On the journey to finding a truly healthy lifestyle, one of the first things we, as a culture, turn to is how to eat. Do you go vegan? Vegetarian? Paleo? Keto? Mediterranean? 80/20? The options are endless and endlessly exhausting. However, the one piece that gets overlooked is what the food actually gets cooked in. Today we’re going to do a short but deep dive into how the pots and pans we use to prepare our food could actually be causing more harm than good.
When I was newly engaged and registering for cookware with my (now) husband, the one thing I was adamant about was getting a good quality nonstick pan. My intention was to have something that required less cooking fat, therefore allowing me to watch my waist size to fit into the wedding gown on the big day. Had I known then what I know now, though, I certainly would have opted for a big collection of cast iron cookware that would not only stand the test of time, but would cut off years of chemical-laden food.
The FDA has only fairly recently found that chemicals used to create nonstick coatings on cookware are contaminating both our food and water supply. These chemicals are called PFAs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), and almost every person on the planet has been exposed to them. Additionally, they are very persistent, which means that our bodies have a hard time breaking them down, and they can accumulate over periods of time. There are several issues with PFAs:
We are completely surrounded by them. They are found in food that has been stored, cooked, processed or grown around them. They are in cleaning products, furniture, drinking water and even in wildlife that are exposed to them.
They are linked to a host of health issues, including but not limited to low birthweight in babies, compromised immune systems, cancer, hormone disruption, high cholesterol, reproductive harm and liver and kidney damage.
The alternatives have not been tested for long-term health, and our current federal laws do not give the EPA and FDA authority to ban or regulate these chemicals.
So what’s a home cook to do? Luckily there are a few good options for pots and pans that will not only stand the test of time, but will do so with a much smaller chemical impact:
Cast iron - a fairly inexpensive and common cookware option. My personal preference is Lodge cast iron, which can be found at Walmart (or really almost everywhere), but a fun way to get the good stuff is to shop at your local Goodwill store. Some of the options may need a little TLC to begin with, but will stay with you for years to come.
Stainless steel - a beautiful non-toxic option as well, although typically more expensive.
Ceramic - again, another great option; however, I always recommend talking to the company about where they source the materials and to make sure there are no other chemicals being added.
As 2020 and corona-coping wears on, we are cooking and eating at home more often. So the next time you head to the kitchen to cook another meal, pull out your pans and take a quick inventory of what you’ve got. First, if you have a nonstick pot or pan, I would recommend getting rid of it sooner rather than later, especially if it's scratched or has surface damage of any kind. Then look into how you can replace them with safer alternatives. Finally, remember that every little step forward is a step in the right direction. Replacing one toxic item at a time — whether it be your deodorant, your mattress, or your frying pan — will make a huge difference in your life!
Heather Disarro is the author and creator of Heather’s Dish, a clean beauty educator, a health coach and social media boss. She loves spending time with her husband and two kids doing almost anything outdoors, eating great food, reading and enjoying everything Arkansas has to offer.