The Importance of Using the Right Cookware

cookware

Cooking at home from scratch is one of the most sought-after ways to eat healthy. It allows you to keep control of the quality, the ingredients, and how your meals are prepared. However, there is one thing, most of us ignore.  The cookware’s. You could be cooking a super healthy vegetable dish, but if you are cooking them in low quality pots or old non-stick pans that are literally chipping, you are likely doing more damaged to your health.  Using the wrong kind of utensils and cookware’s are one of the most potent causes of Hormone disrupting chemicals, called EDCs – Endocrine disrupting chemicals, over time, can set the stage for a number of diseases like cancer, heart disease and cognitive damage.

In other words, what you cook in matters, so choosing cookware consciously is an easy way to add one healthier lifestyle change.  Even the healthiest diet can result in health complications if your cookware is toxic.

Let’s look at different cookware materials and its effect on health and finally conclude the best options:

  1. Aluminium cookware:
  • Studies show that aluminium foil, cooking utensils and containers can leach aluminium into your food. This means that cooking with aluminium foil or cookware may increase the aluminium content of your diet.
  • A study found that cooking with aluminium pots could add to the aluminium burden and may even exceed the daily limit, especially when cooking acidic foods.
  • Researchers suggest that one should reduce the use of aluminium utensils and foil for cooking, especially if cooking with acidic foods, like tomatoes or lemons.
  • Studies have suggested a link between Aluminium and Alzheimer.
  • Research has shown that soluble aluminium salts can be absorbed from the stomach and the metal is deposited in the grey matter in the brain. Following exposure to aluminium, aggregates of neurofilaments accumulate in neurons. Aluminium influences a number of neuronal processes, such as increasing protein synthesis and neurotransmitter breakdown, to decreasing neurotransmitter reuptake and slow axonal transport.
  • Studies have also linked aluminium to IBD and Crohn’s disease as it has a harmful effect on intestinal inflammation and mucosal repair.
  • A study concluded that the aluminium cookware poses a greater danger to public health when compared to cast iron cookware.
  1. Nonstick cookware
  • “Nonstick” traditionally and most often refers to a proprietary coating called Teflon.
  • The non-stick properties of Teflon cookware are achieved with a coating of PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), which is a plastic polymer that starts to leach toxins when heated above 300°C (572°F). These toxic fumes lead to flu-like symptoms called polymer fume fever, informally known as Teflon flu.A small number of case studies have also reported more serious side effects of exposure to overheated Teflon, including lung damage.
  • Another chemical compound found in Teflon cookware is PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), which has been linked to a number of health conditions, including thyroid disorders, chronic kidney disease, liver disease and breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer. It has also been linked to infertility and low birth weight.
  • A study reported in 2007, and conducted by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, showed alarming evidence that newborn infants face exposure to PFOA while in the womb. While PFOA can come from others sources studies suggest the potential dangers of non-stick cookware.
  1. While it’s believed that PFOA is present in Teflon products in such small amounts that it poses no risk to humans, it’s worth noting that it’s also found in many other everyday things. That’s why it’s best to limit your exposure to it wherever possible.
  2. Moreover, they are only safe to use while the coating is intact as the coating is thin and chips easily. Once chipped, all use of that cookware should be stopped immediately after.

 

  1. Stainless steel cookware
  • Stainless steel is a metal alloy that typically contains iron, chrome, and nickel. It’s called “stainless” because it’s resistant to rust and corrosion, which makes it a great material to cook with.
  • Stainless steel tends to distribute heat evenly over its surface, making it especially great for griddle cooking and flat baking sheets.
  • It is a mix of various metals such as nickel and chromium, which can migrate into food if your pan is damaged or worn but the amount is negligible and probably harmless unless you have certain allergies.
  • Research suggests that people suffering from known nickel allergy or skin rashes due to allergic contact dermatitis, should not use stainless steel cookware.
  • One must ensure that they buy 100% food-grade stainless steel cookware.
  1. Ceramic cookware
  • As long as one opts for 100% ceramic cookware instead of ceramic coated, glazed or decorated ceramic cookware, it is one of the best and safest options around since it’s made with completely natural materials, isn’t toxic and won’t chip or peel off. Its only con is that 100% ceramic can be pretty costly, but it can last a long time.
  • Glazes are applied to ceramics to give them strength and a smooth, shiny finish that prevents moisture from entering into the cookware. Some of the ingredients used in making glazes include lead and cadmium which are toxic to human health. These heavy metals can leach out of the cookware and seep into the food being cooked, kept or served using these utensils.
  • Ceramic coated cookware is made of a metal such as aluminium that is coated with a hard film of polymer materials with a ceramic appearance. This coating contains binders, non-stick components, colour pigments and reinforcing agents.
  • The soft ceramic coating isn’t the most durable and starts chipping after several months of everyday use. Even when the coating is lead-free, chipped cookware can still present dangers as it’s usually aluminium that’s under the ceramic coating.
  • For best results ceramic cookware should be cleaned by hand rather than in the dishwasher. Most dishwasher detergents contain harsh chemicals that ruin the surface of ceramic cookware quickly. Second, the pressure of hot water sprayed on pans is hard on the pan’s surface. Third, ceramic cookware becomes scratched or chipped when coming into contact with other dishware.
  1. Cast iron cookware
  • Not only is cast iron known for its durability and even heat distribution, but it’s also one of the safest options out there because it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that could leach into food.
  • Unglazed cast iron can transfer notable amounts of iron into food, but unlike the metals that come off other types of pots and pans, iron is considered a healthy food additive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • According to research, the introduction of iron pots for the preparation of food maybe a promising innovative intervention for reducing iron deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia.
  • If you’re anaemic, eating food cooked on cast iron can help improve your iron levels. But if you have hemochromatosis, a disorder that allows your body to absorb and hold onto too much iron in your blood, you should avoid cast iron cookware.
  • The non-stick quality of cast iron comes from seasoning. Seasoning is the term used for treating cast iron with oil and baking it. This fills in the porous surface of the cookware.
  • Cast iron isn’t difficult to clean as much as it requires a very specific method.
  • To clean one should avoid using soap as it can ruin the seasoning. Use of steel wool is recommended to clean the pan instead. One should ensure to dry it completely after washing, as it can rust easily. Dry with a towel, or heat up on the stove to evaporate the water.
  • Cast iron can be expensive, but it may be the only cookware ever needed as it lasts for decades.
  1. Copper cookware
  • Copper cookware conducts heat well and contains copper, which similar to iron has nutritional value for people. Usually, this type of pan has a base made of another metal like stainless steel, with a copper coating over it.
  • Like some other heavy metals, copper is very important for human health in small quantities. Copper is responsible for conversion of Iron to haemoglobin, production of RBCs, cellular health, bone health, skin health, immunity and also helps fight microbial infections. Adults need approximately 900 micrograms of copper per day, but an excess amount of it in the body can lead to heavy metal poisoning.
  • Unlined copper isn’t safe for everyday cooking as it can release copper when cooking, especially when cooking with citrus foods like tomatoes or something that has lemon, which is a staple in the Indian curry. And when it’s coated, the coating often contains nickel or tin, which is another toxic element.
  1. Glass
  • Glass cookware is the most inert, meaning it will not leach chemicals, metals, or other harmful ingredients into your food. Tempered glass cookware can be used at high temperatures for baking and stovetop cooking.
  • The only disadvantage is that it is very fragile and utmost care should be taken while handling it. Once it gets chips or cracks it should no longer be used for cooking or serving food.
  1. Silicone Cookware
  • Most food-grade silicone utensils can withstand very high heat. But heat tolerance for silicone cookware varies. It’s possible for silicone cooking products to melt if they get too hot. This can cause silicone liquid to get into your food. If this happens, throw out the melted product and food. Don’t use any silicone cookware at temperatures above 428°F (220°C).
  • A study found that certain foods leached some silicone into the food. Silicone’s safety at high temperatures has not been adequately tested as most of the research into the impact of silicone on health is in regard to silicone breast implants rather than ingesting small levels of silicone via leaching into food. Until we have more proof it’s better to use silicone at low temperatures and in the refrigerator or freezer, but try to avoid it in baking or for high temperature use.
  • One should ensure that they are buying utensils and bakeware made of 100% food grade silicone, with no plastic fillers. The higher the quality, the better. Pure silicone does not contain BPA. However, poorly made silicone bakeware and utensils that have fillers in them might contain BPA.
  • One can do the twist test to check if the product doesn’t contain fillers. Hold the silicone firmly between your fingers and twist it. If the colour doesn’t change, the product is filler free. If the colour turns whitish, it has some fillers in it.
  1. Plasticware
  • Hot food in a plastic container can get contaminated with the material, leading to heart diseases, infertility, some brain ailments and even cancer. A Harvard research showed that BPA — found in certain types of plastics, especially that used to make water bottles — plays a key role in weight gain.
  • BPA, primarily found in a type of plastic called polycarbonate or PC is toxic to the body in large doses and can increase your risk of breast and prostate cancer and heart disease, among other diseases. When containers made with BPA are heated, BPA levels in food have been found to increase.
  • Studies suggest consumers aren’t off the hook buying BPA-free plastic. The results show that common BPA replacements—BPS, BPF, BPAF and diphenyl sulphone are equally detrimental to health.
  • Melamine resin is a tough plastic that can be found in children’s dinner sets, many picnics sets and those noodle soup bowls you see on high rotation in food courts. Melamine too gives off toxic substances when it comes in touch with steaming hot food. Do not use melamine containers to heat food in a microwave (even if labelled for use in microwaves). Researchers advise against using melamine containers or tableware for infants or children. 
  1. Chopping board
  • Most people use plastic chopping boards but even the best quality ones pose a health risk as chopping creates grooves that can harbour harmful microbes such as E. coli and salmonella. These germs get into cooked food via the next lot of sliced vegetables.
  • Contamination is even more likely if the same board is used to chop meat or chicken. Some of these bugs are so stubborn that even cooking may not kill them. One should switch to wooden or rubber chopping boards and replace them every year.
  1. Clay ware:
  • Clay is healing for the human body. Ancient India extensively used clay wares, is nothing but earth. It’s one of the healthiest substances to use for cooking, eating as well as storing water. It’s a natural way to cool water because the earth and clay is porous in nature. Infact water stored in clay matkas makes one of the most refreshing drinks on a hot summer day. Add a few slices of lemon and organic jaggery and you end up making a perfect summer drink! It’s great for people who wish to have cold water, but the ones from refrigerator gives them a cold or a sore throat. Drinking water out of clay pots/ matkas is very satisfying and makes you happy because somewhere it helping you connect to nature and mother earth. Since earth is mineral rich, a lot of minerals also leach to water or the food that’s cooked in it which is beneficial for us.
  • It’s also a fantastic way to change the pH of water, where it changes the pH towards alkaline. Infact its higher than the Ph of water taken from a glass or a plastic bottle.
  • Clay is also loaded with microbes and vitamin B12 that gets easily absorbed via skin and helps populate good gut bacteria and building colonies in the gut. So that’s another benefit it offers.
  • One thing to note, pure clay pot / matka will leak and become moist on the outside. This means it’s of the right quality.  The ones that do not, means that they have been lined and glazed to prevent leaking. We lose all the health benefits of clay pots if that’s the case.
  • Because of such immense benefits, the usage of clay extends beyond utensils and cookware. Clay is also used extensively for making mud packs, face packs, detoxifying masks that can be put over armpits as it helps draw out toxins from lymphatic system.
  • Its maintenance only needs it to be emptied when it’s time to clean and put it out in the sun for a couple of hours and reuse it again. No use of soap or scrub.

Safety tips

Here are some food safety tips for cooking with any kind of cookware. These tips will minimize your exposure to any metals or materials that could be carried from your stove to your table.

  • Don’t store food in the pots or pans where you’ve cooked it, unless you’re using glass or stone bakeware.
  • Avoid using metal and hard utensils when you use your cookware, as they can scratch and compromise the surface of your pots and pans.
  • Minimize the amount of time your food is in contact with metals from pots and pans.
  • Use a small amount of lubricant, such as ghee, olive oil or coconut oil, with any type of cookware, to minimize the amount of invisible metal that sticks to your food.
  • Clean pots and pans thoroughly after each use. 

 Conclusion:

MATERIAL: COOKWARE DRINKWARE UTENSILS
CLAY        √         √                    √
GLASS        √         √                    √
STAINLESS STEEL        √

(heating primarily)

        √                    √
COPPER        ×         √                    ×
WOOD        ×         √                    √
CAST IRON        √         ×                    ×
PLASTIC        ×         ×                    ×
STONE        √         ×                    √
NON-GLAZED CERAMIC        √        √                    √

Based on research, the safest cookware is that made of clay, ceramic, glass, cast iron, or stainless steel, especially higher qualities without contaminated glazing.

When choosing ceramic, stainless steel, or glass cookware, one needs to ensure they are of high quality and do not have any coatings that may leach heavy metals or other toxins into the food.

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