If eating healthy and/or living an eco-friendly lifestyle is important to you, you’ll want to make sure the products you choose to cook your healthy foods help you uphold this standard. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of non-toxic cookware and environmentally friendly products.
Materials to avoid in cookware
Let’s start with the positive here. Your ideal pots and pans should be made from safe, non-toxic materials such as carbon steel, ceramic, lava rock, porcelain enamel, or tempered glass. Most cast iron and stainless steel products are also generally considered OK, though they can leech iron or nickel into your food as it cooks; this is especially true for long-simmering food that contains acid (think tomatoes).
Here’s where things get a bit heavier, however. You’ll want to avoid aluminum and Teflon specifically. Why? One 2013 study, for example, linked aluminum to Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and autism spectrum disorders; other research also links elevated aluminum levels to central nervous system disorders. When it comes to Teflon, the material used in most nonstick cookware, is associated with studies that show the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coating turns into toxic Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) when exposed to high heat, which makes it dangerous for both the person cooking the food and the people consuming it.
Other kitchenware to include includes anything made from plastic, as plastic is one of the worst causes of planet and ocean toxicity because it is so infrequently discarded. (In fact, a recent study estimates an average of eight million tons of plastic—including food packaging—is improperly disposed of yearly.) The way to remedy this situation is to use biodegradable kitchenware and recycle what you no longer use.
What about silicone cooking utensils?
Silicone didn’t make it into the above section, but is it safe to use when cooking? Here’s what you need to know about this material.
Silicone is a synthetic rubber made from bonded silicon (a natural element found in sand and rock) and oxygen and is the apparent answer to the other materials toxic or environmentally harmful products that people no longer want to use. It’s commonly used in muffin pans, cupcake liners, and utensils such as spatulas and can go from the freezer directly into the oven (up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit). It’s also non-stick and stain-resistant and comes in a wide range of colors. But, all of that positivity aside, is it safe?
Honestly, there isn’t much research about the silicone’s safety for use with food. In 1979, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that silicon dioxides found in silicone cookware are generally safe to use with food. But, that was more than a decade before silicone cookware such as spatulas were even being sold in stores for household use. No follow-up studies have been conducted by the FDA, but Health Canada (Canada’s health agency) states that food-grade silicone does not react with food or beverages or produce hazardous fumes and can be safely used up to recommended temperatures.
Try bamboo cooking utensils
If you’re looking for a natural alternative to synthetic or manmade materials that may release toxins into your food or the environment, wood or bamboo cooking utensils are one option. That being said, it’s important to recognize that wood can crack over time as a result of the dishwasher or repeated exposure to heat; when your wood utensils crack, food can get stuck in them and allow dangerous bacteria to grow within them. So, just make sure you keep an eye on your wood utensils and buy new ones every so often. (Though, really, you should be doing that with of your utensils and cookware.)
If you’re wondering about other environmentally friendly products and non-toxic cookware to keep on hand in your kitchen while you pursue a healthy or chemical-free lifestyle, you might check out this article by Wellness Mama for some ideas!