We are bombarded regularly by toxins that negatively impact our health. Toxins are found everywhere we turn, in the environment, on our clothing, in our toothpaste, in the water, in our food, in skin products, shampoo and the list goes on and on. Though our bodies are designed to filter out the toxins through our kidneys, liver and lymphatic system, our detoxification system can become overwhelmed by the growing number of toxins we are faced with on a daily basis. How then do we avoid toxins? Being aware of what is in your products is one way. Buying organic is important to decrease the exposure from the foods we eat. If we are going to the measures of buying the safest food, then it is just as crucial to think about how we prepare our food. Many of the containers and cookware we use contain toxins that leach into the foods.
This article will focus on the safety of cookware. Let’s start by addressing the cookware that is not safe.
- Teflon, a coating used to create a non-stick surface, is made of a specific type of Perfluorocarbon (PFC). When Teflon is is used at high heat or overheated the chemicals can enter the food through a process of off-gassing. Also, if the pan gets scratched, this increases the chances of exposure to the toxins. According to the Environmental working Group (EWG) is a suspected carcinogen, hormone disruptor and reproductive toxin.
- Aluminum pans can be a problem when cooking with acidic foods like tomato sauce. The aluminum can leach into the food. Aluminum is a known neurotoxin and has been found to damage the brain and has been associated with developmental disorders, Alzheimer’s, reproductive issues autoimmune disorders and more.
- Copper pans that are uncoated can also be a hazard if used frequently and copper levels build up. Copper, though an essential mineral, with elevated levels can compete with zinc and cause zinc depletion. Options for copper pans are to use stainless steel-lined pots or copper-bottomed pots.
Cookware to use with caution.
- Non-stick Green pans are newer and tend to be safer. They are coated with Thermalon, which is primarily silicone which tends to be a safe choice. Use caution since there is uncertainty if other components of these pans could potentially be problematic.
- Ceramic cookware can be an excellent choice if properly glazed and tested. Use caution as improperly glazed ceramic cookware can contain lead. High levels of lead can cause anemia, weakness, kidney and brain damage.
Now that we established the cookware that is hazardous, let’s discuss what cookware is safest and best to cook with.
- Cast iron cookware is probably one of the safest forms to use. Though it can be challenging from a maintenance perspective, once you get a handle on that, it’s easy to manage. From a health benefit, for those who are deficient in iron, this can be beneficial to add some iron content to your food since cooking in cast iron can leach iron into the food being prepared. Some of the other benefits of cast iron include: holds heat well, oven safe, can cook on high heat and once seasoned it is a perfect non-stick pan.
- Stainless Steel is another safe cooking option. The benefits include: it is non-toxic, heats up quick, browns food better than non-stick and is durable. Stainless steel can contain high levels of nickel so buy stainless steel that attracts a magnet. To avoid sticking of foods, it is recommended to use a generous amount of oil/fat to coat the pan.
- Enamel-coated cast iron has the same advantages of cast iron though it is easier to clean. It does not react with any food therefore is non-toxic and very durable. May be pricey.
- Glass cookware tends to be durable and non-toxic though it is generally used for baking.
- Ceramic cookware as mentioned above is non-toxic as long as it is glazed properly. With natural ceramic, initially it needs to be oiled though after several uses it forms a non-stick surface. It is versatile and can go from stove to oven to freezer.
- Stoneware is a great alternative though used mostly for baking. Natural stoneware, initially needs to be oiled though after several uses it forms a non-stick surface.
Lots of options and many brands to choose from with different price points. When shopping for cookware, take into consideration safety first, then functionality, durability and cost. It is important to always do your research and be aware of the processing with anything that you buy. You can always go to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website for more detailed information.