Popeye had it right; Spinach comes packed with a whopping punch of 36% (6.43mg) Iron per cup (180g) when cooked/boiled without salt.
And while it’s great for many a reason to eat your Spinach, it’s beneficial to think outside the spinach box to find nutritional rather than supplemental ways to get enough iron. It’s extremely important to make sure your iron levels are in check, especially for us girls, and especially for us veggies! I, personally, suffer from anemia and I can always tell when my iron levels are low. I become extremely lethargic, I crave ice and, yes, spinach, and I also have a strange metal-esque taste and feeling in my mouth. It’s not fun. And It’s not necessary either!!
You may already know that there are a multitude of fods that are high in iron and yet acceptable for veg-heads. BUT did you know that there are actually means of COOKING that can affect the amount of iron your body consumes?! I didn’t either. And I was extremely intrigued by the Shape posting about cooking in Cast Iron Pans. According to the posting, “Women should aim to get 15mg iron a day (quite true), so use your cast iron skillet to prepare iron-rich foods such as lean beef, fish, and poultry. **Bonus: You’ll avoid all the carcinogenic toxins found in many non-stick pan coatings (TOTAL bonus!!).”
But what happens? What gets added to one’s food when cooked via Cast Iron skillet??
Acidic and watery foods (like spinach and other leafy greens or fish for those pescotarians out there) absorb the iron molecules from the cast iron pan/skillet.
Researchers published a study in the July 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and showed that cooking in cast iron skillets added significant amounts of iron to 20 foods tested. For example, the researchers reported that the iron content in scrambled eggs increased from 1.49 mg to 4.76 mg of iron. Pretty amazing huh?? They also found that the iron in one serving of tomato sauce increased from under one milligram to almost 6 mg when cooked in an iron pan. Most surprising, though, is applesauce. A 100-gram serving (about a quarter of a pound) went from .35 mg of iron to over 7 mg when cooked in cast iron! I need to get me a Cast Iron Pan!
A few things to keep in mind:
The longer you use your pan, the more build up of a fatty layer will develop. It’s still safe and healthy to use your pan, as a matter of fact, chefs believe it enhances flavor! However it decreases the amount of iron transferred from the pan, so don’t rely just on the pan!
Also, beware of cooking your food too long. Eventually, if left long enough, more than just iron will be transferred. A yucky, metally taste will come along too. Never fun.
And a few more tips via Dr. Weil:
“One caveat about cast iron cookware: don’t use it for deep-frying. (You shouldn’t deep-fry anyway.) Iron can accelerate the oxidation of fat and cause it to become rancid.
When choosing iron cookware, look for products with a fine, smooth surface, which will take better to seasoning. Avoid pots and pans with pits, ridges, cracks, chips, seams and jagged edges. Good quality cast iron is uniformly gray and the same color inside and out.”