Choosing the Healthiest Cookware

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There are many choices when it comes to cookware and appliances. So much so, that it can be darn overwhelming when you are looking to replace or purchase a set of pots and pans for the first time and wanting the best for you and your family’s health and budget.

healthy cookware
Healthy eating starts with the cookware

As this site is about healthy eating that starts with healthy cookware, it is only right for us provide visitors to this site with the relevant information to make an informed decision.

The following is my guide covering cookware materials and info on the healthiest cookware for your family.

My Guide to Healthy Cookware

If you are looking to make an informed decision, then, check out the information below.

I’ve included a video by Bright Side that looks at several choices of cookware in terms of health and safety. This includes Teflon, cast iron, aluminum, copper, stainless steel pans, ceramic coated, and pure ceramic cookware.

Ensuring Safe Cookware

The US federal regulations on food contact surfaces ensure the safety of cookware. This means there are health and safety standards for engineering cookware surfaces of products sold in the US.

Cookware for home use is not really regulated the same as commercial products. Regarding household products, the Cookware Manufacturers Association explains:

…it is incumbent on the manufacturer to ensure that each coating is formulated with ingredients known to be safe for use in contact with food and that are appropriate for the intended conditions of use.

Cookware Manufacturers Association

Safety of Nonstick Cookware

For this reason, in terms of nonstick coatings, it’s worth checking whether the company has tested the product and it complies with the FDA commercial test criteria.

Tip: Look for certificates or passes for tests performed by a third party laboratory or their coatings suppliers stating this.

There are also state regulations, e.g., California’s Proposition 65, restricting or ensuring safe levels of a multitude of known substances.


Which Is The Healthiest Cookware?

The following video by Bright Side looks at the main cookware materials.

The video goes for 9:17 mins. Short on time?

The timestamps for each cookware:

  • Teflon at 0:38 min
  • cast iron at 2:58
  • aluminum cookware at 3:31
  • copper cookware at 5:12
  • stainless steel cookware at 6:29
  • ceramic coated at 6:54
  • pure ceramic cookware at 8:18

It seems Bright Side agrees with our mantra… eating healthy starts with using healthy cookware. That is, it is important to avoid materials, whether in cookware or appliances that come in contact with your food and which may be toxic for the sake of your health and that of your family.

You might also like to check out my article on what to know about Teflon vs ceramic cookware.


What is the Safest Cookware Material?

Which is the healthy cookware material? Quality stainless steel, ceramic, cast iron, and glass cookware, are considered the healthier choices when looking at cookware material.

Cast Iron

We think of cast iron skillets as healthy cooking pans. Especially when cooking acidic foods (like tomatoes), they add iron to the food. Most of us do well with extra iron in our diets. But some people have to avoid it, e.g. if they have hemochromatosis.

Tip: Keep your cast iron cookware ‘seasoned’ to avoid rusting and reduce leaching of iron.

Enameled cast iron cookware for that matter stops iron leaching into the food. You might like to check out my article covering the different types of cast iron skillets.

The Lodge cast iron skillet is made in USA:

Click image for price at Amazon

Glass (Pyrex)

Glass (or Pyrex) is a good option for cooking acidic foods such as tomatoes. Rather than stovetop use, glass ware is most used in oven cooking – check out my article on the best bakeware.

Tip: Avoid extreme changes in temperature with the cookware as it will likely crack.

100% Ceramic Non Toxic Cookware

Pure ceramic cookware safety comes down to non toxic clay materials that are eco-friendly and safe for your health.

Xtrema pure ceramic cookware – Click image for price

The makers of Xtrema 100% ceramic cookware claim:

From the ceramic glaze to the core, it [their cookware] contains no metal, cadmium, lead, PFOA, PTFE, glues, polymers, coatings or dyes.

…every shipment is inspected and tested for the presence of heavy metals. Xtrema® cookware is also FDA-approved and meets California Prop 65 standards, certifying that it is free of more than 800 compounds that may cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.

Xtrema Pure Ceramic Cookware

My article on pure ceramic cookware by Xtrema covers this 100% ceramic cookware range. 

Tip: Like glass cookware, avoid extreme changes in temperature when using pure ceramic cookware.

Stainless Steel

Nickel and chromium are components of stainless steel and hence can leach into food – particularly when cooking acidic foods 2.

If looking to buy stainless steel, check out the grade – indicated by the fraction stamped on the bottom. Stainless steel cookware with 18/8 or 18/10 are the least likely grades to leach into food. The first number (18) indicates the chromium amount and the other the nickel portion.

Nickel and to a less extent chromium are considered a frequent cause of allergic contact dermatitis. Both metals present many diverse potential sources.

J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Oct 2; 61(39): 9495–9501.

Tip: Avoid storing acidic food in stainless steel.

The benefits of stainless steel is that it is durable and can be recycled.


Healthiest Non Stick Pans

What’s the safest non stick cookware? There are two main two types of non stick cookware. You can choose pans with a ceramic inner coating or those with a PTFE cooking surface.

In all cases of nonstick cookware where the coated cooking surface has deteriorated, the exposed metal has the potential to leach aluminum into your food. Aluminum is considered harmful when reaching above certain levels in the body.

The GreenLife ‘Free Your Healthy Chef’ Ceramic Cookware

Click image for price at Amazon

Ceramic Non Stick Cookware

Ceramic non stick is considered a healthier option for reasons described in my guide to ceramic nonstick cookware.

It’s important the ceramic coating remains in tact and this comes down to caring for the pans. The surface of all non stick pans erode eventually with use.

You can extend the life of your non stick pan by making sure to avoid metal utensils and taking other care tips, which I write about in my article on how to care for ceramic nonstick cookware.


PTFE Non Stick Pans

The concern about Teflon, as noted in the above video, is the polymer fume fever, which can occur hours after exposure.

Birds are particularly sensitive to these fumes. So watch this if you have pet birds at home.

Also, the PFOA (that’s been used in early Teflon pans) has been associated with several types of cancer, including breast cancer. Certainly something to think twice about.


Avoiding Toxic Cookware

Proposition 65 sets limits for heavy metals, lead and cadmium. Our bodies do not require these elements. In fact, the accumulation of these in our bodies can cause an assortment of health problems.

Copper too, while a small amount is essential for our wellbeing, can be toxic at high levels. This is especially something to watch when using lemon or tomato based ingredients since the acid in these foods reacts with and releases more of the metals.

FAQs

What Is The Proposition 65?

California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 is known as Proposition 65.

The official government site explains: “Proposition 65 requires businesses to provide warnings to Californians about significant exposures to chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.  These chemicals can be in the products that Californians purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment.”

While not an officially adopted regulation, California’s Attorney General has used the following standard to enforce Proposition 65: California bans lead content greater than 0.1 parts per million in any foodware surface…

From the Cookware Manufacturers Association Standards Manual, Pages 28-32

The state maintains a list of chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.


Information Sources

  1. Cookware Manufacturers Association, FDA Coating Compliance Information, CMA Standards Manual, Pages 28-32. Access date June 30, 2019.
  2. Kamerud KL, Hobbie KA, Anderson KA. Stainless steel leaches nickel and chromium into foods during cooking. J Agric Food Chem. 2013;61(39):9495–9501. doi:10.1021/jf402400v

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