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Fight Anemia The Pioneer Way

Cooking in cast iron may seem like a throw-back to your Grand-mother's kitchen and not a move forward for your health, but I think if you'll be patient and read on you will find this information quite interesting.  By heeding this advice, not only will you add valuable blood-cell building natural iron to your diet, but quite possibly eliminate a possible carcinogen from your environment.

For years we had used the latest Teflon-coated wonder-skillet in our kitchen for the perceived benefit of enjoying a stick-free cooking experience.  Invariably, one of our kids would cook something in it and wind up using a metal spatula and scratching the surface.  We were quite unaware that this could be bad for our health, we were only upset that our non-stick mojo had been messed with.

Turns out those "coatings" on non-stick cookware can be anything but safe and benign.  They are probably fine as long as everyone in your kitchen handles them delicately and uses the proper cookware when cooking with them.  But, if you are like us and someone might turn their egg with a metal spatula, screw-driver, or a stick from the yard, then you might be risking your health for no reason.  Good quality cast-iron, properly prepared, is just as non-stick, has much less potential for danger, and actually adds good stuff to your diet.

The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook: Recipes for the Best Pan in Your Kitchen
Cast Iron Cookbook
Cookware coated with Teflon and similar products, at least initially, make cooking easier.  But, I have yet to buy a coated skillet and have the coating last for very long.  Where does the missing coating actually go?  Did we eat it one fleck and molecule at a time?  What is it made of?  Just how bad is it?  What about if one of the kids over-heats the skillet after it has been scratched???  Some Google-research will probably make you reconsider your coated cookware and opt instead for a more natural way to cook.

So, I just went out and bought us a nice big Lodge cast-iron skillet and commenced to "season" it.  After a month or so of attempts by me (everyone else abandoned the heavy thing much sooner) I gave up trying to make a pretty egg in it and when back to the Teflon-devil coated skillet.  Recently, I was very happy to learn a thing or two about the art and science of cast-iron cooking.

First let's look at the health benefits of cooking in cast iron. Grandmother's old cast iron skillet (the best kind) contains no harmful chemicals at all, and is actually better than a new skillet.  You could actually grind up the skillet and eat it with no ill effects, except maybe to your teeth.  The blacker the skillet is, the better it will cook.  The shinier the surface is, the more non-stick it will be.

But here is the medical factoid of the day; cooking in cast iron actually adds quite a bit of natural elemental iron to your diet.  How much?  It depends on what you are cooking.  At the bottom of this article is a short list I found very interesting, it comes from a 1986 article in The Journal of The American Diabetic Association.  It is quite possible that the iron skillet which traveled across America with each pioneer family saved the life of many a wife and mother who otherwise would have died from complications of iron-deficiency anemia.

Everything you cook in cast iron has more iron in it after the cooking, some things have substantially increased levels.  Tomato based recipes really pull the iron into the food being prepared, I'm assuming its the acidity that does this.  The obvious question, "If the skillet is giving up all this healthy iron with each meal cooked in it, and it has been used for decades, why has the skillet not disappeared???"  I'm not sure why that doesn't happen but I'm glad it doesn't.  But, what about my less than impressive experience with my new skillet?  Some of you have tried to cook in cast iron and found the results to be less than expected.  The skillets you can buy new today are very heavy and the cooking surface is very rough and neither of these traits endears the skillet to it's owner.  I have found out that, as usual, people had more sense in past years, and that skillets used to be lighter and have much smoother cooking surfaces.

The Paleo Diet Cookbook: More than 150 recipes for Paleo Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks, and BeveragesThe trick with cast iron cookware is to buy or inherit the right kind and treat it the right way.  Do NOT go out and buy a heavy, new rough-surfaced cast iron skillet or you will be disappointed.  If you are not lucky enough to have inherited a good skillet, get on Ebay.com and bid on the blackest skillet you see made by Griswold.  These Made-in-the-USA skillets are a little lighter, and the cook-surface is much smoother.  The blacker skillets have been treated right through the years and will be virtually stick-proof.  A new skillet must be "seasoned" and if the surface is too rough, this can be quite the frustrating episode in your kitchen-career.

People who find that taking Iron Supplements gives them nausea or constipation will be happy to find they can get the same amount of iron from their skillet without those symptoms.  Iron from a skillet is elemental and is thus immediately absorbed, almost always without any side effects.  Healthy folks with normal iron levels will not be in danger of overdose because of cooking in an iron skillet.


Here is the Chart I promised:

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

1 comment:

  1. Great Info!
    Paula and I changed to cast and steel cookware a year or so ago. Got scared of our dose of teflon. We love it. Now there are additional benefits to the cast. Thanks.
    Jace Brown