Yesterday I spent the day with a friend. Our plan was to shop for groceries and return to her house for healthy cooking. We went to two local grocery stores and as she placed each item in her cart, she would look at me for approval; I crushed her dreams as I told her about the inflammatory ingredients hidden inside her favorite snacks and staples. But buying the right foods is only half the battle. When we got home to prep all the new, TVW-approved items, I noticed her cookware. While she buys organic and cleans her veggies with Kangen water, we discovered that she cooks it in TOXIC pots and pans. This is completely counterproductive to our efforts to prepare clean, healthy meals. And I know she's not the only one making this mistake.
As I pulled out the first sauté pan, I saw that not only was it non stick (big no no), but it was also made from aluminum (another big no no). The pan was badly scratched and had a surface that was peeling off. Why is that bad? Because all the toxins used in the peeling non-stick coating and aluminum materials were ending up in my friend’s food whenever she cooked for her family, and she had no idea that this was even reason for concern--pretty scary!
This aha moment inspired me to educate more people on this subject. Today I am here to talk to you about best practices for safe pots, pans, cooking materials, etc. that so many of us just don't even think of about.
Why does it matter?
When you heat your healthy food using toxic cookware, those toxins (which contain harmful hormone-altering chemicals) are leaked into your food.
What is TOXIC?
Aluminum can cause heavy metal toxicity. Aluminum is long known to be neurotoxic, with mounting evidence that chronic exposure is a factor in many neurological diseases, including dementia, autism, and Parkinson's disease. Aluminum itself is toxic and is also linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia among other conditions. (Read more about the toxic effects of aluminum here.)
Despite being a very toxic property, aluminum is found in a shocking number of our foods and most of us have no idea. Some of those are:
Baking powder, some salts
Kitchen tools and cookware
Self-rising flour, coffee creamers, baked goods
Baby formula (yeah, it’s messed up!)
Processed foods, coloring and caking agents
Drugs like antacids, analgesics, anti-diarrheals, and others
Vaccines — Hepatitis A and B, Hib, DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), pneumococcal vaccine, Gardasil (HPV), and others
Cosmetics and personal care products such as antiperspirants, deodorants (including salt crystals, made of alum), lotions, sunscreens, and shampoos
Aluminum products, including foil, cans, juice pouches, tins, and water
And it’s not just the aluminum you have to worry about. Remember how I said my friend’s non-stick pan was a big no no? Well, there’s a good reason for that. Teflon and anything non-stick is usually made using poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These substances release perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a carcinogenic chemical, when heated. In addition, many of them contain dangerous heavy metals that can flake off during cooking and into your food. (Read here to learn more.)
My NON-TOXIC Recommendations
My grandma always used hers and not much else. I wish I had taken notes from her and started using my cast iron much sooner than I did! They’re great because they’re non toxic, they maintain really high heat, and they’re nearly unbreakable. You can use cast irons for almost everything--I love braising meats and sticking the whole pan in the oven. My brand of choice is Lodge Logic, made in America.
TIP: They can be pricey so you might want to check out a thrift store to get a good deal. I recommend buying one large and one small. Learn how to season it properly here to help create an organic non-stick type of pan.
Ceramic or Enameled
Ceramic is an organic material that has been used for centuries for baking, dating back to ancient cultures. It uses a far-infrared cooking technology, meaning that it cooks foods from the inside and outside at the same time. It can be used on the stove top, BBQ, and in the oven and will never scratch.
Think of this like a fancy, (usually colored and beautifully made) cast iron that doesn’t need to be seasoned and is dishwasher safe. It is way more expensive than a cast iron, but I see it as a worthwhile investment. You don’t need to go out and buy a whole set all at once. Maybe start with one to see if you like it, and continue to grow your collection over time. For all the ladies getting married, this is definitely an item you’ll want add to your registry! One brand that I love and recommend is Le Creuset.
I would say this is the most affordable non-toxic option. I use some bowls for mixing and holding ingredients, and I’ll also use them for baking, boiling, cooking pasta and rice, and as baking sheets for roasting my veggies. The only downside to this is that food tends to stick, but there are ways around this.
TIP: Try to stay away from cooking acidic foods like tomato sauce in stainless steel; there are studies that show it may leak nickel and chromium.
This is a great eco-friendly choice that is very durable. If you haven't already, please do yourself and your family a favor by getting rid of ALL plastic containers and kitchen accessories. Plastic is a hormone disruptor that can have seriously negative effects on our health. Once you have some amazing glass items like Pyrex dishes, you’ll see that they can be used for so many great things (storage, baking, etc.), and you won’t even miss your plastic.
Crock Pot and Slow Cookers
Most crock pots are finished with a non-stick material allowing for things to be cooked for hours and hours and never stick. That means that the non stick material on most is harmful, but I did find two versions that aren't harmful.
After I left my friend’s house, I felt horrible that I had to throw away all of her pots and pans. However I was thankful she was receptive to my input. It may seem like a drastic decision to many of you, but know that it is for the best, and a key step towards living a healthier, non-toxic, eco-friendly lifestyle. You don’t have to do it all at once, but even baby steps like throwing one away at a time will get you closer to the clean life we all want to live.