So you spend a lot of time thinking about your food, but how about what you use to cook your food?
Chances are this doesn’t get as much thought.
But it should!
Some cookware leaches unhealthy toxins into your food.
Nonstick Cookware and Bakeware (including Teflon)
Nonstick synthetic surfaces are made with the plasticizer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which emits a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) when heated. The PFOA from heated nonstick cookware is known to kill pet birds! Yes yes, we are much larger than little birds, but this is still concerning nonetheless.
Unfortunately, nonstick surfaces are easily damaged, allowing the coating to flake off and get into food. According to a study by the 3M company, PFOA is found in the blood of 90% of Americans, including the 600 children tested. PFOA bioaccumulates and persists in the environment. That is, it is not excreted by the body but builds up and up and up. Toxicologist Tim Kropp of the Environmental Working Group told the New York Times in 2005: “Any amount of PFOA you are ingesting may be a problem because we don’t know what levels are safe.”
Plus, PFOA is released at relatively low cooking temperatures. Teflon maker DuPont reached a $16.5 million settlement with the US Environmental Protection Agency for failing to report the health risks of PFOA — DuPont had claimed that Teflon starts to emit dangerous chemicals only at temperatures above 660ºF, but EWG conducted tests that showed it does so at 325ºF.
Aluminum is a heavy metal that attacks your central nervous system. Research shows aluminum can produce toxic, oxidative stress in the brain. For this reason, aluminium has been linked to degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Some studies suggest that Alzheimer’s patients have an abnormally high amount of aluminum in the amyloid protein plaques that characterize the disease, although the exact connection remains unclear.
For me, I follow the precautionary principle with this one: if there are safer alternatives (like the ones discussed below!) conveniently available, I’m going to choose those.
Luckily, there are a number of healthier cookware options.
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is my personal favorite option. I have a great 8-piece set that covers all of my 2-person-household’s needs (in addition to some tempered glass and one porcelain-enameled cast iron piece, which I talk about below). Stainless steel pots and pans brown foods better than most other options, and are very easy to clean.
You can also season stainless steel pots and pans to make them virtually nonstick:
- Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of salt into your pan
- Heat the pan to the point where the oil is almost starting to smoke, and then let it cool
- Scrub the salt into the pan using a clean cloth or paper towel
- Wipe the pan out, oil it again, and wipe it out again
- Do this process when the pan is new and repeat it periodically
As with seasoned cast iron pans, clean the pan by wiping it with a bit of warm water but without soap/detergent. If any food gets stuck to the pan, you may need to scrub it with detergent and redo the seasoning process.
Tempered Glass Cookware
I’m sure we all have at least 1 piece of tempered glass cookware (likely a casserole dish).
This option doesn’t work for stove-top cooking, but it works very well for cooking and baking in the oven. It is also safe to marinate foods in tempered glass cookware, which is convenient. And the best part? You can take it from the oven straight to the fridge for storage when your meal is over! Less dishes to clean = awesome.
✪ Pyrex 2-Quart Glass Bakeware Dish (I have this and use it to cook veggies all the time)
The classic cookware can be preheated to temperatures that will brown meat, and can withstand very high temperatures. It is extremely durable and can be seasoned to provide a smooth, stick-resistant surface, and can even be purchased pre-seasoned.
However, there is some concern regarding the iron leached into food as its being cooked — an excess of dietary iron promotes oxidation and has been proven to promote dangerous oxidation of cholesterol. So it may not be the best option for everyday cooking.
*Lodge’s products are extra-special because they’re made in the USA
Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
Generally speaking, porcelain-enameled cast iron cookware yields great cooking results and are very long-lasting, making them well worth the upfront investment (they are a little more pricey).
Most can be used on the stove top, in the oven, and under the broiler, making them very multipurpose (and, again, worth the investment). Plus, the enamel is impervious to acids, so it can hold raw or cooked foods that are marinating — in other words, less dishes to clean!
Le Creuset is the French darling of the porcelain-enameled cast iron cookware brands. Pricey, but in my personal opinion, 1 piece is all you need: a dutch oven.
Have you transitioned to healthier cookware options?
If yes, what is your favorite option? Please share in the comments below!