How to Check Your Iron with a Penny: A Simple and Effective Method

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to check your iron with a penny. Iron is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in maintaining good health. It is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body and aiding in the production of red blood cells. However, iron deficiency is a common problem that can lead to various health issues. This article will walk you through a simple and effective method to check your iron levels using a penny, allowing you to monitor your iron status easily at home.

In this guide, we will provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to perform the penny test to check your iron levels. We will also discuss the science behind this method and its accuracy. Additionally, we will explore the symptoms of iron deficiency and the importance of maintaining optimal iron levels. By the end of this article, you will have a clear understanding of how to check your iron with a penny and why it is an important aspect of your overall health.

What is the Penny Test?

When it comes to checking your iron levels at home, the penny test is a simple and cost-effective method. To perform the penny test, all you need is a penny and your tongue. Start by placing the penny on a flat surface, such as a table or countertop. Next, take your tongue and lick the back of the penny. Pay attention to the taste in your mouth after licking the penny. If you experience a metallic or coppery taste, it could indicate that your iron levels are low. On the other hand, if the taste is relatively neutral or tasteless, it suggests that your iron levels are within a normal range.

Step 1: Preparation

Before you begin the penny test, make sure that the penny you are using is clean and free from any residue or dirt. You can clean the penny by gently rubbing it with a cloth or using a mild cleaning solution. Ensure that the penny is dry before proceeding with the test.

Step 2: Placing the Penny

Find a flat surface, such as a table or countertop, to perform the test. Place the clean and dry penny on the surface, ensuring that it is stable and won’t move during the test.

Step 3: Licking the Penny

Now, it’s time to perform the actual test. Take your tongue and lick the back of the penny. Make sure to cover the entire surface area of the penny with your saliva. Remember, the back of the penny is the side that doesn’t have the image or text on it.

Step 4: Analyzing the Taste

After licking the penny, pay close attention to the taste in your mouth. If you experience a distinct metallic or coppery taste, it could indicate that your iron levels are low. On the other hand, if the taste is relatively neutral or tasteless, it suggests that your iron levels are within a normal range.

The Science Behind the Penny Test

The science behind the penny test lies in the reaction between iron and copper. Pennies minted after 1982 are made primarily of zinc with a copper coating, while pennies minted before 1982 are made of 95% copper. When you lick the penny, the moisture from your tongue triggers a reaction between the iron in your saliva and the copper coating on the penny. This reaction creates a metallic or coppery taste in your mouth if your iron levels are low. The absence of this taste indicates that your iron levels are normal.

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The Role of Iron in the Body

Iron is an essential mineral that performs several vital functions in the body. One of its primary roles is to transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells that binds to oxygen and carries it throughout the body. Without sufficient iron, your body’s ability to transport oxygen is compromised, leading to fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms associated with iron deficiency.

The Relationship Between Iron and Copper

Iron and copper are both essential minerals that play significant roles in the body. While iron is necessary for oxygen transport, copper is involved in numerous enzymatic reactions and plays a role in maintaining a healthy immune system. The penny test takes advantage of the reaction between these two metals to indirectly assess your iron levels. When your iron levels are low, the reaction between iron and copper on the penny’s surface is more pronounced, resulting in a distinct taste.

How Accurate is the Penny Test?

The penny test can provide a preliminary indication of your iron levels. However, it is important to note that this method is not a substitute for professional medical advice or laboratory tests. The accuracy of the penny test may vary depending on various factors, such as individual differences in saliva composition and the presence of other substances in the mouth that could affect the taste. Additionally, the penny test does not measure your actual iron levels but rather provides a qualitative assessment based on taste.

Factors Affecting the Accuracy of the Penny Test

While the penny test can be a helpful tool, several factors can influence its accuracy. One such factor is the presence of other substances in your mouth that could mask or alter the taste, such as food, beverages, or oral hygiene products. Additionally, individual variations in saliva composition can affect the taste perception and may lead to inconsistent results. It is also important to consider that the penny test does not provide quantitative data on your iron levels and should be used as an initial screening tool rather than a definitive diagnostic method.

When to Confirm with Medical Professionals

If you suspect you may have low iron levels based on the results of the penny test or are experiencing symptoms associated with iron deficiency, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation. A medical professional can assess your iron levels accurately through laboratory tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) or serum ferritin test. These tests provide quantitative measurements of your iron status and are the gold standard for diagnosing iron deficiency.

Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency can manifest in a variety of ways, and recognizing the signs and symptoms is crucial for early detection and intervention. While the penny test can provide an initial indication of potential iron deficiency, it is important to be aware of other symptoms that may accompany low iron levels.

1. Fatigue and Weakness

One of the most common symptoms of iron deficiency is persistent fatigue and weakness. This occurs because iron is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the muscles and tissues. Without sufficient iron, your body struggles to deliver oxygen effectively, leading to feelings of exhaustion and reduced energy levels.

2. Pale Skin and Nail Changes

Iron deficiency can affect the appearance of your skin and nails. A lack of iron can lead to pale skin or a washed-out complexion. Additionally, you may notice changes in your nails, such as brittleness, spoon-shaped deformities, or ridges.

3. Shortness of Breath

When iron levels are low, your body struggles to transport oxygen efficiently. As a result, you may experience shortness of breath, even with minimal physical exertion. This symptom is particularly noticeable during activities that usually wouldn’t cause breathlessness.

4. Headaches and Dizziness

Iron deficiency can contribute to headaches and dizziness. The reduced oxygen supply to the brain can result in headaches, lightheadedness, and a feeling of being faint or dizzy.

5. Rapid Heartbeat and Chest Pain

In some cases, low iron levels can lead to an increased heart rate and chest pain. When your body senses a decreased oxygen supply, the heart may pump faster to compensate. This can cause palpitations and chest discomfort.

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6. Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs, often accompanied by an irresistible urge to move them. Iron deficiency has been linked to the development or worsening of RLS symptoms.

7. Pica

Pica is an eating disorder characterized by the consumption of non-food items. Some individuals with iron deficiency may experience cravings for non-food substances like ice, dirt, or paper. This condition, known as pagophagia, is often associated with low iron levels.

8. Impaired Cognitive Function

Iron deficiency can impact cognitive function, leading to difficulties with concentration, memory, and even learning. In children, iron deficiency has been associated with developmental delays and poor academic performance.

9. Weakened Immune System

Iron plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system. When iron levels are low, your immune system may be compromised, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

10. Hair Loss

Hair loss can be a consequence of iron deficiency. Iron is essential for hair growth and strength, and insufficient levels can lead to hair thinning and increased shedding.

Importance of Maintaining Optimal Iron Levels

Maintaining optimal iron levels is crucial for overall health and well-being. Iron is involved in numerous physiological processes, and its deficiency can have significantconsequences. Here are some reasons why it is important to maintain adequate iron levels:

Oxygen Transport and Energy Production

Iron is a vital component of hemoglobin, the protein responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Adequate iron levels ensure that oxygen is efficiently delivered to your organs and tissues, supporting optimal energy production. Without enough iron, you may experience fatigue, weakness, and decreased stamina.

Brain Function and Development

Iron plays a crucial role in brain function and development. It is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and the formation of myelin, a protective coating around nerve fibers. Sufficient iron levels support cognitive processes, memory, concentration, and overall brain health. In children, iron deficiency can impair cognitive development and academic performance.

Immune System Function

The immune system relies on iron for its proper functioning. Iron is essential for the production and maturation of immune cells, such as lymphocytes and macrophages, which are crucial for fighting off infections and maintaining a strong immune response. Inadequate iron levels can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Red Blood Cell Production

Iron is a key component in the production of red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body and remove carbon dioxide, a waste product, from tissues. Insufficient iron levels can lead to a decrease in red blood cell production, resulting in anemia. Anemia can cause symptoms such as weakness, shortness of breath, and pale skin.

Physical Performance

Optimal iron levels are important for physical performance and athletic endeavors. Iron is necessary for the production of myoglobin, a protein that stores oxygen in muscle cells. Sufficient iron ensures adequate oxygen supply to the muscles during exercise, improving endurance, strength, and overall athletic performance. Low iron levels can impair physical performance and delay recovery.

Healthy Pregnancy

During pregnancy, iron requirements increase significantly to support the growing fetus and the increased blood volume in the mother’s body. Iron is needed for the development of the baby’s organs, placenta, and red blood cells. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can lead to complications such as premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental issues. It is crucial for pregnant women to maintain optimal iron levels to support a healthy pregnancy.

Hormone Regulation

Iron plays a role in the regulation of various hormones in the body. It is involved in the production and regulation of thyroid hormones, which are essential for metabolism, growth, and development. Iron deficiency can disrupt the balance of these hormones, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and mood changes.

Prevention of Iron Deficiency Anemia

Regularly checking your iron levels with the penny test can help prevent the development of iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when the body’s iron stores are depleted, leading to a decrease in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. By monitoring your iron levels and taking appropriate steps to maintain optimal levels, you can prevent the onset of anemia and its associated symptoms.

Dietary Sources of Iron

Maintaining optimal iron levels can be achieved through a balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods. Here are some excellent sources of dietary iron:

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Heme Iron Sources

Heme iron is derived from animal sources and is more easily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron. Good sources of heme iron include:

– Red meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork- Poultry, such as chicken and turkey- Fish and seafood, such as salmon, tuna, and shellfish- Organ meats, like liver and kidneys

Non-Heme Iron Sources

Non-heme iron is derived from plant-based foods. Although it is not as easily absorbed as heme iron, it can still contribute significantly to your iron intake. Include the following non-heme iron sources in your diet:

– Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans- Leafy green vegetables, like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard- Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds- Whole grains, including quinoa, brown rice, and oats- Fortified cereals and bread products

Enhancing Iron Absorption

To enhance the absorption of non-heme iron, it is beneficial to consume vitamin C-rich foods alongside iron-rich foods. Vitamin C helps convert non-heme iron into a more absorbable form. Pair iron-rich foods with citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, bell peppers, or other vitamin C sources to optimize iron absorption. Additionally, avoid consuming calcium-rich foods, tea, or coffee with iron-rich meals, as these can inhibit iron absorption.

Lifestyle Factors Affecting Iron Absorption

Several lifestyle factors can impact the absorption of iron in your body. Being aware of these factors can help you optimize iron absorption and maintain healthy iron levels:

Vitamin C Intake

As mentioned earlier, vitamin C enhances the absorption of non-heme iron. Ensure an adequate intake of vitamin C-rich foods to optimize iron absorption. This can include consuming citrus fruits, berries, and other vitamin C sources alongside iron-rich meals.

Dietary Factors

Certain dietary factors can either enhance or inhibit iron absorption. Consuming foods high in phytates, such as whole grains and legumes, can reduce iron absorption. However, soaking, fermenting, or sprouting these foods can help decrease phytate content and increase iron availability. Additionally, consuming foods high in calcium or oxalates, such as dairy products and spinach, can inhibit iron absorption. Try to space out calcium-rich meals from iron-rich meals and include other sources of calcium in your diet.

Iron Supplements and Medications

If you are taking iron supplements or medications, follow the instructions provided by your healthcare professional. Iron supplements should be taken on an empty stomach for better absorption. However, if they cause stomach discomfort, you can take them with a small amount of food. Avoid taking iron supplements along with calcium supplements or antacids, as they can interfere with iron absorption.

Menstrual Blood Loss

Menstruating individuals, especially those with heavy menstrual bleeding, are at a higher risk of iron deficiency. This is because the menstrual cycle can lead to significant blood loss, resulting in a decrease in iron stores over time. Paying attention to your menstrual cycle and considering iron-rich foods or supplements during menstruation can help maintain optimal iron levels.

Pregnancy and Lactation

Pregnant and lactating individuals have increased iron requirements to support the growth and development of the baby and the production of breast milk. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure adequate iron intake during these periods. Prenatal supplements and a well-balanced diet can help meet these increased iron needs.

Other Methods for Checking Iron Levels

While the penny test provides a simple and accessible way to gauge your iron levels, there are other methods available for a more accurate assessment. Here are some alternative methods used to check iron levels:

Complete Blood Count (CBC)

A complete blood count is a common test that measures various components of your blood, including hemoglobin and red blood cell count. It can provide valuable information about your iron status. Low hemoglobin levels or an abnormally low red blood cell count may indicate iron deficiency anemia. A healthcare professional can order a CBC to assess your iron levels accurately.

Serum Ferritin Test

The serum ferritin test measures the level of ferritin, a protein that stores iron, in your blood. Ferritin reflects the amount of iron stored in your body. This test can provide a more direct assessment of your iron status, as low ferritin levels often indicate iron deficiency. A healthcare professional can order a serum ferritin test to evaluate your iron levels accurately.

Transferrin Saturation

Transferrin saturation measures the percentage of transferrin, a protein that transports iron, that is saturated with iron. This test assesses how effectively your body is using the available iron. Low transferrin saturation may indicate iron deficiency. A healthcare professional can order a transferrin saturation test to evaluate your iron levels accurately.

Consulting a Healthcare Professional

If you are experiencing symptoms of iron deficiency or are concerned about your iron levels, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional. They can evaluate your overall health, consider your medical history, and order appropriate tests to accurately assess your iron status. A healthcare professional can provide personalized advice and guidance based on your specific needs.


In conclusion, the penny test offers a simple and accessible method for checking your iron levels at home. By understanding the science behind this test and being aware of the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency, you can take proactive steps to maintain optimal iron levels. However, it is important to note that the penny test is not a substitute for professional medical advice or laboratory tests. If you suspect iron deficiency or are experiencing symptoms, consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and any necessary treatment. Prioritize your iron health and enjoy the benefits of a well-balanced and nourished body.

Jhonedy Cobb

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