How to Test the Amount of Iron in Foods

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Fortified cereal is very rich in iron.
Fortified cereal is very rich in iron. (Image: bowl of cereal image by pearlguy from Fotolia.com)

Iron is found in all cells in the body and plays an important role in immunity and red blood cells, according to the University of Florida. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, so it is important to get enough iron, especially through food. To know how much iron is in the food you are eating, there is a simple experiment that can be done at home.

Things You'll Need

  • Food to be tested
  • Blender
  • Clear plastic cups
  • Plastic spoon
  • Distilled water
  • Heavy duty magnet
  • Measuring cup
  • Scale

Gather the food to be tested. Foods that work well for this experiment include breakfast cereal, enriched breads and protein bars, but other foods should be able to be tested using this method. Using a sensitive scale, weigh a cup of each and record the weight in grams.

Enriched bread works very well for this experiment.
Enriched bread works very well for this experiment. (Image: sliced wheat brerad image by Roslen Mack from Fotolia.com)

Put the measured food into a blender with one cup of distilled water. Blend on high until there are no chunks left to form a slurry. Pour the mixture into a plastic cup, making sure to get all of the slurry out of the blender. You may need to rinse with a few tablespoons of water to get everything out. Mark the cup with the type of food it contains. Repeat for each food individually.

Use a clear plastic cup to watch the iron come out of the slurry.
Use a clear plastic cup to watch the iron come out of the slurry. (Image: 5 drinking glasses - close up image by Andrew Brown from Fotolia.com)

Place a magnet on the outside of one of the cups and hold it steady. Gently stir the solution for one minute. Iron should start accumulating on the inside of the cup near the magnet. Hold the magnet steady and carefully pour the liquid out of the cup. Add 200 milliliters of water and stir for another minute to rinse the iron that has collected. Just as before, carefully pour out the water without moving the magnet. Repeat for each cup.

Small shavings or pellets should become visible as you stir the liquid.
Small shavings or pellets should become visible as you stir the liquid. (Image: Iron shavings image by nata_rass from Fotolia.com)

Allow the cups to dry for a few hours. Make sure they are in a secure location and will not be knocked or blown over. Place a clean piece of paper on the scale and zero it out. Carefully pour the iron from one of the cups onto the paper. Record the weight in milligrams. Repeat for each cup.

Use a fresh sheet of paper and zero out the scale each time.
Use a fresh sheet of paper and zero out the scale each time. (Image: scale image by Mats Tooming from Fotolia.com)

Calculate the amount of iron in the food by dividing the weight of the iron by the weight of the original food. The answer will be in milligrams of iron per gram of food.

Iron content equals milligrams of iron/grams of food.
Iron content equals milligrams of iron/grams of food. (Image: Calculator image by Alhazm Salemi from Fotolia.com)

Tips & Warnings

  • Clean the blender well between food samples to avoid contamination.

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