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How to select cookware and utensils for healthy cooking.

Apr 11, 2022 Wellbeing, General, Lifestyle diseases

Which one is better-Aluminium or stainless steel cookware, is ceramic cookware safe or is it better to use cast iron, iron pans or glass, how about brass, bronze and teflon coated nonstick cookware? 

By Keerthi Sreejith, Candok Health Coach @ candok.in

Healthy eating requires knowledge of health food options. Develop basic cooking skills and this will come handy in times of need. Cooking at home gives you a better control on health, meals prepared at home are healthier than processed foods in terms of nutrient content and hygiene. Preparing at home also gives control on the ingredients, cookware and utensils you use. Heavy metal toxicity from cookware leads to serious health problems and is a growing cause of concern

Safe pans and cookware. Which cookware is safe to use?

This brings us to the topic of discussion-  selecting cookware for healthy cooking.

An extensive range of cookware and utensils are present in the market today. Considering safety and hygiene which one is better, aluminium or stainless steel cookware, is ceramic cookware safe or is it better to use cast iron, iron pans and glass, how about brass, bronze and teflon coated nonstick cookware? 

Aluminum cookware:  Aluminium cookware is relatively inexpensive and is popular in the market. Studies have shown that aluminium cookware reacts with acidic vegetables and foods leading to leakage of aluminium. These particles from food accumulate in the body causing health concerns. The World Health Organization suggests that a 40 gm per kilogram body weight of aluminum ingested a day is within safe limits. But studies show that  excessive accumulation of aluminium causes health issues like constipation, skin diseases,  lack of energy, paralysis,  liver problems, heart problems and brain disorders. They destroy essential minerals, preventing them from fulfilling their biological functions. Aluminum pans and utensils used to store food, especially acidic foods leach aluminium which may exceed tolerable limits. 

Pressure cooker: Pressure cooker is one of the indispensable utensils in Indian kitchen- it cooks food in just half the time. Some studies showed that cooking  at a high temperature and pressure cooker destroys nutrients. The study, “Microwave and traditional cooking methods: Effect of cooking on antioxidant capacity and phenolic compounds content of seven vegetables”, including carrots, cauliflower, peas, potatoes, tomato, spinach, swiss chard concluded as follows;

Total phenolic contents: 

  • Raw vegetables had more phenolic content than the boiled ones.
  • Pressure cooked carrots, cauliflower,  and tomatoes showed enhanced phenolic content than raw ones and more than boiled ones.
  • For all these vegetables, pressure cooking seems to be better than boiling for retaining or enhancing the phenolic content.

Total antioxidant capacity:

  • Carrots, tomatoes and spinach had enhanced total antioxidant capacity while cooking in a pressure cooker.
  • Boiled cauliflower, peas and potatoes showed higher antioxidant levels

Based on your preference and the type of dish, you may choose to boil or use a pressure cooker. In normal circumstances the nickel and chromium release from the stainless steel are not a major case of concern. Rather the focus should be on a balanced nutritious diet. If you are sensitive to even smaller levels of nickel and chromium, your dermatologist, physician or allergy specialist or a dietitian will be able to guide you. Aluminium pressure cooker is not recommended, a good grade stainless steel pressure cooker may be an option to use. A new stainless steel cookware seems to leach nickel and chromium for the first few uses and if it is a good grade stainless steel, a maximum protective effect seems to become effective after a few uses. 

Stainless steel cookware: Stainless steel cookware is easy to use and maintain. Comes in all sizes and shapes and can be used to prepare a variety of dishes. Stainless steel cookware with copper bottom should be used with caution. Avoid copper bottom stainless steel cookware to prepare or store acidic foods. Frying with oil in copper bottom may also lead to leaching toxic materials to the food. Copper is a good conductor of heat and so these copper bottom stainless steel cookwares are gaining popularity and are also widely available in the market. Copper is a good conductor of heat but it reacts with acidic foods and oils and leaches into foods which are highly toxic. High grade, good quality pure stainless steel cookware and utensils are an option to use. Avoid those with copper bottoms for boiling with oil and for preparing, storing and serving acidic foods. 

Nonstick cookware: Non-stick cookware is widely available and high in demand cookware in the market. The nonstick coating allows the food to brown without sticking on the pan and with minimal oil use. Teflon, commonly used for coating, starts to break down while heating and inhaling these fumes may lead to Teflon Flu and several other conditions. When the pans are scratched, some of the nonstick coating can leach into food releasing toxic compounds.

Brass and Bronze: Bronze, also known as ‘kansa’ is used in traditional Ayurveda and is mentioned in Ayurveda classical texts. Bronze cookware and utensils are safe for preparing and serving food. Brass vessels were also widely used in ancient civilization. Storing water in copper utensils overnight and consuming may be an option

to avail the health benefits. Cooking acidic foods in cookware made of these metals should be avoided.

Ceramic Cookware: The problem with ceramic cookware is the coating and those made with aluminum. Anything that has got a coating will come away and is better avoided. 

Glass: Glass cookware is a safe option and ideal for microwave cooking. Choose good quality glass materials and avoid those having lead and cadmium which leach into food during the cooking process. A wise selection of quality glass cookware is an option.

Claypot : Cooking in a clay pot is better than cooking in other cookware. Claypot retains the oil and gives moisture to food because of its porous nature. Food cooked in a clay pot is tastier than any other cooking pans. It maintains the pH balance of the food and retains heat for a longer time. Clay pots also provide required minerals that include calcium, magnesium,  iron and phosphorus. Clay pot is a wise choice for cooking.

Cast iron and pure iron pots: Cast iron and pure iron cookware are options to use based on the dishes you make.These are safe cookware and when properly cared they last for generations. The advantages include its ability to retain heat, low cost, durability and the beneficial iron content. Once cast iron is hot, it has the ability to retain the heat for an extended period of time and cast iron relatively costs low when compared to other piece of cookware

Here are some additional points to prevent rusting and for longevity of your cast iron cookware:

  • After use, wash it with hot water and season it with a small quantity of vegetable oil to prevent rusting.
  • The more you use the cast iron cookware the smoother it becomes.

Benefit the iron from the iron cookware: During the process of cooking a small amount of iron is absorbed into the food. Studies prove that cooking in iron cookware helps to reduce iron deficiency anaemia, especially among children.  While frying by itself is not a healthy idea, it is also better to avoid deep frying in a cast iron cookware. Cast iron showed high trans fatty acid content while prolonged or repeated heating with oil compared to steel and glass cookware. 

Safe and Hygienic Cookware: 

Selecting cookware may look like a small step, but the results of having safe and hygienic cookware and utensils are paramount. 

Overall, based on our observation good quality glass, stainless steel, cast iron cookware and utensils are suggested for healthy cooking. Due care should also be given while preparing acidic dishes.


Click here to speak to a Candok Health Coach for your personalized consultation. 

Candok Health Coach can provide guidance,  prepare a customized diet plan, suggest basic physical activity and guide you through your journey to health and wellbeing. 

Understanding and applying Nutrition Series. Edited by Candok Editorial Board, Candok Lifestyle. Live Life, Naturally!

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