This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Green Tip Tuesday: Is your cookware adding toxins to your food?

The year was 1998.  Steve and I had just moved into our dream home.  A huge box is waiting on the kitchen island for me as I enter the  house for the first time as a homeowner.  Steve has given me a huge surprise: a gorgeous set of Teflon-coated Calphalon cookware.  I was in heaven.

Fast forward to 2006.  The pans are no longer gleaming a gorgeous black anymore.  Despite my vigilant use of plastic utensils on the pans scratches have appeared, some deeper than others.  Basically the pans look as though they have been used daily for 8 years - as they should.  Do you have any Teflon coated pans?  Teflon is a cook's dream in my opinion because food simply doesn't stick to it.  Teflon is also a huge health hazard because it breaks down from usage and heat - the 2 things to which any pot is guaranteed to be exposed.

I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to heat my coated pans above medium heat.  Perhaps there were instructions that came with the pans,but I didn't read them.  I only read the Care Instructions that were printed clearly on tags attached to each pan.  There certainly weren't any warnings attached to the pans.  I frequently turned the burner on high and boiled water in my pans or sauteed onions -- you know, I cooked with them.

The problem is this: once the Teflon coating has scratches on it breakdown occurs.  Every time the pan is used a compound called perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA) is released.  PFOA is toxic to human beings, cannot be metabolized by our bodies, and therefore becomes just another toxin we have stored in our fat that is a poison to us.  Now it's true that it takes very high temperatures for PFOA to be released in pans that are unscratched, but after the surface Teflon is compromised it doesn't take very much heat at all.

If PFOA were only present in coated pans then I suppose we could all safely argue that our exposure is minimal, quantifiable, and completely avoidable - unless of course you ever eat out at a restaurant in which case you never know what type pan in which your food is prepared, but PFOA is also present in ScotchGuard products, carpet, furniture, some paints, food wrap (!), some dry cleaning products, and the StainMaster line of carpet protectors.  In other words you may be exposed to PFOA in almost every surface of your home, not to mention direct ingestion from your cookware.  Not so quantifiable and avoidable anymore, is it?

The answer: stainless steel cookware.  Not coated stainless steel, just plain old stainless steel.  Add a little olive oil to the pan so food won't stick.  Cook at lower temperatures, you'll destroy less enzymes and vitamins that way anyway, and treat yourself to some stainless steel cooking utensils, cookie sheets, and mixing bowls while you're at it.  Sound expensive?  It doesn't have to be because unlike Teflon coated cookware which breaks down uncoated stainless steel cookware can last for decades so you can buy it used, give it a wash, and off you go.  Found some great used stainless steel but it has stains?  (I know, it's supposed to be stainless!)  My old friend vinegar and a scratch-free scrubber should do the trick.

Now go cook up a safe and healthy meal!

1 comment:

Sarcastic Bastard said...

I'd be more worried about cell phones than cookware, personally. But, then again, I never cook at home. I eat out a lot.