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Have you ever read the ingredients list on a box of cereal and wondered why iron is in there? What is iron, and why is it in cereal?
Iron is a mineral that our bodies need to survive and grow, although too much iron can be harmful. You can get the iron your body needs by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
By God’s design, we get iron from our food. Some foods have more than others . . . There are two different forms of iron, heme-iron and non-heme iron. Heme-iron, found in meat, fish, and poultry, is approximately three times more absorbable than the non-heme iron, which is found in vegetables, fruits, dried beans, nuts, grain products, and dietary supplements.1
Iron helps our bodies perform several important tasks, so some food companies fortify certain foods with it. Iron helps blood transfer oxygen to different parts of the human body, which is used to provide muscles with energy. Iron also helps the liver to get rid of unwanted toxins from our bodies. It is part of the reason that blood has a red color. God designed our bodies to absorb and use iron in amazing ways!
You can perform an experiment to see iron in your food.2 You will need an adult to help.
Does a bowl of cereal really contain visible amounts of iron? Try this simple experiment and see for yourself!
Pour at least one cup of cereal into a blender.
Cover the cereal with hot water and let it soak for five minutes.
Blend the cereal for at least one minute. (The more finely ground it is, the better.)
Pour blended cereal onto a plate or glass bowl.
Stir the magnet through the cereal, especially at the bottom. (Iron sinks.) Be patient.
Gently rinse the magnet and wipe it on a paper towel. Look for black fuzz that remains on the magnet. These are tiny shavings of iron.
Optional: Try different kinds of cereal, including one that is heavily “fortified” with extra iron and one that is not. Do you see a difference? If you want to perform a careful experiment to measure the actual amounts of iron and do a comparison, visit www.sciencebuddies.org and search for “Mag-nificent Breakfast Cereal.”
[Editor’s Note: Adapted from an article by Joe Francis, “Experiment—Iron: Toxin on the Table,” Answers, April–June 2013.]