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Safe Cookware to Use

In today’s day and age, owing to social media and information; new topics seem to come up on healthy living and habits. Recently health authorities all over the world have rallied for banning single use plastic and plastic containers like water bottles and containers are now required to be of a certain grade. If food containers are of concern then surely the way food is cooked should also be equally important. This article will focus on safe cookware aka cooking utensils that will keep your food and you safe from harmful by-products of the cooking process.

Did you know that even our favourite “non-stick” pans (that are never really non-stick after some time) are deemed unsafe by some, along with copper and aluminium as chemicals bleach out and remain on the utensils after cooking and washing?

This article will help readers make informed choices with respect to what utensils /cookware are safe to use for themselves and their families. Before buying cookware or any utensils related to cooking, always ask a few questions like

“What is the right way to clean this product?”

All cookware should be washed thoroughly and different materials require their own type of cleaning. Without maintaining cleanliness even, the safest cookware can become hazardous. Make sure you are aware of the specific cleansing techniques required before buying cookware.

“Will the cookware work for everyday cooking and will it last?”

Make sure you buy durable quality cookware and use complementary utensils that will help the cookware last longer. For instance, wooden spatulas do not stain steel and should be used rather than metallic ones.

“Do you have a health condition that could be aggravated by using certain cookware?”

Sometimes we are allergic or “sensitive” towards certain elements, for instance a nickel sensitivity can be mitigated using stainless steel or copper. A condition known as hemochromatosis (where the body absorbs excess iron from food) might be aggravated furthermore by using cast iron pans as more iron will be present in food cooked in these pans.

Apart from personal concerns, always see if the product is “biodegradable” because most products are disposed after a few months and can cause damage to the environment. See if it has been manufactured in an environmentally friendly manner, even if it is slightly expensive it will definitely last longer.

After asking the right questions choose the right product accordingly. Listed below are some cookware options based on their composition.

Aluminium - great conductor of heat and light in weight, a sure shot choice as it is easy to clean and maintain and is cost effective. Aluminium deposits enter food cooked in aluminium cookware but we can’t taste it, on average about seven to ten milligrams of aluminium are consumed by most people every day. There have been awry suggestions linking aluminium to Alzheimer’s but these are unfounded. If you are going for aluminium then go for “anodised” aluminium. Anodised aluminium is treated with an acidic solution that prevents aluminium leaching and is easy to clean and maintain.

Stainless Steel - iron, chrome and nickel make up this alloy. The name “stainless” is given because it doesn’t get rusted or corroded, and is easy to clean without leaving marks. The best thing about this is the even distribution of heat that stainless cookware provides, enabling food to be cooked through and through with even consistency. Just make sure to dip your stainless-steel cookware into water right after cooking as deposits won’t form on the surface and the cookware will last longer. Stainless steel seems to be the best and safest bet out there and nothing seems to suggest otherwise. Try and find stainless steel products with a copper or aluminium based core.

Ceramic Cookware - is never really pure ceramic. Ceramic cookware is usually based on a metal and layered with a non-stick substance like silicone (which has a ceramic base). Ceramic cookware requires cleaning by hand and can distribute heat unevenly. The claim to fame is how ceramic cookware is safer for the environment but the production is not large scale and products not always available. What sets ceramic cookware apart is its ability to withstand higher heat without leaching any of its components. Completely ceramic cookware is not necessarily safer either as the ceramic is glazed with heavy metals that might leach out into your beverages or food.

Cast Iron - long lasting and durable (like years and years durable), some chefs swear by it due to the distinct taste it adds to food and if seasoned correctly; is non-stick. Cast iron cookware naturally contains iron which can leach into food but this is a good thing as our bodies require iron. Cast iron cookware has been recommended for those who are anaemic (iron deficient) but not for those with hemochromatosis as mentioned above. Cast iron cookware is more expensive than others but its taste cannot be found in any other product; the only thing it requires is a correct method of cleaning and specific products to do so. So, if you are prepared to clean and maintain it properly; it’s the only choice you’ll need.

Copper - best conductor of heat, copper also has health benefits like iron. The base is usually made of another metal like stainless steel with a copper coating on top. If the copper cookware you purchase isn’t high grade, excess and unsafe amounts of copper can leach into your food.

Non-stick Cookware- non-stick is a general category that includes various coating and finishing that doesn’t allow food to stick. Invariably though, most non-stick cookware is Teflon coated. Nonstick cookware became popular due to its ease and simplicity along with lesser quantities of butter or oil needed to cook in it. The original Teflon formula was later found to contain ingredients linked to thyroid, lung danger and short-term symptoms from

fume inhalation, also called a Teflon flu. After 2013, the Teflon formula was changed and today nonstick cookware is safer. Remember not to cook on very high temperature in nonstick as it can cause the coating to crack and leach into food.

 

Dr. Inder Kasturia

Consultant Physician & Wellness Expert

Family Medicine

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