How safe are your cookware and cooking methods? Have you ever thought about it? Here are a few facts that you should be aware of for your safety and the safety of your family.
Pots, pans and other cookware are made from a variety of materials that can be absorbed by food when heated. Food can even react to some containers when cold. Have you ever noticed that your favorite food tastes like plastic after being stored in a plastic container? The fact is that food ions react with plastic, synthetic and even metallic ions. Temperature affects reactivity so hot food will react with a container more quickly. Refrigeration deters the uptake of metal or plastic ions.
Some foods are more reactive than others. Fat, acidic ingredients and water absorb more from containers than do proteins and carbohydrates. This explains why high quality oils, vinegar and wine are sold exclusively in non-reactive glass containers.
The Questionable Choices
Teflon is the most popular cookware but unfortunately it contains perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a synthetic chemical with major health risks linked to it. Teflon can chip off a cooking pan and get into your food.
Aluminum is a lightweight product that conducts heat well and is fairly inexpensive, but it’s also a suspected factor in Alzheimer’s disease. The World Health Organization estimates that you can consume 50 milligrams of aluminum a day without enduring harm but it’s difficult (almost impossible) to measure the quantities you ingest from the products you use – and the longer food is cooked or stored in aluminum, the more it gets into your food. Green leafy vegetables and acidic foods like tomatoes will absorb the most.
As noted previously, plastics are also a concern. The softer (more flexible) the plastic, the more apt it is to react with food and beverages. Microwaving increases the reactivity of plastics and food. And since we are often in a hurry and just want to “nuke, grab and go”, we are regularly exposing ourselves to dioxins, which are carcinogens. It is best to microwave your food in glass or ceramic containers. So even if the instructions say it’s safe to microwave in the plastic store-bought container, take the extra few seconds and switch to a dinner plate.
The Better Choices
Stainless steel is a better cookware choice but still contains iron, nickel and chromium that can be harmful to your health.Contrary to popular belief, stainless steel may not be a completely inert metal. It’s not recommended to store foods that are highly acidic in such containers. Once a stainless steel container has been scratched, even through normal scouring, the leaching of metals is higher. Look for a high quality, heavy duty stainless steel.
Silicone is a synthetic rubber that contains bonded silicon – a natural element that is abundant in sand, rock, and oxygen. Silicone cookware is non-stick and stain-resistant, inert and safe up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit (220 Celsius). If heated above its safe range, silicon melts but does not give off toxic vapors. There are no known health hazards associated with silicone cookware at this time and it does not react with food or beverages.
Cast-iron is also a good choice of cookware, because it reacts very little when heated and is less harmful to your health. One disadvantage is the weight of the cookware.
Enamel-glass and Ceramic
There’s good reason why glass and ceramic beakers are used in chemistry labs – it’s because they are non-reactive.
Enamel-based cookware has a fused-glass surface. With proper care, a ?ne enamel pot can last a lifetime, but inexpensive enamel cookware will only have a thin enamel layer. Cheap enamel cookware will chip easily and the fragments will ?nd their way into your food.
Ceramic based cookware is non-reactive and offers the most effective heat for cooking. With ceramic cookware, the most subtle ?avors emerge because there is no leaching from the container. Be aware, however, that antique ceramic may contain lead – better to buy new.
A recommended cookware product is the Mercola Healthy Cookware (www.mercola.com). It is not made of Te?on or other non-stick brands using perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and is made of a lightweight ceramic Nano Glaze™ material.