Why Healthy Cookware Matters

By Kaitlin Mackay

Optimizing our health is not just a matter of food, it is a matter of choosing the right pots and pans. Do yourself a favor and get rid of any old, cracked, non-stick or aluminum products. Not convinced and/or interested? Read on, my friends.

What do most people use? Aluminum, Teflon, Stainless Steel, Cast-iron, Ceramic

What is potentially toxic?

Aluminum: The metal can be extracted from cookware at high temperatures, when using long cook times, and when cooking corrosive or acidic foods.
● Aluminum (Al) has been tied to anemia, bone and neurological problems.
● The older your aluminum cookware, the more likely it may end up in your food and at high levels it is toxic.
● The higher the temperature Aluminum reaches, and the more acidic the food is being cooked with increases the amount of Al leached in the cooking process.

Teflon: Also known as Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), is created with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a toxic substance.
● PFOA is released when PFTE (Teflon) is degraded by heat over time.
● PFOA is like poison to humans, it has been linked to cancer and affects liver, thyroid, and immune system function.
➜ GOOD NEWS IS…the EPA called for the removal of PFOA in cookware in 2006, requiring the major producer of Teflon, DuPont, to remove 95% of PFOA from its products by 2010 and 100% by 2015.

Why take any risks?

What we can use instead:
Cast Iron: Introduces a small amount of iron into food (an easy way to increase your iron intake), and it can enhance flavor, making food taste better.
● Naturally non stick and inexpensive
● In developing countries, iron pots and pans are being introduced in communities to reduce high rates of iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia.

Stainless Steel: Contains nickel, iron and chromium, which can migrate into food but aren’t harmful.
● Resistant and very sturdy- long life span
● People with nickel allergies and should avoid using Stainless Steel.

Ceramic Cookware: A non-stick alternative to PFTE and PFOA which has gained popularity in recent years.
● Safer at high temperatures where PFTE’s may release toxins!
● Durable, long lasting, even heat distribution

Main Points:
1. Any type of cookware with damage or “wear and tear” to its outermost layer/coating has compromised cooking ability and could be emitting toxins into what you’re cooking.

2. If you have old, damaged pans and are reluctant to part ways with them, get over it. Your health is much more important. Go buy new cookware that won’t spit chemicals into your food.

3. Try something new! CAST-IRON and CERAMIC are my top choices.
→ Cast-iron is a bit heavy. I can look jacked while casually cooking? No complaints here. Oh, and increase my iron intake? Sounds great, thanks cast-iron!
→ Ceramic-coated cookware makes you look like you know how to cook even if you don’t. Non-stick is an understatement. That, plus its even heat distribution…make ceramic a winner in my book.

Where can we find them? All over. Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Amazon.com, etc.

Brands to look for:
Lodge, Staub- for good cast iron cookware
Le Creuset- for enameled cast iron & for non-stick ceramic cookware
Green Pan or Xtrema- for good ceramic cookware (PTFE/PFOA-free coating)
Ecolution- for aluminum-bottomed non-stick pans (PFOA-free coating)
Calphalon- for “anodized” aluminum cookware, sealed to prevent the leaching of aluminum
Pyrex- for reliable and durable glass cookware

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Bradley EL, Read WA, Castle L (2007). Investigation into the migration potential of coating materials from cookware products. Food Additives Contamination; 24(3): 326-35.

Kuligowski J & Halperin KM. Stainless steel cookware as a significant source of nickel, chromium, and iron, 1992. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol; 23(2): 211-5.

Fromme, H., Tittlemier, S. A., Völkel, W., Wilhelm, M., & Twardella, D (2009). Perfluorinated compounds–exposure assessment for the general population in Western countries. International journal of hygiene and environmental health,212(3), 239.

Vieira VM, Hoffman K, Shin HM, Weinberg JM, Webster TF, Fletcher T (2013). Perfluorooctanoic Acid Exposure and Cancer Outcomes in a Contaminated Community: A Geographic Analysis. Environmental Health Perspectives: doi:10.1289/ehp.1205829

Lau C, Anitole K, Hodes C, et al. Perfluoroalkyl acids: a review of monitoring and toxicological findings. Toxicol Sci 2007;99:366e94.