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Cast Iron Cookware

by Don
(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Don's Question...

I'm currently using some old non-stick pans, and believe me, only an old geezer like me would use them. I have an old cast iron pan, and I'm thinking of cleaning it up and using it again. Do you think it would be a healthy idea to do so?

Suzy's Answer...

Great question, Don!

For most people, using cast-iron pans for cooking is advantageous, since some of the iron in the pan will leach into your foods and provide a source of this often-deficient mineral.

Another advantage of cast iron cookware is that it provides even distribution of heat and less scorching, making it easier to obtain the finished product you desire.

Cast iron cookware is also durable and can be used for many years. In our current "throw-away" society, this is a definite plus!

You can get too much

However, if you already get sufficient iron in your diet, there is the potential to get too much if you consistently use cast iron cookware.

In addition, those with a metabolic disorder called hemochromatosis, where the body stores too much iron, should avoid using cast iron cookware. This disorder tends to run in families, so you probably know if you are likely to have it, but, if in doubt, ask your doctor for a screening test.

In any case, excess iron can cause problems with your health, including increasing your risk of heart disease and cancer.

Use and care

Be sure to "season" your cast iron cookware after you clean it, before you use it. You do this by coating the inside with vegetable oil and then heating the pan in a warm oven for an hour or more. You can repeat this process several times to improve the seasoning.

If you do not season your cast iron cookware, it will rust every time you use it. Seasoning will also make it more like the "non-stick" cookware that you are used to using.

After use, wash the pan in warm, soapy water, but do not soak it or scrub it, or you will have to start the seasoning process all over again.

My preference

I use a type of cast iron cookware that is coated with ceramic, so that I get the benefit of the cast iron without the extra care that cast iron cookware requires. Of course, I also don't get the advantage of extra iron in my diet that the cast iron could have provided.

I hope this helps you decide about whether to resurrect your cast iron pans, and thanks for contributing to our healthy eating site!

Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,

Suzy Staywell

Nutrition page

Two types of iron

Two kinds

There are two types of iron that you can get from your diet. One is“heme” iron that only comes from animal flesh foods. The other type of iron is called “non-heme” iron and is found in both animal and plantfoods.

It appears that the heme iron that you eat is actually more readily absorbed into your system. In addition to the more easily absorbed heme iron, animal flesh foods also contain a peptide that helps in the absorption of the non-heme form of iron.

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