Additionally, buying multi-purpose pots and pans will minimize waste and save space in your kitchen. In the long run, you’re better off with a durable pan that will weather heat, cold, bumps, and heavy use without degrading.
There are plenty of reasonably priced middle-of-the-road options that can be relatively safe and last a long time. Here are the pros and cons of some of the most popular, starting with ones you may want to avoid, which ones are moderately safe, and which ones appear to be the safest.
iStock.com/LYagovy Although these can save you the trouble of having to oil your pan before cooking and are easy to use and clean, non-stick doesn’t mean non-toxic. Toxicity is such a problem that the manufacturer labels on non-stick pans often warn consumers not to use high heat with these products.
However, tests funded by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show that in just a few minutes on a typical stove, non-stick cookware could exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxins. Have you ever heard of the “canary in the coal mine?” Birds can be more sensitive to dangerous gases than humans.
But if something is lethal to birds, then it doesn’t take a coal miner to guess that it probably isn’t good for you, either. If you must cook with Teflon or other typical non-stick pans, make sure to use low or medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon to minimize chemical exposure.
If too much aluminum enters your body, it can settle into your internal organs, including your brain, liver, heart, and bones, and eventually cause disease. Aluminum exposure has been studied for its potential link to Alzheimer’s disease for many years.
In this case, there’s a protective layer over the aluminum to increase durability, but it may still break down over time. Because it’s a soft metal, copper conducts heat well, but it has to be polished to maintain its shiny appearance.
Pans also require seasoning with a coating of oil to prevent rusting and sticking. As a result, they have special cleaning instructions (it shouldn’t go in the dishwasher or be washed with detergent).
One of our recommended cast iron cookware brands is Lodge, which has been around for a long time with an excellent reputation for quality. On the cons side, you should never place hot glass cookware on a cold surface as it can crack or even shatter.
Additionally, glass is heavier and more fragile than many other types of cookware, doesn’t work on induction stoves, and is not non-stick. Some of our favorite glass cookware options include the Pyrex Baking Pan here and the Visions 5L Round Dutch Oven here.
Carbon steel also develops what’s called a patina, a brownish film caused by oxidation over time, which some people say makes food taste a little funny. iStock.com/maria_esau Stainless steel is a healthy cookware choice that can last a long time.
Good brands are durable, but the enamel coating can degrade over time. Unlike regular cast iron, enamel-coated cookware comes in a variety of colors besides black.
One healthy cookware product made from enamel-coated cast iron is this skillet by Essen so. Other perks of ceramic are its scratch resistance and slow and even cooking.
Titanium is often used to make sterile surgical instruments because it’s considered a biocompatible metal, meaning it won’t react adversely with the human body. Cookware made with titanium is lighter weight, durable, doesn’t leach into your food, and is typically more affordable than many other options.
One of the biggest downsides to titanium cookware, however, is that it takes a while to warm up and doesn’t always conduct heat evenly. Some manufacturers recognize this and have made improvements, such as making pans that are titanium-coated over an aluminum core.
Or, in some instances, covering them with a ceramic-titanium blend to improve durability and give a non-stick quality. Additionally, certain titanium cookware can be used on induction stoves, while others may not be, so look for this clarification on the package or manufacturer website.
Some of the most popular and widely used brands of cookware are nonstick and known to contain a chemical that has been linked to major health concerns including cancer. I’m sure you’ll agree that using unhealthy cookware to cook healthy food simply doesn’t make any sense.
Nonstick cookware pretty much always contains a man made chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as FOA or C8. According to the American Cancer Society, “FOA has the potential to be a health concern because it can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “In laboratory animals given large amounts, FOA can affect growth and development, reproduction, and injure the liver.” So in addition to cancer concerns, we’re talking about some other highly serious health repercussions including liver damage, infertility, and delays in growth and development. But I ask you to consider the burden associated with cancers and other serious health problems being linked to toxic cookware products.
Unfortunately, if you go into a department store these days, it’s going to be very easy to pick up a pot or pan that may potentially be dangerous to your health. In just two to five minutes on a conventional stove top, nonstick cookware containing perfluorochemicals can exceed temperatures that cause a break down in its coating and hence the release of toxic particles and gases linked to bird deaths and human illnesses, according to tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
Speckled metal bakeware and enamel cast iron skillets have also been shown to leach aluminum. It is approved by the FDA and many people view it as safe, but personally, I avoid silicone cookware because there hasn’t been enough scientific research to confirm for sure whether silicone can leach out of cookware and possibly contaminate food.
Toxic cookware made from materials like these may lead to all kinds of seriously concerning health problems including: Child Developmental Delays According to a UCLA study led by Hunan FEI, prenatal exposure to perfluorooctanoate (FOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (UFOs) has been linked to developmental delays in offspring.
The study found that mothers with higher levels of PFO As in their blood have toddlers and babies who are less likely to reach developmental milestones early. High Cholesterol Research has shown that the chemicals used to make nonstick cookware may lead to some major health concerns.
A study of 12,000 children living in Ohio and West Virginia were tested for blood levels of the FOA and UFOs (the two chemicals commonly found in non-stick cookware). Eating large amounts of processed food containing aluminum additives or frequently cooking acidic foods in aluminum pots may expose a person to higher levels of aluminum than a person who generally consumes unprocessed foods and uses pots made of other materials (e.g., stainless steel or glass).
And as I already mentioned, speckled metal bakeware and enamel cast iron skillets have also been shown to leach aluminum. Thyroid Issues, Liver Inflammation and Weakened Immune System There are some other major reasons to avoid nonstick cookware containing perfluorochemicals that can be leached into the food you eat.
(11) According to the EWG, “Perfluorochemicals are associated with smaller birth weight and size in newborn babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation, and weaker immune defense against disease.” (12) In general, well-conducted studies in animals do a good job of predicting which exposures cause cancer in people.
After reading all the facts above it may not seem so challenging heating up a little butter or coconut oil on your pan, huh? In fact, it’s that easy to protect yourself and your family from these serious health dangers of nonstick pots and pans.
You can simply choose a better nontoxic option and take a few seconds to make them nonstick yourself! Opt for any of the following types of kitchen cookware, add a healthy fat source and start cooking.
Sure, you may have to pay a bit more attention so food doesn’t stick, but in the long run it’s well worth it. You’ll get peace of mind knowing you’re protecting your loved ones from one more of the many dangerous toxins in our environments today.
Cast iron cookware free of FOA and PTFE should not contain any other chemicals. Each time you use your cast iron cookware, make sure to season it after cleaning to maintain an optimal cooking surface.
Real, high-quality stainless steel cookware is the perfect solution for many of your needs in the kitchen because it’s made to resist dangerous leaching and reactivity. Stainless steel is a mix of metal including carbon, chromium, nickel and/or manganese.
Once damaged, it’s no longer as healthy of a cooking device because the leaching of metals then becomes possible. It’s another option to reduce the use of cookware containing polyfluoroalkyl substances (Pas) or highly fluoridated chemicals.
For safer cooking, the EWG recommends oven-safe glass along with cast iron and stainless steel cookware. Some of these newer “green” lines have apparently come up with healthier ways to make cookware nonstick.
Some of these brands include names like Greene and Green Pan cookware, which both use a ceramic nonstick layer derived from sand called Thermal. There’s also Over Green Earth, which uses a nonstick coating called Revlon that does not contain FOA or PTFE.
Creator makes the Extreme line of cookware which is said to be made from “a unique ceramic clay formula that is 100% natural.” Extreme cookware products are also said to be free of lead, cadmium and toxic heavy metals, FOA and PTFE-free, non-scratch, nontoxic, and non-metal. In my opinion, the concept of nonstick ceramic cookware falls in the “gray zone” right now.
Some are known to contain nanoparticles, which are tiny, invisible particles with the ability to penetrate the skin and cross the blood-brain barrier. Like GMOs, engineered nanoparticles are in products on store shelves today, and we’re often not even realizing it.
As a scientific article published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives points out, “Nanotechnology-enabled products are quietly proliferating on U.S. store shelves, despite nagging questions about the safety of synthetic nanoparticles and the products that contain them.” (23) As nanoparticles continue to show up in all kinds of products including cookware, food and cosmetics, Phil Adrian, MD, professor and chair of community and preventative medicine at Mt.
Sinai Hospital, points out that companies are including nanoparticles in their formulations even though emerging data suggests that nanoparticles could produce toxic effects due to their ability to enter the body’s cells. The problem is that we don’t have long-term studies showing how nano-ceramic could impact human health and it wouldn’t be the first time something was available to consumers before we really knew if it was safe.
Final Thoughts The results of toxic cookware studies thus far should make us question what these dangerous chemicals can do to our bodies, especially when exposure is on a daily basis. Some cookware contains nanoparticles and to date, there are no long term studies to prove their safety.