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Finding the healthiest cookware

Posted May 06 2010 7:47am

avoid non-stick pan | for a natural lifestyle

Unless you’re on a 100% raw food diet, there’s good chance that you are using one of these to prepare your meals. I’m of course talking of cookware! Many of us have heard the possible health hazards of cooking in non-stick pans. However, few of us know the effects that other cookware has on health. In my journey towards a healthier, more natural lifestyle, I came across useful information on the healthiest cookware.

Stainless steel cookware

(cast iron, mild steel, and enameled steel)

Readily attacked by organic acids, especially with heat, stainless steel cookware can leach iron, chromium and nickel in food. The levels of trace metals in food depend greatly of the meal prepared. For iron it’s not really a problem, in fact it can be even beneficial. For nickel and chromium, those metals have been implicated in many health problems, notably contact dermatitis. The worst nickel concentrations come from stainless steel utensils. Even if the nickel and chromium levels leached in food through cookware is still under the tolerable daily intake recommended by the World Health Organization, the stainless steel cookware industry should seriously consider switching to a formulation without nickel.

Aluminum cookware

Aluminum is lightweight, inexpensive and conducts heat well. It’s therefore a very popular choice for cooking. Just think of all the processed foods that are sold in aluminum pans!

Aluminum too can leach into food, especially into acidic and salty meals, and with worn and pitted pots and pans. The amount of aluminum that migrates from the cookware to the food is quite low. However, aluminum accumulation in our body might harm central nervous system, bone lesions, and blood system, and is a suspected cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, it would be safer to avoid cooking in aluminum.

Anodized Aluminum cookware

There’s another kind of aluminum cookware that is somewhat safer than the regular aluminum. When aluminum is placed in an acid solution and exposed to an electric current, a hard, non-stick surface is created. This surface is scratch resistant and reduces, but not eliminates, the amount of aluminum migrating into foods.

Non-stick cookware

(Teflon and polymer based)

We see non-stick pans and post everywhere. Why? They are incredibly easy to clean. And cheap.

Non-stick cookware is made of different polymer coatings. As for other cookware, plastic and Teflon coatings can leach into foods. Even though researches suggest that the levels of plastic compounds that migrate to food are below the tolerable daily intake, some worst-case scenarios has shown that some perfluorooctanic compounds (PFOA), phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) has leached into foods. Those substances are known to have many adverse health effects, including a suspected role in cancer. Cooking in non-stick pans is much more hazardous for health when the pans are overheated. The fumes created by the overheated non-stick pans can induce “polymer fume fever” in humans and cause death in birds. So bird lovers, be aware!

Ceramic, enamel and glass cookware

Ceramic, enamel and glass pans and pots are part of the safest cookware to use. The only health concern comes from the ingredients found in the glaze and pigments used for decoration. In North America, glazed ceramics are regulated, and cookware made of these can’t be sold if it releases more than trace amounts of lead and cadmium. Beware of bringing back glazed cookware from other countries as it may not meet our cadmium and lead safety regulation. Ceramic is naturally porous, so ceramic cookware is usually glazed. Glass, on the other hand, can easily be found unglazed.

Copper

Copper pans are beautiful. So beautiful that many are made solely for decorative purpose!

Copper is an essential mineral for the body. However, large amounts of copper in a single dose can be poisonous. That’s why today, most copper pans are coated with another metal to prevent it from leaching copper. The coating itself, however, can leach too, and copper can still migrates into food in the pan is scratched. In the past, copper cookware used to be coated with nickel or tin. Those pans should be used for decorative purpose only.

Silicone cookware

We see more and more silicone rubber cookware in the market. Their bright colors, as well as their non-stick and heat resistance capacity are part of their increasing popularity. However, silicone, even if said to be quite safe by the Canadian government recommendations, can leach siloxanes into food. The health risks of siloxanes absorption in human health has not been widely published, but in doubt, I would prefer to avoid it.

With all those leaching possibilities, I guess that I could add the “lower risk of unwanted cookware leach” into the raw food diet health benefits ! But since avoiding cooking completely is not an alternative for most of us, I had to find out the best option. Being a fan of natural body detox, it would be crazy to let toxins back in!

And the winner is…Glassware!

What cookware are you using? And what are you planning to buy when you’ll change it?

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