Do You Know Nutrition: Food only as safe as pot it's cooked in

Dec. 20, 2011 at 6:20 a.m.

By Phylis Canion

Can you please share information regarding cookware? With the recent controversy over chemicals used to produce non-stick cooking pots and pans, I want to be sure I am using the best cookware when cooking for my young family.

Pots, pans and other cookware are made from a variety of materials. These materials can enter the food that we cook in them, so here are some benefits and risks of cookware materials.

Cast iron is an old standby, known for its durability and even heat distribution. Cast iron cookware can also help ensure that eaters in your house get enough iron, which the body needs to produce red blood cells, as it seeps off the cookware into food in small, safe amounts. Iron cookware provides less than 20 percent of total daily iron intake-well within safe amounts.

Stainless steel is a mixture of several different metals, including nickel, chromium and molybdenum, is very strong and resists wear and tear. Unless your stainless steel cookware is dented, the amount of metals likely to get into your food is negligible.

Copper cookware is excellent for sauces and saute's and preferred by many chef's. Copper excels at quick warm-ups and even heat distribution. Because copper can leak into food in large amounts when heated (it is not certain how much can be taken in daily), the cooking surfaces are usually lined with tin or stainless steel. Coated copper cookware can lose its protective layer if scoured.

Anodized aluminum cookware is now the choice for the health-conscious cook, rather than aluminum cookware.

The electro-chemical anodizing process locks in the cookware's base metal, aluminum, so that it cannot get into the food, therefore, making it a hard, non-stick, scratch-resistant, durable and easy-to-clean surface.

Ceramic, enamel or glass cookware is easily cleaned and can be heated safely to high temperatures. The only health concern about using glassware or enamel ware comes from minor components used in making, glazing or decorating, such as pigments, lead or cadmium.

Silicone is a synthetic rubber, which contains boned silicon, a natural element abundant in sand, rock and oxygen. Silicon cookware is nonstick, stain-resistant, hard wearing, cools quickly, and tolerates extremes of temperatures. Silicone rubber does not react with food or produce any hazardous fumes.

Non-stick cookware has had a coating applied to metal utensils and cookware surfaces. An independent review panel has recommended that perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts, known as PFOA, the coating, be considered for more extensive review. The Environmental Protection Agency has launched an extensive investigation and has requested the manufacturing industry to report to the EPA with data if exposure is dangerous to humans.

Merry Christmas to all.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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