and forth completes the picture if I have missed anything. My blogs are not supposed to be research papers to be printed in a medical journal; they are posts about my opinion and other things I have discovered in my journey of wellness.
            Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist\’s last post: The Health Hazards of Cast Iron Pans

  42. I don’t own any cast iron (except an enameled La Creuset dutch oven), but I still found your facts about excessive iron quite interesting. My husband sometimes suffers from IBS and other GI problems, fatigue, and joint pain. We’ve been trying everything to help him out. This spring, he gave blood, and reported that he felt a ton better. His problems have been much less ever since. He used to give blood all the time, and didn’t have these issues then, so I wonder if it might be related!

    Personally, I think men are given extra iron with the expectation that they would be injured more often while hunting or defending the tribe. In our modern, less violent and physical society, men aren’t shedding blood as often as they used to, so giving blood is a good substitute (and a very generous action!). I myself often have low iron, so I don’t worry about it so much, or for the baby either, but I think my husband would benefit from making blood donation a regular thing. Thanks for the info!
    Sheila\’s last post: Real food menu planning

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 20, 2011 at 2:18 pm

      Wow Sheila. That is very interesting. I hope this post helps connect the dots for your husband.

      Reply
  43. Thank you, Sarah. I had very low iron levels until I started using cast iron daily, so there’s something to it. What scares me is that I’ve been cooking for a house full of men! Will be shopping for better alternatives for them now.

    Reply
  44. Just wanted to share my story about this.
    I recently went to my MD because I have been exhausted constantly. He did a slew of bloodwork and found that my iron levels are elevated. All other numbers are ok, or so he said. I haven’t seen the results with my own eyes yet.
    Just a little history though, I have 19 month old twins and during that pregnancy I became quite anemic as multiple moms tend to do. I refused to take their iron supplements and instead took a little floradix instead. My numbers came up just enough to go ahead with a homebirth and then I stopped taking it. But what I started to do and have continued doing is COOKING WITH A CAST IRON PAN. Then my numbers came back high.
    I have become MORE tired over the past 6 months even though the babies sleeping patterns have improved. And I was cooking everything in the cast iron pans all along this time. So for the past month and a half or more I have stopped using my favorite pans and am due to go have my bloodwork repeated. I am even more curious now to find out if my levels went back down after reading this article. And as soon as I can find the time to escape my house and two of the cutest crazy babies, I’ll get to the lab! I can say that I have been feeling a little bit better the past couple of weeks but we’ll see if it’s related to this or not.
    I have never cooked in glass or enamel (yes, lead free, I know…) or even heard of titanium pans. Unfortunately, they would require an investment that I probably can’t make since I am not working right now. I’ll just keep scraping my stainless.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      Thank you for sharing your story, Elizabeth. I was greatly encouraged by my midwife to switch to cast iron when I was pregnant to ensure safe iron levels, but I never would do it. She said she never saw a pregnant woman cooking with cast iron that had low iron levels .. I’m sure that was an exaggeration and there are exceptions to that, no doubt, but it goes to show that cast iron in her experience (many years as a midwife testing hundreds of ladies for iron levels) cast iron has a significant impact on iron levels.
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist\’s last post: The Health Hazards of Cast Iron Pans

      Reply
  45. I have one cast iron skillet that I love very dearly. I use it several times a week to fry eggs and bacon. I love reading everything you post Sarah, but for now, I’m sticking with my beloved cast iron skillet from my Mema. The rest of my cookware is Al-Clad. I paid a lot of money for good sturdy cookware and I hope that as long as the ingredients that are going in it are healthy that the leeching will be minimal.

    My husband and I once were invited to this dinner party where the guy was selling cookware called “Salad Master” the price of this cookware made my Al-Clad look like I got it from a thrift store! The theory was that this awesome “salad master” cookware was not supposed to leech ANYthing into the foods. They did a horrible taste test with baking soda but the entire presentation felt like a huge sham to me. Maybe there was something to their skillets, but then again, it might have been all smoke and mirrors. We did not purchase anything that night and I’ve been happy with my cookware!

    Thanks for keeping us thinking!
    Amanda Dittlinger\’s last post: Ham Zucchini Rolls

    Reply
  46. I cook eggs in my All-Clad skillet all the time. Here is what I do. Heat the skillet gently before adding fat. Add fat and allow it to heat – then add eggs. If you scramble them – let them sit for 3 minutes w/o stirring & then stir. This generally works for me. And the butter doesn’t burn either.

    Reply
  47. I love my cast iron! What I don’t love is the iron in my drinking water. That scares me. Although, I was anemic with my first pregnancy when I was drinking bottled water. With my other pregnancies, I wasn’t anemic when I was drinking my tap water. But still, I have a dreadful amount of iron in my water.

    Reply
  48. Wow! Sarah…I salute you!

    Most people don’t want to hear that their beloved cast iron may have some drawbacks…I know I didn’t.

    I have now managed to replace all my cast iron, except the rarely used griddle, with glass or magnetic SS.
    http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/iron-dangers.shtml

    Coffee ( or in the south, Sweet Tea) is good to drink with meat as it helps remove heavy metals including iron from the body.
    http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/caffeine.shtml

    Reply
  49. Julie, hemachromotosis organizations state that you do not need to eat a low-iron diet, b/c dietary meat doesn’t contribute to the problem. I haven’t seen their stance on cast iron, but the reality is, stainless steel leaches nickel, most enamel leaches lead or other chemicals, Teflon definitely leaches all kinds of chemicals, and I’ve never seen a glass skillet. Properly seasoned cast iron turns the coating into a polymer which I seriously doubt is leaching. I want to see some hard proof via properly controlled studies showing ferritin levels rising to a dangerous level when cast iron is used regularly.
    LYM\’s last post: What causes breast cancer Can we prevent it

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

      I have not personally seen any hard data on it. I have seen plenty of places that talk about using cast iron to boost blood iron levels. I do not feel comfortable waiting for a study to say its dangerous before playing it safe. The cautious choice would be to avoid it, i think. Obviously an occasional meal is not a big deal. I would worry more about all the aluminum they use in the preparation of food in the restaurant industry. But, it is indeed something to ponder and think about which is why I posted about it for those who might have some issues and not be aware of the potential dangers.

      Reply
  50. Sarah, I think it’s also important to think about meat factor. Meats like hamburger have a lot of iron too. If you are not cooking with cast iron due to worry of iron in your food are you eating heavy iron meats like cow meat? It it certainly something to be aware of in your cookware, and it is important to use safe cookware, but if you use your cast iron CORRECTLY without acidic things and have it well oiled it should leach very little iron into your food and be nothing but your friend. If you are worried about exessive iron I would be more corncerned about the high levels of iron in meat foods.

    Reply
    • Good point! Its true that men aren’t losing iron on a monthly basis in the same way as women, but they still need it as it is vital for red blood cell production. The absorption of iron from the diet is variable based on the requirements of the individual, therefore if you are fit and well (and in this case male) then you are incredibly unlikely to get iron overload.

      Reply
  51. A quick perusing of titanium cookware on amazon.com shows that they are just aluminum pans with a titanium nonstick coating. Is that what you meant, Sarah?

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      I think you can get ones that are full titanium as well last I checked. Everybody freaks out about aluminum, but it is not a problem unless it comes in contact with the food. So a titanium coating should be fine. Aluminum really leeches if you scrape it with cooking utensils (metal ones), for example, which is one reason aluminum cookware is so bad. If you aren’t scraping it so that it gets into the food and it’s not contacting the food anyway, that should be quite safe. Most ice cream makers have an aluminum interior (mine does). No big deal unless you go scraping the ice cream out with a big metal spoon.

      Reply
    • Pretty sure that is made in CHINA!!!

      I searched “ceramic cookware” and it came up with Ceramcor and it seems to be the exact same stuff. No mention where it is made … until I checked here:
      http://www.chefsresource.com/ceramic-cookware.html
      they carry Ceramcor and list country of origin: CHINA!

      They also carry Emile Henry – the cookware I DREAM ABOUT!!! Now, that is safe, beautiful 100% ceramic, made in FRANCE! And not much more money, either!

      Ceramic cookware is NOT enamel! Enamel is glaze-coated metal. Ceramic cookware is glazed ceramic. Stove-top ceramic is specially formulated to resist the thermal shock. It will break if you drop it.

      BTW, searching that site, I found out that the LeCreuset French Press I was considering purchasing is not made in France – it is made in CHINA! :( Well, I guess my only option is German stainless steel (the glass ones no longer last like they used to).

      Reply
  52. Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
    Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    It’s great if all of you want to continue to use your cast iron and love it .. I just am not willing to take the risk with an adult male in my home when other very affordable nontoxic options exist. The blog, after all, is about my reasons for not using it. Whether or not you choose to use it is your own choice.

    Reply
    • I think maybe we were all just thrown off a little. You did not give any alternatives, which makes things even more confusing.
      I personally love your articles, and am very thankful for them. I knew about cast iron contaminating food, and take that into consideration with what I cook.
      I just thought that you didn’t seem to tell the whole story, or give any hope for people now left in the dark. Cast iron cookware may not be for you and your husband, but it is a much safer option than what most people are cooking with. There is significant evidence that the absorption rate is much lower than that of food. The fact that you didn’t have any sources threw us all for a loop too, I believe. Also, the body does eliminate iron through the sloughing of the intestine, which happens about every week or so.

      Please don’t feel like we are attacking you in all of these firey comments. There may just be a little more to the story. This is great information, like you always give to us! Thank you!

      Reply
      • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
        Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm

        Hi Savannah, I did mention nontoxic alternatives in the article (glass, enamel, titanium). I guess it just got missed somehow.

        Reply
        • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
          Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 5:15 pm

          Oh and no worries about very strong opinions contrary to mine. This is a blog for thinking people after all. :)

          Reply
  53. I had never thought about the flip side of the iron transfer into food. I have a few cast iron things but largely cook in stainless steel and enamled cast iron (which technically means I am cooking with glass touching the food). Definately something to think about, which is why I like your blog. You make me question myself. Thanks again!
    Melissa @ Dyno-mom\’s last post: Now you can follow by email!

    Reply
  54. Shoot! I have mostly stainless steel pots & pans. I was thinking about getting a cast iron skillet. I thought stainless steel was ok. I can’t afford to get rid of them & start over. It’s always something, isn’t it?

    Reply
  55. Because I have used cast iron — almost every day — for literally decades (I’m 55 yrs old), and recently heard that post-menopausal women can inadvertently overload their systems with iron from cooking in cast iron, my naturopath and I thought it would be a good idea to test ferritin (iron) blood levels. Not only were my blood iron levels in the normal range, they were on the low side–which is my normal level and consistent with my lifelong health history. Meaning, cast iron made no difference at all. Since cast iron has been used on a daily basis by thousands over several centuries, I don’t believe cooking in cast iron affects the overwhelming majority of people. Perhaps a few, very rare, bizarre cases, but, isn’t that true of everything? I suggest everyone have a ferritin test done, and once you see everything is normal, go back to enjoying cast iron cooking. There’s no better way to cook (okay, stainless steel is better for a few things, but cast iron still rocks).

    Reply
    • I agree with Deb here. If you are worried, get a blood test. Do NOT go out and buy new cookware because of this article. A blood test, which most insurance companies will pay for, will probably alleviate any fears. You can get it tested once a year to make sure you are in the clear. I just had my tested and my iron levels are wonderful. I’ve been using cast iron daily for a few years. My husband is in the Army and they test his blood all the time. He’s fine too. I think the information here is, like Deb said, for the absolute minority.

      Reply
      • I agree completely, Natalie and Deb. And not only do I feel like it’s for the absolute minority, I also fear it’s a little sensationalistic. I’m sincerely disappointed in this post.

        Reply
        • I agree with Deb and the others here. I have read articles about the dangers of stainless steel in leeching heavy metals as well. I think it is just too easy to worry too much about all of this. I say if Ma Ingalls used it (and many, many, many of our foremothers) without any known issues then it’s not too big of a deal. But getting a blood test if you are worried is a far better idea than buying a new set of cookware.

          Reply
  56. I can’t give blood because I have cancer, but anyways, I’ve looked for good cast iron skillets just to use now and then & as soon as I find one, even the tried and true good brands, u scrape ur fingernail on them & this rust or black stuff comes up. Is that the iron? That would end up in our food. I dont understand it. I really just want one of those cast iron pans that u put corn bread mixture in and it shapes it like corn cobs…like the pans at cracker barrel. Can someone explain what that coating is that comes off and is that what iron is that gets in ur food??

    Reply
      • If you are buying NEW cast iron BEWARE!!!

        First of all, ONLY buy LODGE – it is made in America. ALL OTHER BRANDS ARE MADE IN CHINA = TOXIC additives!!!

        Second, even if you buy new Lodge, it comes “pre-seasoned.” You MUST REMOVE their SOY-BASED “seasoning” and re-season it yourself!!!

        I would scrub the heck out of it with dish soap and a copper scrubby until nothing comes off. Dry it off thoroughly.
        Then, put it into a cold oven and turn it up to 350-400 degrees and let it heat up for 30 minutes or so (after it hits temp), then use a fat of your choice (lard, coconut oil – NOT a liquid oil) and rub the ENTIRE pan with it (bottom and handle as well) and put it back in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove pan and wipe off any excess grease and char. Re-apply more fat all over, put pan back in oven, turn oven off and allow it to sit inside as oven cools. After 20 minutes or so, remove pan, wipe it all down, and re-apply another thin coat of fat only on the inside, put back in cooling oven and leave until oven is completely cool.
        Season pan on rack in middle of oven, and put the extra rack below it with tin foil or a larger pan or cookie sheet to catch any fat that may drip down.

        This will create a safe, initial seasoning. A well-seasoned pan happens over time with use – from the fat you cook with.

        NEVER WASH A CAST IRON PAN WITH SOAP AND WATER!!! To clean it, simply wipe it off after each use with a paper towel. Store it in a CLOSED, dust-free place – otherwise dust will adhere to the seasoning! I store mine in the oven.

        If it collects grime or you burn something realy bad, you can clean it by pouring some boiling water into it while it is on the stove and adding a bunch of salt and let it boil and scrape out any crud. BUT, you MUST immediately dry it off (while hot), put it back on the burner and re-season it with fat.

        Soap will destroy the pan if used more than once or twice every ten years or so, and water will cause it to rust. So, always make sure it is fully dry before storing.

        You can salvage an old rusty pan by either washing it off and then heating it up really hot and scrubbing off the rust, or even just try heating it up really hot and scrubbing off the rust (depending how bad it is). Then, immediately re-season it as above.

        Reply
        • Ugh… This whole cooking ware thing… I Well, we where using clay before cast iron, and clay is red, im pretty sure, because of the iron. Not to mention all the people that would just eat the clay. I cant imagine that there would be that much leaching from a pot or pan Sarah. Its a good post though with some good thoughts. I cook out of a cast iron pan pretty regularly and I still get pretty hot and bothered when I see your vids so my manliness cant be suffering that much. It certainly cant hurt to use it once and a while.

          Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      Hi Erica, it is my understanding that the enameled versions are fine. Just double check that there is no lead in the enamel.

      Reply
  57. Barbara Geatches April 19, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I have enamel, stainless steel and cast iron… they all get used regularly and each have their place. Given that every cookware I’ve heard of has some sort of issue, we will continue to utilize cast iron as our primary cookware. Cast iron presents far fewer health issues than teflon, aluminum or low quality stainless steel. The issues stated with cast iron are easily solved by donating blood and that simple act will not only help the donor eliminate excess iron it may very well save someone’s life.

    Reply
  58. I too am interested in seeing some valid sources as to how much iron actually leaches out of the pan. Until then, I’ll continue cooking on my awesomely-seasoned cast iron skillets.

    Reply
  59. Cast iron is one of the oldest forms of cookware. Most of the healthy peoples studied by Dr. Price used it. The long lived peoples who have been studied in the last century, such as the Okinawans, Georgians, Hunza’s, etc, all use it. These peoples often lived to their nineties and even longer, remaining in excellent health, often eating food cooked on cast iron cookware every day of their lives.

    I cook on cast iron every day, and have done so for almost forty years. Yesterday I used it three times, which is not uncommon. My mother cooked with cast iron, so I have had food cooked on it on an almost daily basis for over 50 years. No symptoms of iron toxicity, and my blood iron content was always ideal, when I had blood tests.

    That said, many people suffer from iron toxicity. But as I understand it, this toxicity is caused by the forms of iron added to supplements, and used to “enrich” breads, flour, and other foods. That form of iron is quite different than cast iron. These forms of iron were never placed into human bodies until the twentieth century.

    People have been using cast iron for thousands of years. I have never heard of cast iron pans causing this problem. If you have can refer us to some source material that supports cast iron pans causing iron overdose, I would like to review it.

    I would never take a supplement containing iron, or a food product that was “enriched”.
    Stanley Fishman\’s last post: Grassfed Ranchers Renew the Land by Raising Wild Bison

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 4:48 pm

      It is my understanding that iron is iron where ingestion and toxicity is concerned. My research on iron overload does not specify that one type of iron is ok and another is not. All sources are a threat. I think its an important point to make that the folks studied by Dr. Price didn’t have imbalanced guts either and an imbalance of gut flora contributes to absorption of metals to toxicity levels.

      Reply
      • Have you looked at the absorption rates of heme-iron and non-heme-iron? They are different. All iron is not absorbed at the same rate.

        Reply
    • It is true that the absorption of iron from cookware vs the absorption from food is different. The body doesn’t absorb all iron anyhow, because it know too much is a bad thing. The absorption from cookware may be as little as 2%.

      Reply
    • I quite agree. I sure hope, Sarah, you didn’t base your entire article on the word of Dr. Weil. The second source was a source through which to buy the Gut and Psychology book, and the third listing under sources is a photo credit. I’ll need more than that on which to base an opinion against cast iron.

      Mercola sells cast iron pans and he has hemochromotosis, as did his father (so stated in one of his articles). Ok then. Is he a salesman or what??!

      Reply
      • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
        Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

        Hi D., I made the decision not to use cast iron many years ago when I first read about the dangers of too much iron particularly for adult men. Dr. Weil and I happen to agree on this issue although I do disagree with him on a number of points. Yes, Dr. Mercola is quite the businessman, isn’t he! :)

        Reply
    • Thank you for the great feedback, Stanley. I was thinking what you articulated. If you were going to buy a new set of pots/pans what material would you choose? We have a mix of stainless steel and cast iron now.

      Reply
  60. I am not convinced that the increase in iron with most foods is significant. A study I read indicates that acidic foods cooked in iron does raise the iron absorbed significantly, but a steak or hamburger in an old cast iron pan is very, very small. I actually have the genetic propensity to haemochromatosis and am post-menopausal. My iron levels remain in the normal ranges and I use a cast iron skillet for all meat cooking that isn’t grilled, though I do use stainless for spaghetti sauces and the like. I have used my old cast iron skillet for at least twenty years and my mother in law for forty before that. I understand that new skillets/pans cause more absorption than older ones, but still ~ I don’t think using a cast iron skillet even daily for frying an egg is that risky.

    Reply
  61. I use cast iron… its what we have.. Stainless steel pans are just aluminum with stainless steel on them. You have to pay particular attention to the grade of the stainless steel. I have thrown out my teflon and my aluminum.. I will check into the ceramic and the glass–but I have a feeling those arent very easily acessable.

    Reply
  62. Have you looked into how how much iron truly does leech out, especially in a well-seasoned pan? The coating of grease/oil on a well seasoned pan can protect certain leeching properties. This is why tomatoes and other acidic foods can actually be cooked in cast iron, although only if the pan is well seasoned. As you use your pan it builds up a natural coating. Now if you use soap or don’t re-grease your pan after cleaning it, this can present a different set of issues.

    Also, do you have any references for this info.? I would be interested in doing further research. Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 4:43 pm

      It really depends, Therese, on many factors (heat, cooking time, seasoning of the pan, food being cooked etc). I personally choose not to take the risk at all as there are plenty of nontoxic options for cookware.

      Reply
      • So what are the nontoxic options? You are saying- Teflon is out, aluminum is out, now stainless steel is out, cast iron is out, the only safe enamel coated pots cost $200 and more……what’s left that I don’t know about????

        Reply
        • “Titanium, enamel, and glass are best from what I have read, although I am by no means an expert on cookware.” (From Sarah, May 2011)

          Reply
  63. Samantha Jacokes April 19, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I bought an All-Clad stainless steel omelet pan for eggs. I use butter. The key is that you have to make sure the pan is HOT before you put the eggs in. Otherwise they stick like crazy!!

    Reply
  64. I searched on Dr. Mercola’s site for these pans he was pushing months ago; claimed to be a healthy alternative to Teflon, not stick and all. I could not find them today. Do you suppose they weren’t all they were cracked up to be? Pretty hard to make frittas and omelets without Teflon; sad but true.

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 10:48 am

      You know, I cook my eggs in a stainless skillet. It just builds up my muscles scraping it off. Oh well. Trying to think practically about it.

      Reply
    • I make omelets everyday – in an antique cast iron pan well coated with coconut oil and ghee.
      The key to ANY metal pan is to heat it up really hot FIRST, and then add your fat and turn down the heat before you add the eggs to prevent your eggs from burning. I let my omelet cook slowly so it doesn’t burn on the bottom. It has to be hot enough when you pour in the eggs that they sizzle and bubble a bit, but you must immediately turn the heat down quite low as soon as you see the eggs starting to set on the bottom and edges – then add the cheese and cover with a lid and turn to low and let sit until it all cooks through and the cheese melts. It takes some getting used too – too hot and the bottom burns, not hot enough when the eggs hit the pan and the omelette never sets right. Also, even though it finishes on low, it will not burn, but don’t walk away and forget about it – after 10-15 minutes it will taste like chewy cardboard!

      Yeah, I know you can fry an egg on a well-seasoned cast iron pan with no oil – but, sorry, an egg with no oil is DISGUSTING!!!

      Reply
  65. I doubt chlorella will, but I wonder if Cilantro will chelate Iron? Too busy to research it right now, but something to think about. Even so I’d be screwed… I can’t stomach cilantro. :( *blech* lol

    I can definitely see a lot of guys with iron overload, though…. especially on a high meat diet. Periodic blood donation should help offload it as well.

    Reply
    • The supplement IP6 WILL chelate excess iron from the body. Everybody should be getting regular blood work done that includes: iron, ferritin, b12, vitamin d (25-hydroxy). But seriously, unless you suffer from hemochromatosis, there is absolutely no reason to be frightened of cooking with cast iron cookware. I cook with it ALL THE TIME and so has my mother and grandmother. I fry chicken in my dutch oven, I make tacos in my fry pan. I make pancakes and french toast on my griddle and grill cheese and omelets in my small 6″ fry pan. You can get tested for hemochromatosis very easily.

      Available Tests
      Ferritin Blood Test
      Hereditary Hemochromatosis DNA Test Kit
      - Simple, painless cheek swab test to check for the major and a second gene mutation for Hereditary Hemochromatosis.
      Iron Deficiency (Anemia) Blood Testing Profile, Comprehensive
      - A complete blood count that screens for both iron deficiency and iron overload.
      Iron Panel
      - A blood screening for an iron overload disorder.
      Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)
      - A test that measures the ability of transferrin (a protein) to carry iron in the blood.

      Reply
      • I assume this website is American, because that is a very American attitude and not shared by a lot of the world!

        There is no reason at all why people ‘should be getting regular blood work done’ at all. In the UK the general view is that people should not undergo unnecessary tests, particularly invasive ones. If there is no clinical indication for bloods then why have them? In the US attitudes to healthcare are a little different, and if you can charge people for tests, even if they’re not required, then it will happen.

        Reply
    • I know this is an old thread, but wanted to respond anyway. There’s no need to chelate iron. Just donate blood every 55 days. It will help you and help others at the same time. It’s free.

      Reply
  66. Thanks for sharing this! I’ve heard this before. I invested in stainless steal several years ago but then I heard they were not supposed to be that good. It can get really confusing and once something is considered to be safe then it is hard to change that.

    It’s great that you shared about anemia, far too many get the wrong advise from their doctors..
    Jo at Jo’s Health Corner\’s last post: When a Child Is Different

    Reply
  67. Sarah,
    The article did’nt mention switching to stainless steel pans. Is it still the safest to use although I always have the food to stick no matter how much fat i use. I have just went through menopause last year and I definitely don’t need excess iron issues, however i never even thought about this. Thanks for sharing this food for thought!

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 10:47 am

      Hi Teresa, stainless steel has it’s own issues. They are generally fine for nonacidic foods like eggs and such but for cooking tomato products and other acidic items, stainless can leech alloys like nickel. Titanium, enamel, and glass are best from what I have read, although I am by no means an expert on cookware.

      Reply
        • Yes, the enamel does protect from iron leaching, however, most enamel will contain lead, which your body cannot use at all, and is much more dangerous than iron. Make sure to buy enameled cast iron that guarantees no lead-such as Le Creuset, and nothing from China.

          Reply
          • Savannah, I just got finished browsing a Le Creuset store last weekend. Every piece I picked up and looked at was made in China. Not one was made in France. I won’t be spending that kind of money on Le Creuset. I love my good ole American Lodge cookware. And my antique corning ware.

      • If you’re no expert on cookware, then why are you writing articles on it, and arguing the point as if you were?

        Reply
        • most of us are not experts on cookware, yet we use it every day. so there is nothing wrong with sharing your opinion about it in an effort to share what you have learned. what are you an expert on McNugget, and is that the only thing you ever write or talk about? sheesh!

          Reply
  68. Eek, I have never heard of this! I wonder how much I should be concerned about this for my husband. I seem to cook most dinner meals in the crockpot, but do use cast iron for scrambled eggs (which we eat almost daily) and the occasional steak. So I’m wondering if this is an issue even for the small amounts I do cook with cast iron.

    Have you seen anything about the amounts of iron that end up in food cooked in cast iron vs. the amounts the body actually needs? Also, what type of skillet do you use? I have some plain stainless steel ones that I use as well, but the clean-up is always much more of a pain than with cast iron.
    Sarah Smith\’s last post: Tips for Planting the Summer Vegetable Garden

    Reply
    • Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
      Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist April 19, 2011 at 10:45 am

      Yes, I skip cast iron specifically for my hubby! Would like to keep him around awhile longer! He gives GREAT back rubs! :)

      Reply
      • This article is so full of scientific inaccuracies and misconjecture that you should be sued for blogging malpractice. Shame on you, seriously.

        Reply
        • I agree…this article is not evidenced-based at all! Im a doctor, and i have never heard of or encounter in ky practice that excess iron can cause heart disease and cancer in menopausaul women and mature old male!

          Reply
    • I am a registered nurse and a cast iron expert. The amount of iron that is given off is so so minimal in every case study done. This article is soley based on an opinion with no supporting facts, numbers, stats or case studies. I encourage you to keep using your cast iron pans. What’s the alternative? Teflon? made overseas? Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. Perhaps you’re using stainless steel but, that requires oils, fats and butter. Not very healthy.

      Keep grilling, cooking and baking with Cast Iron Made only in the United States.

      Reply
      • Wow Mike, you really have no idea what this blog is about if you make the statement ‘but, that requires oils, fats and butter. Not very healthy’. You’ll find that people who follow Sarah and the Weston A Price Foundation principles LOVE to eat loads and loads of butter and healthly fats (NOT to be mistaken for vegetable oils) (I’m talking coconut oil, olive oil).

        You make the statement that you’re an expert and yet you also do not provide supporting facts, numbers, stats or case studies. Could you perhaps elaborate?

        Sarah would never suggest someone use Teflon for cooking. The use of stainless steel is by far superior.

        I wish you all the best in getting to know and understand the principles of the WAPF.

        Reply
      • Couldn’t agree more. The opinion appears to be based on some misconceptions. Food cooked in a well seasoned CI pan, the iron. The pan would leach only a minor amount of minerals.

        I’ve used cast iron for years, as did my mother and grandmothers with no health problems.
        The remainder of my pots and pans are tin lined copper. Again, if the lining wears thin, come copper may leach, but not enough to cause a problem. No so with other cooking surfaces. Most leach something. l have heard that stainless is not leach proof,

        I agree, buy American made cast iron. All of mine is years old, most decades old. I don’t like the new stuff, and there is no telling what is in the iron in foreign pots. Season it wall, which requires a little effort, and do not use chemicals or abrasives to clean and you are good to go.

        Opinion, I know, but so too was the article

        Reply
      • Not very healthy Mike?

        We are all FULL of FAT and living well. Source Weston A. Price for more information if you are willing to do some real studies with real results…

        Reply
      • I love my simple but VERY heavy-duty stainless steel small frying pan. I use Smart Balance, olive oil, and so forth — I just use it for scrambled eggs and grilled cheese. But I feel SAFE using it for my little girls and husband. :)

        This is a great discussion!

        Reply
        • Smart Balance is NOT SAFE AT ALL!!!!!! Use REAL BUTTER!!!!!!
          Actually, use Coconut oil and ghee to fry your eggs in a cast iron pan – that’s what I do.

          To Mike – you NEED FAT TO SEASON CAST IRON! ;)

          Reply
          • i hate using stainless steal, i always seem to burn the food (gets hot too fast, even on low heats, that could be partially due to the stupid electric oven though). i agree with mike, cast iron can’t leach out that much and is way healthier than tephlon and way easier than stainless steal.

      • Disclaimer: I agree that too much iron is a bad thing. My grandparents both had iron issues… they stopped using their cast iron pans (switched to stainless at great expense) and… lo and behold… no change in their blood-iron levels! Turns out they were getting too much iron from their well water.

        That said, I’m not arguing the point that iron is one thing we don’t need to supplement in our diet… but to suggest that cast iron pans are a source for iron contamination in our food and bodies tells me either you are cooking on unseasoned cast iron, or, you don’t know what you’re talking about/making shit up. Where’s your proof? Where’s your facts? Scientific support? I think you are just in love with yourself and think you know best for everyone.

        Frequent cast iron cooker here… and a scientist to boot… and I am not at all swayed by your “expertise”. If a cast iron pan is properly seasoned, your food will not contact the iron at all. The seasoning (I.E. baked-on oil AKA patina AKA dehydrated, carbonized lipid material) creates a water-proof, non-stick barrier between your food and the iron. IF you learn first how to properly care for your cast iron pans (most include instructions) you will come to realize this yourself.

        For everyone else who is reading this article and ready to throw your pans away, send them to me! OR, stop using soap to wash them (heat over 160*=sterile!) just hit them with some hot water (wait till they cool first!) and scrub them with a copper/stainless scrubby, put them on low heat till they’re dry, then give them a coat of oil or shortening (IMO olive oil produces the best, longest lasting patina, though it takes a few “seasonings” as the layers are relatively thin)

        Seasoning instructions: coat your pan in a thin layer of oil or shortening -

        (olive oil would be my first choice, then crisco-type shortening, things like butter work too but give the food more of an off flavor when baked on… vegetable fat > animal fat for seasoning)

        Once lightly coated, place in an oven at around 400*F, until they stop smoking. This will stink/smoke up your house, so best to do it on a nice day with the windows open. Allow the pan to cool, wipe it with some more oil, and repeat if desired. Some times I use my Misto to hit it with more OO while its still hot, and stick it back in for another round. 3 coats of OO is a great start, and the patina will improve with regular use and proper care. Eventually you will be able to do eggs, pancakes, whatever, with little or no oil whatsoever.

        Eventually you should have a glossy black coating that repels water and food. Acids are your enemy now! You should re-season prior to/after cooking acidic foods, such as tomato based sauces etc. NEVER WASH YOUR PANS WITH SOAP I know we’ve all been brainwashed by DOW Chemical to do otherwise but it is not necessary, as you will see.

        Want to re-season? Run them through a cleaning cycle in the oven and they will come out looking like the day they were cast… oil them quickly or they will begin to rust just from the moisture in the air. Dishwashers work for removing the patina too, but they will come out rusty, and this is not recommended.

        Whoever wrote this article is assuming that iron pans=iron in the blood. I can assure you from experience, both in my own life, the lives of my family, and studies I’ve read myself, that cast iron is the healthiest of cookware that you can use. Once seasoned, they require less cooking oils/fats than any other cookware (aside from “non-stick” chemical coatings, which I hope none of you use) and if properly maintained will last your lifetime. They are durable, inexpensive, though a little heavy, and come in all shapes and sizes.

        For what it’s worth, seasoned carbon steel is very similar to cast iron, while saving some weight. Steel does not heat as evenly as cast, so it’s a trade for the reduced weight, but they both have the same effect when given a nice patina. If the weight of cast iron is an issue, give seasoned carbon steel a try, just use less heat.

        Reply
        • I am a fan of cast iron (remembering my mom killed our Canary when she burned something in a Teflon pan). Unfortunately made in USA cast iron seems to have disappeared. Loge is made in China now, I think. I don’t mind that too much except that they don’t machine the cooking surface any more so it’s not a machined, smooth cooking surface. I can’t imagine that it can ever be good for cooking. Kind of a disappointment for new CI users I’m sure. My tip: buy used; plenty available on eBay.

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          • Lodge’s non-enameled cast iron cookware is still made in the USA — check their website. Their enabled cast iron cookware is made in China, but according to them under very strict supervision.

      • I’m with Mike. It is asinine to publish ANY literature with no scientific research to back such claims. Individuals have been using CASTED IRON for centuries as cookware; and many other applications. I haven’t time to discuss the scholarly articles of well made cast derived from organic iron vs. inorganic iron–but I can assure you that a quick study on Google Scholar will provoke alternate ways of thinking on the subject. And as Mike said: Stainless is the ONLY way to cook and insure a low-lower level of toxicity. However, stainless cookware is not made as thickly due to it’s sheer strength compared to CI thus, causing a lower level of thermal retention (it does not hold heat as well as cast). Therefore, I will stick to the fine art which has endured time– and cook on it as well!

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      • Mike, i too am a registered nurse and there are better cast iron pots and pans than made in the good USA! namely the enameled ones from France “LE CREUSET” – unfortunately the price is not so appetizing; Staub is also French, however now made in the US;
        and you better look up healthy fats! :)
        don’t believe the FDA and their ever changing food pyramid of lies!

        Reply
    • You have lost your marbles. The amount of iron absorb by the body thru cooking with cast iron isn’t really measurable. You need to provide scientific research from a recognized source to substantiate your claims before you publish this garbage as fact

      Reply

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