Are cereals a good source of iron? Are cereals a good source of anything?

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The iron added to cereals is called elemental or reduced iron.  This is the form of iron that is found in the soil – and the earth has plenty of iron.  So eating iron in this form is like getting our iron intake from mud.  As stated in the previous blog about iron, the favoured dietary source of iron is meat, with the iron in vegetables coming a poor second  because of the difficulty of breaking the iron out of its fibrous vegetably sheath.  Nowhere will we find reference to mud being a good dietary source of iron.

The reason elemental iron is added to cereals, white flour and so on, is it does not affect the taste of the food – the particle size is too small.  However, it is very poorly available.1  Furthermore, although poorly absorbed into the body, some unabsorbed elemental iron ends up floating about the blood and liver. Quoting from Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions,

Recently, researchers have warned against inorganic iron used to supplement white flour.  In this form, iron cannot be utilized by the body and its build up in the blood and tissues is essentially a buildup of toxins.  Elevated amounts of inorganic iron have been linked to heart disease and cancer.

Yummy!  Inorganic iron refers to elemental iron – or to such iron sources as ferrous sulphate, another noxious form of iron.  Organic iron is the iron in meat – heme iron.  In supplemental form, organic iron is bound to a protein such as glycine, in this form it is readily available to the body.

As a further blow to cereal eaters, a while ago I wrote a blog on a couple of unpublished studies on what happened to rats when fed breakfast cereals – cornflakes in one study and puffed wheat in the other.  In both studies, the group of rats fed the breakfast cereal died before the other groups that were fed, variously, the box the cereal came in, just plain water,  or whole wheat with synthetic vitamins added to their water.  The rats died horrible deaths with dysfunction to the kidneys and liver or went into convulsions and bit each other.  And undoubtedly one problem is the manufacturing process these cereals undergo;  this subjects the grains to intense heat and pressure so the puff up nicely.  Unfortunately this also damages the chemical structure of the grain to make it very damaging to health.  The blog also makes passing reference to the added synthetic vitamins – presumably added to the cereal so the box can tout this food contains niacin and iron and so on.  Some would have it the vitamins are there so there is at least some goodness in the food, which, given the manufacturing process, seems reasonable enough.  Any nutrients in the corn or wheat would have been blasted away in the heat of production.  Unfortunately, these synthetic and cheap vitamins and minerals do more harm than good.

So eschew the soggies.  If we must eat a carbohydrate breakfast, simple oats are the best bet.  Soak them overnight in water, throw away the water and then make porridge with the soaked oats.  However, I most strongly advise not to eat oats everyday since intolerance to them will build up.  This is not a good thing.  The 2 basic rules of good eating are cook it yourself from scratch and vary your foods each and every day at every meal.



  1. Garcia-Casal MN, Layrisse M et al.  Iron absorption from elemental iron-fortified cornflakes in humans.  Role of vitamins A and C.  Nutrition Research 23 (2003) 451-463.  Research supported by Kelloggs – at least they are honest about this []

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