We pick any utensil for cooking without a second thought to health. For years people have been using aluminum, copper and non-stick cookware. The question is, are these safe?
According to the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, we use most of the metallic cookware blindly without knowing how it affects our health. Here is a guide to help you pick the right utensil for cooking.
Cookware made of aluminum
Since its popular use in modern times, aluminum or aluminium has been commonly used in cooking. It is a good conductor of heat and it is lightweight. Practically it comes cheap and is easy to clean. All these factors make it a popular kitchen utensil for cooking.
But research shows that aluminum gets dissolved into some foods. Acidic foods like tomato and vinegar react with the metal and cause it dissolve in the food that is being cooked. In the long run salty food or water can also cause aluminum to come off and mix with the food and as a result gets into our body. Using old aluminum pots and pans make it more susceptible to contaminate food.
A solution is to use expensive aluminum cookware that is anodized. An electro chemical process is carried on the utensil so that there is a protective layer of oxide on the aluminum surface so that it cannot react to the food.
Although the amount of aluminum that leaches into food is minimal yet studies show that prolonged use is not good for health and can lead to many diseases like the Alzheimer. Thus it makes more sense to choose a non reactive material for the cooking utensil.
Related: Does you ghee contain animal fat?
Cookware made of Copper
Copper is considered a comparatively safe material to use as a utensil for cooking. Cooking in copper kills many kinds of bacteria. Research at the University of Southampton found that even at room temperature copper pots kill deadly bacteria such as the E.coli.
Copper has been used in for thousands of years in Indian households as a utensil for cooking. The pots heat very well and make it an excellent cookware. This heavy metal is also absorbed by our body as a mineral. The liver can extract the excess copper through excretion.
Copper also reacts with acidic foods. In very rare cases toxicity and sickness has been also seen but it is not considered serious. It is safe to use copper pots that have a bottom lining made of steel or tin.
Take note to use good quality copper or brass utensils for cooking your food.
Cookware made of Lead
Avoid any cookware that contains lead. Children should never be served or given food cooked in lead based cookware. Lead is generally found mixed in different cookware like ceramic and non sticks.
Acidic foods react with lead and get dissolved in the food. Even items like milk are not safe to be used in lead based cookware. Hot beverages like tea and coffee are not safe to be consumed as well as soft drinks.
Cookware made of Ceramic
Ceramic cookware may come with an enamel coating. This coating is made to prevent wear and corrosion and increase the glaze of the ceramic ware. Ceramic can be called safe if it does not contain lead.
Lead and some other chemicals may be used during the manufacture or decoration of the ceramic utensils. Usually lead use is regulated by the government for safety concerns. Before buying any ceramic utensil make sure you check the quality standards.
Do not keep on using any ceramic or glass utensil if it gets even a little crack. It becomes unhygienic and should be avoided. You can use such utensils to decorate your home or use in a garden.
Cookware made of Non stick material
Non stick cookware is the fashion of the day. Every study has shown that non stick cookware says is not a safe utensil for cooking. But you should stop using it today.
Non stick came into popularity with the diet fad as it can cook with less oil or fat. Every non stick cookware is coated with a chemical laden material to create that ‘non stick’ effect. Teflon is the most common name of nonstick coating. It is a brand that sells a coating based on polytetrafluoroethlyene. Other coatings are also used such as Silverstone, Tefal, Anolon, Circulon and Caphalon. Teflon and other coatings may contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), an extremely harmful material for humans and the ecology.
Non stick cookware heats up very quickly. As it gets heated this material coating releases some fumes which is toxic for humans and animals. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that that after certain temperatures fifteen kinds of toxic gases and chemicals are release from a non stick pan. Two of these are carcinogens, that is, it causes cancer. A pet bird can die in the presence of cooking done in a non stick pan.
The non stick coating also comes off a little during cooking. In United States where non stick cookware is very commonly used, the chemicals have been found in the bloodstream of 90% of the individuals. It is causing low immunity, cancer, low birth weight and suppressing the immune system exposing the body to all kinds of diseases. The chemical is also being transmitted into new born babies through the mother. Instead of being health friendly, non stick cookware has been seen to increase the cholesterol levels.
Related: Easy tips to stay cool in summer
Best material for cooking utensils
Cookware made of cast iron
Properly seasoned cast iron utensils are one of the best cookware. These utensils for cooking will last for generations and require hardly any maintenance. Seasoned cast iron cookware is considered better than unseasoned ones as it prevents excess leaching of the material into food and rusting of the material.
Poor quality or unseasoned iron cookware can leach excess metal into food while cooking. Excess iron in food can cause it to add up in the bloodstream and can cause iron overload.
In normal cases even if a little iron mixes into the food, it is considered healthy. People suffering from anemia should cook their food in iron utensils.
Seasoned cast iron utensil for cooking is very efficient for grilling, frying and stewing. It does not react with acid and acidic foods making it very safe. It is better than non stick or other metallic cookware because it does not discharge any kind of harmful chemical or material into the cooked food. It is recommended that the cast iron utensil should be checked regularly to see that it is retaining its seasoned property.
Cookware made of stainless steel
Stainless steel is one of the cheapest materials with which cookware is made. It is also one of the safest. Stainless steel utensil for cooking is a very good option as it does not react with or leach into food.
Stainless steel is usable at high heat as well as it is safe to put in the refrigerator. It is long lasting. Some cookwares use the additional bottom layer of copper or aluminum which is also safe as it does not come in contact with food. Almost no health problems have been found. However some scientists claim that nickel present in steel can leach into acidic food but it is considered negligible.
Using stainless steel is also good for the environment because steel can be recycled easily.
Stainless steel utensil for cooking comes with grades that show its quality. An 18/8 marked steel utensil shows the percentage of chromium (18%) and nickel (8%). Nickel prevents corrosion of the cookware. It is safer to use cookware of 18/8 or 18/10 grade. Good quality stainless will never react with any acidic food or leach any metal.
Cookware made of Glass
Glassware can be a safe utensil for cooking. It is free from lead and any harmful chemicals. Tempered glass can be used safely for baking and cooking. It also looks good to serve in glassware.
Glass is not porous which makes it a great material for storing food.
Cookware made of precious metals like gold or silver
In the olden days, gold and silver were used for cooking and serving. These are free from harmful chemicals. If it would be possible, these make a great utensil for cooking.
Although gold is not practical but silver cutlery can still be purchased and used as a cookware.
Cookware made of clay
Clay is one of the best cookware and food cooked in clayware tastes best. Clay imparts useful nutrients into the food and gives it a special taste. Serving food in clayware is also healthy and wholesome.
Get a clay utensil for cooking if possible. Make sure it is seasoned for cooking. These have to handled carefully but it is worth the effort.
Best non toxic kitchen utensil for cooking
The best utensil for cooking is one that does not react with the food. On the other hand even if it does, it should release minerals that are good for the body. Items like stainless steel and glass do not react with the food and are considered neutral cookware. Cast iron utensil for cooking can be a great option. Silverware has been used for generations. People in villages and in the past have used clay for cookware. All these materials make the best utensils for cooking.
Avoid non stick and lead based cookware. Aluminum should also be got rid of. These do make a good utensil for cooking your food. Your food will be contaminated and the chemicals will build up in your body. It weakens your immune system and can also lead to cancer. A weakened immune system is also an open invitation to diseases.
Choose your cooking utensil carefully. Spending a little extra for good quality or safe marked cookware will protect your family and your body from many other problems.
Credits: mightynest.com/articles/materials-for-a-healthy-kitchen, whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=dailytip&dbid=92, www.life.ca/naturallife/0112/pots.htm, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002461.htm