Your grandparents probably grew up using cast-iron cookware that was cured and seasoned with cooking oil to keep it clean and easy to take care of. By the time your parents were building their own cookware collections, however, there were dozens of different kinds of “easy-clean” cookware items. These items were usually ceramic-coated, covered with Teflon or made of aluminium. These items were initially well received because of their labour-saving potential, but in recent years the potentially toxic nature of coated cookware has come to light.
PTFE Can Be Toxic
Teflon and Swiss Diamond Cookware contain PTFE, a toxic plastic polymer. When this polymer is heated to 500F, it emits noxious fumes. If the coating gets scratched or damaged, it can start to break down and release carcinogenic chemicals. In theory, you shouldn’t over-heat your pots and pans, but accidents do happen. Why take the risk?
Another form of toxic cookware is ceramic-coated cookware. Ceramic-coated cookware should not be confused with pure ceramic cookware. The ceramic-coated variety has a thin coating of ceramics held in place by a chemical-based polymer. This synthetic coating is softer than the metal underneath it, and degrades easily, allowing potentially toxic metals and compounds to seep into your food. The usable lifespan of ceramic coated cookware can be as little as one year. Pure ceramic cookware, however, is much longer lasting and is also non-reactive, so it is safe to use.
Aluminium, and related substances such as anodized aluminium, is another common toxic cookware substance. Aluminium is reactive and can taint your food. When ingested, aluminium can build up in your body and may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Anodized aluminium is safer than standard aluminium, but if the anodized coating gets scratched then the risks are the same. It is best to avoid aluminium cookware, and aluminium foil for that matter, and use ceramics or stainless steel instead.
If you have recently started following the Paleo diet then you will find yourself doing a lot of cooking. Consider replacing your old cookware with stainless steel, oven-safe glass or 100% ceramic cookware as soon as possible. The Paleo diet is a diet that involves eating foods that are in a form that is as close to nature as possible. If you plan to avoid processed foods, artificial flavourings and artificial colours, then it makes sense to try to avoid contaminating your food during the cooking process too.
Another thing to consider when preparing and storing foods is plastic. Many plastic containers are liable to release chemicals into the foods that are stored in them. This is true for plastic bottles, Tupperware containers and even plastic spatulas and bowls. Chemicals such as BPA can disrupt your body’s natural hormone levels ? in particular the amount of oestrogen in your body ? increasing your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer. Whenever possible, avoid using plastic or resin utensils and containers to prepare, store and process your home-cooked food.