In a recently published study, researchers found that a single scratch on a Teflon pan can leave behind approximately 9,000 microplastic particles—and those plastic particles leach right into our food… yikes!
With studies like this one making headlines, it’s no wonder why more and more people are looking for healthier, nontoxic cookware options.
Today I’m giving you the do’s and don’ts of cookware so you can feel good preparing your food at home without having to worry about harmful chemicals.
And by the way, that doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy expensive new cookware. Sometimes it’s just about protecting the cookware you already have, which we’ll talk about today as well.
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Microplastics in Cookware? Seriously?
Yup. The main source of microplastics in cookware is polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), aka the large family of toxic “forever chemicals” used to coat pots and pans to make them nonstick.
In case you needed a reminder of why PFAS suck, these manmade chemicals are endocrine disruptors that cannot be broken down by the body and accumulate in our tissues. Exposure to PFAS is linked to cancer, birth defects, liver disease, thyroid problems, reduced sperm counts, decreased immunity, and so much more.
A Quick Reminder: We’re All Doing the Best We Can
The fact of the matter is, cooking your own food at home is astronomically better than eating processed food or takeout. For so many, this is a huge step in their health journey, and I do not want to take away from that. So, on the hierarchy of things, the type of cookware you use falls secondary to that.
However, if you are ready to upgrade your cookware, below are some cleaner options to reduce potential exposure to PFAS, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals. And if you’re not ready to replace your pots and pans, that’s okay too! I have some tips for how to protect the cookware you already have using less-abrasive cooking and cleaning tools.
Let’s jump in!
Today’s protocol features two stages of intervention. The first is the most hardcore approach: throwing out any old, scratched pots and pans and replacing them with newer ones.
1. Replace scratched pots and pans with one of these less toxic options. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no perfect cookware—each type has its pros and cons.
The following list goes in order of my most preferred cookware to the ones I have some reservations about. All of them are free of PFAS, however, and much better options than Teflon and aluminum.
- Pros: inexpensive, versatile (can be used on the stove top and in the oven), lasts a long time if seasoned properly, leaches iron into food and can help reach daily intake goals, which might be helpful for menstruating women.
- Cons: can be heavy, cooking acidic foods (like tomatoes) in cast iron leaches extra iron into your food and can cause an off flavor. Those with heavy metal issues or hemochromatosis should avoid it.
- Recommendation: Lodge Cast Iron Skillet (budget-friendly), Cast Iron Always Pan, a modern twist on old cast iron created by a few of my friends at OurPlace (not a sponsor)
- Pros: nonstick, stylish, easy to clean.
- Cons: scratches easily, have to replace every couple of years, which can get costly.
- Recommendation: Caraway, OurPlace
- Pros: retains heat well, is relatively inexpensive, lasts forever if you take proper care of it.
- Cons: concerns with chromium and nickel leaching, which can trigger allergic symptoms in those who are sensitive.
- Recommendation: Cuisinart Stainless Steel
One potential concern with ceramic and stainless steel cookware is that they have an aluminum core, which can leach aluminum if scratched.
2. Protect the cookware that you already have. In a perfect world, I would love for everyone to stop using Teflon and aluminum pans completely, but I understand that may not be an affordable option for everyone. If that’s you, try these low-to-no-cost options instead:
- Use wooden or silicone cooking utensils instead of metal or plastic.
- Avoid cutting food in your cookware to prevent scratching.
- Wash your cookware with a nonabrasive sponge or cloth. The soft side of a sponge, dish towel, or a plant-based loofa works great.
- Make a soft sponge at home. Most DIY videos requrie a sewing machine and some basic sewing skills. Investing in a good sponge might be worth it to protect thousands of dollars of cookware.
There’s a lot of innovation happening in the cookware space right now, but just because something is advertised as nontoxic doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. Until there’s a nontoxic cookware line that’s 100 percent safe and transparent about its quality testing, we have to assess the pros and cons of each and make the best decision based on our personal preferences.
What kind of cookware do you have? Are you thinking about switching to one of the options above? Reply to this email and let me know!
Here’s to your health,