You try to buy organic food as much as you can, cook your meals at home, and try to eat as healthy as possible, but did you know that even the healthiest foods can become toxic when prepared in unsafe cookware?
What is Unsafe Cookware?
When it comes to pots, pans and other cookware there are many options available. From non-stick to glass, it’s hard to know which option is safest for you and your family.
How can cookware be unsafe? To put it simply, ions from our cookware can become absorbed into the food we eat. Food ions react with plastic, synthetic and even metallic ions that are toxic to the body. This means that some pots and pans can actually contribute to our toxic load and cause serious health problems (like cancer).
In general, temperature is what affects reactivity, so hot food will react with a container more quickly (or heating food will produce more toxins). However, though refrigeration deters the uptake of metal or plastic ions, some materials can still be absorbed despite colder temperatures. Ever notice a funky taste after storing your leftovers in plastic overnight?
All of this means that we need to be careful with the containers we cook with or store our food in. Though Teflon and plastic may be easy to clean, the fact of the matter is they leave a mess in the body. So, when playing chef try to avoid the following types of cookware.
Teflon is one of the most popular types of cookware on the market. 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. Stay clear to stay safe!
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.
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.
There’s good reason why glass beakers are used in chemistry labs – it’s because they are non-reactive. Enamel-based cookware have a fused-glass surface. With proper care, an 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 find their way into your food.
Ceramic based cookware is non-reactive and offers the most effective heat for cooking. With ceramic cookware, the subtlest flavors emerge because there is no leaching from the container. Be aware, however, that antique ceramic may contain lead—better to buy new.
Believe me, I know how frustrating it can be to cook with non-Teflon cookware. I’ve gotten distracted and had to throw out a pan or two in the past. The trick is to cook on low and keep an eye on things. And always remember the negative health impacts you’re avoiding. It’s worth the small inconvenience.