Is Your Cookware Safe?

You go out of your way to eat clean, organically grown foods.  You even spend time cooking and preparing healthy food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You are well on your way to reclaiming your health and feeling pretty good about where you are right now.  You really think you’ve got a handle on this healthy lifestyle business.  I’ve just got one question for you to think about. What type of cookware are you preparing your healthy food in?

When I first started researching Alzheimer’s disease, I was shocked to learn just how many toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis.  I began cleaning up my act literally.  One area I had not thought of, at that time, as a source of toxins was my cookware.  Thankfully, I didn’t have many nonstick pots, or teflon, in my possession as those are some of the worst offenders. I’d like to share with you what I learned about the hazards of using certain types of cookware.  Ease of clean up should most definitely not be the deciding factor when purchasing pots, including disposable versions.

Studies of various cookware options have shown that many can be dangerous to your health as they have been found to leach various toxins into your food and body.  You’ve taken proactive steps to remove toxins from your food, please don’t introduce them right back in through cooking in unsafe pots and pans.  The biggest offenders appear to be the nonstick lines of cookware.  Touted for their ease of cleanup and nonsticking properties, these pots are the most dangerous to use.  In fact, if you own them, I recommend you throw them out today.

According to studies, one of the biggest problems with non stick cookware comes from the chemical that creates the nonstick surface – perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA).  This chemical releases when heated and can potentially leach into the food you are cooking.  Further, if they are scratched or have breakage to the surface leaching potential increases.  I no longer have any nonstick cookware in my collection.  I have slowly replaced all my pots and pans, including the pan I cook my eggs in.  That pan is the most commonly used nonstick pan most people use and I’m betting you have one in your collection as well.  Please take some time to take stock of your pots and pans and bakeware.  I’m sure you will find nonstick versions, especially in your bakeware and frying collection.

When I first started looking at cookware I realized I needed to make some changes.  I wasn’t able to afford to replace all my pots, pans and bakeware at once as good quality pots are quite expensive.  I began researching and looking at the best options for safe, healthy cookware.  I then began purchasing literally one pot at a time.  Before you jump into purchasing, I suggest you spend some time reading and learning about the safest and healthiest cookware options.  Then select the options that works best for your lifestyle.

Here are the types of cookware that have been shown to leach dangerous toxins into our food during cooking.  I’m betting all of you have one of these five in your current collection:

Aluminum
Speckled Metal Bakeware (think Grandma’s roasting pan)
Non stick Anodized Aluminum
Ceramic Non Stick Aluminum Skillet
Non stick Glass Bakeware

I know I had many of them in my collection.  You’ll notice that aluminum is repeatedly on the list.  I wonder how many of you, like me, line your roasting pans in foil when cooking to make clean up easier.  Or how many of you wrap food in aluminum (think baked potatoes) when baking.  Aluminum is one of the worst offenders and an item I used most often during the cooking process.  Aluminum is a very soft metal and one that causes an extreme chemical reaction between food and the pan.  For example, all vegetables cooked in aluminum produce hydroxide poison.  I hope you keep this in mind next time you reach for those disposable aluminum pans.  People make fun of me on holidays because I cook for large crowds in pans that need to be washed.  I’d rather spend time cleaning my pan than being sick down the road.

Many people purchase stainless steel pots and think they are safe.  If you buy cheaper lines of stainless steel you can still face potential risks.  Cheaper stainless steel cookware is made from different alloys, including scrap metal.  Most of these lines can potentially allow chrome and nickel to bleed into food as the salts and acids of foods react with the pots.  When purchasing stainless steel you should only purchase high grade surgical stainless steel, even at the higher cost.

Another common line of cookware is cast iron.  Cast iron is a highly porous metal and grease can turn rancid in the pores.  My mother in law has many older cast iron pots and she says you’re not supposed to scrub them with soap or Brillo.  This totally grosses me out, but I have read these directions about cleaning cast iron pots during my research.

Now that I’ve got your attention and you’ve taken stock of your current cookware, let’s make a plan to replace then with safer, healthier versions.  My first two purchases when I began replacing mine were a roasting pan and a 6 quart pot.  Both of these are staples in my collection and ones I use most often.  I recommend you start with the pots you use most often to cook.  Then, look for sales and slowly replace the others.  I even put a pot I wanted on my birthday list one year and wouldn’t be offended if someone gave me one as a present.

Here are the safest options available when selecting cookware:

High Quality Surgical Grade Stainless Steel

This type of pot will be more expensive to purchase, but totally worth the cost.  Remember, you don’t need a full set of pots.  Start with the one or two you use most often and forget the rest for right now.  There are many brands that offer high grade surgical steel stainless pots.  Many have aluminum inside the steel metals to aid in heat distribution.  Don’t be alarmed by this, as the aluminum never comes into contact with your food and stays perfectly encased inside the stainless steel.  My personal choice are pots from the 360 Cookware line.  I like the vapor seal that allows me to use less oil in the cooking process.

360 Cookware Premium Waterless Stainless Steel 6 Quart Stockpot with Cover

Ceramic Cookware

I am new to ceramic cookware and excited by its versatility.  Ceramic, or glass cookware, can be one of the best options out there to avoid toxins.  Additionally, it can be used in high heat and is dishwasher safe.  The downside of using ceramic cookware is that it is breakable, so you do have to be somewhat careful.  If you drop it on your ceramic floor, it will most definitely break.  I primarily use this type of cookware for cooking eggs and baking.  The line I use is Xtrema Ceramic Cookware and this is my egg pan.

Xtrema 7 Inch 100% Ceramic Skillet with Cover

Enameled Cast Iron

I am a long time fan of Le Creuset products.  The research, however, is mixed on using enameled cast iron as it has been found that heavy metals such as lead and cadmium found in the ceramic glazes can pose potential danger.  In researching this issue, I found that Le Creuset addressed these concerns and feel comfortable still using my two pieces from their line.  Basically, they stated that these chemicals were present only on the outside of the cookware and never touch the food.    These pans are very expensive.  I purchased mine at the Le Creuset outlet during their yearly sale.  Mine were also seconds, but you can’t see anything wrong with them and I was happy for the huge savings.

One final category of cookware worth mentioning, is slow cookers and crock pots.  Many of us use these cookers on a daily basis.  There is little information available about testing done on the safety of ceramic inserts found in many crock pots.  Also, I am not sure about the grade of stainless used in the stainless versions.  For this reason, I decided to take no chances for my slow cooking choice.  I purchased a very versatile slow cooker, which is actually a stand alone pot as well.  It is made by 360 and works beautifully.  Here is the link to check out this great option for a safer slow cooker.

360 Cookware Gourmet Slow Cooker and Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Cover, 4 Quart

I hope you will begin to think about cooking your food in three ways: 1) what you cook; 2) how you cook it, and; 3) what you cook it in.  Don’t overlook the importance of using safe, healthy cookware as part of your healthy lifestyle.

If you have already made this change, I’d seriously love to hear about it.  I am always looking for information on this topic and for new and healthier versions of cookware.  Please leave a comment below about what changes you have made to ensure you are using healthy cookware to prepare your meals.

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