You maybe trying to eat healthy by buying organic fruits and veggies and cooking home meals, but you may not realize the pots and pans you use to cook are poisoning you. You may not even give a second thought about what you use to prepare your meals. You may even feel satisfied that you’re doing everything you can for your health by eating as much raw and unprocessed food as possible. Unfortunately, it may not be enough if you’re not very selective in your food prep.
What about your cookware? What about that skillet you use to lightly cook your favorite wild-caught fish? Can you trust it to be safe for you and your family? The answer is — probably not… particularly if you use dangerous non-stick cookware. Non-stick cookware is the most popular cookware in America. So what’s wrong with it? Well, for starters, non-stick cookware contains perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a synthetic chemical used in production that creates a soap-like slipperiness and non-stick finish. Once heated, non-stick pans will quickly reach temperatures at which toxic fumes release into the air. And it doesn’t take much heat to do this — the coating begins to break down and release toxins at a temperature of only 446° F. PFOA has become very controversial because of potential health dangers… and non-stick cookware is right in the middle of the controversy. So why is PFOA so dangerous?
In animal studies, PFOA posed health hazards like:
- Serious changes in organs.
- Death of several rat pups due to PFOA exposure.
- Changes in the pituitary in female rats, at all doses. The pituitary controls growth, reproduction, and many metabolic functions. Changes in the size of the pituitary indicate toxicity.
Even after you purge your kitchen of unsafe cookware, you may still be harboring danger — this time in the form of aluminum or stainless steel. Aluminum is a “reactive” metal, meaning that it reacts with salty or acidic foods to release itself into your food. Dietary sources of aluminum include cookware, containers, foil, and utensils. You can also face exposure to aluminum when the non-stick surface chips off a coated aluminum pan. Next to the most common cookware alternative is stainless steel, accounting for one-third of U.S. cookware sales. And some cooks prefer the “clad” or “three-ply” varieties that have an aluminum or copper base sandwiched between layers of stainless steel. Contrary to popular belief, stainless steel may not be an inert metal either. All stainless steel has alloys containing nickel, chromium, molybdenum, carbon, and various other metals. Copper is an alternative that provides even heat distribution. However, I recommend that it never has direct contact with your food. When you use copper as your cooking surface, it can leach out in excessive amounts. If enough leaching occurs, you could potentially experience digestive discomforts.* Therefore, most copper pans come lined with other metals, creating the same concerns noted above. And copper pans are also extremely costly.
Safe Cookware Alternatives
So what can you do to protect your body potential exposure to these harmful and elusive toxins? The first step is to replace your aluminum or other nonstick cookware. Here are some recommended alternatives:
- Cast Iron: Cast-iron cookware is a safe alternative that is well known for its durability and even heat distribution. Cooking with cast iron also saves energy, as it retains heat even after the heating element is turned off.
- Ceramic: Ceramic or porcelain coated cookware also offers even heat distribution, and is nonreactive, meaning it won’t release compounds into food.
- 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.
- Clay: Unglazed clay cookware was once a kitchen staple throughout much of history, and today serves as a more natural cooking alternative. Clay is inert and does not leach into food, it holds heat and moisture, and it helps retain nutrient content. However, clay cookware is less durable and needs extra care to protect the life span of the product.