From clay pots that our grandmas used to love to iron kadhai (woks) that our mothers say are very beneficial, to nonstick pans that we find convenient, our kitchens are filled with different types of cookware, and we keep switching between them based on what we find on the Internet.

One day, social media tells us 'aluminium cookware is bad for health' and there go all aluminium pots and pans. The next day, Instagram is against nonstick cookware, and so are we.

But which cookware should actually be used? Let experts answer this question for you.

Why does cookware matter?

"The type of material that cookware is made of can alter the flavour of your food," chef Babendra Singh, Temple Street, Delhi (Rajender Nagar and Ashok Nagar), tells India Today.

"Different cookware materials conduct heat differently, which can impact how your food is cooked and how it tastes," the chef adds.

"The cookware in which the food is cooked and served absolutely matters because you are what you eat," adds Dr Prashant R Rao, senior consultant, gastroenterology and cancer, laparoscopic surgeon, Surya Hospital, Mumbai.

"I see many patients in my practice who come with an upset stomach, and I do feel that the cookware used does play some role in causing these gastric problems," the doctor says.

Meanwhile, Dr Bhavana Diyora, nutrition coach and preventive wellness specialist, MyGALF (a wellness marketplace) also feels that selecting the right cookware is important as it gets used daily and constantly.

Dr Diyora explains, "Using certain cookware with specific materials for cooking can pose health risks. For example, some materials may release harmful chemicals into food, potentially exceeding daily limits and leading to health issues such as Alzheimer's disease, anaemia, or respiratory problems. It's essential to choose cookware that minimises the risk of toxic leaching (a process where substances are dissolved and removed from a solid by a solution) to maintain optimal health."

Harmful chemicals in food

In India, popular cookware options include stainless steel, aluminium, copper, nonstick, ceramic, iron, and clay (mitti).

As per the experts, some cookware materials can release harmful chemicals into your food, particularly at high temperatures.

For example, the Teflon coating used in nonstick cookware at high temperatures can release a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) into your food, which can lead to several health issues including cancer.

Aluminium cookware

According to chef Singh, aluminium cookware is known for its excellent heat conductivity, making it ideal for quick and even cooking.

However, uncoated aluminium may react with acidic foods, so it is often used with a nonreactive coating.

Dr Rao agrees and says that although aluminium cookware is cheap and lightweight, it can react with acidic foods causing the metal to leach into the food, leading to high blood aluminium levels, which have been linked with Alzheimer's disease.

Stainless steel cookware

Dr Diyora explains that stainless steel cookware is generally considered safe for cooking. However, there are concerns about nickel and chromium leaching into food, especially when cooking acidic or salty dishes.

While these levels are typically low and within safe limits, individuals with nickel or chromium sensitivities may want to choose alternative cookware options.

Chef Singh also feels that stainless steel cookware is loved by home cooks and restaurant cooks alike, for good reasons.

Not only are stainless steel utensils endlessly durable, but their pots and pans are also nonreactive and almost completely rust-proof.

Copper cookware

Copper cookware offers exceptional heat conductivity, allowing precise temperature control. The utensils are often lined with stainless steel or tin to prevent any reactivity with acidic foods.

However, uncoated copper can cause toxicity through food, leading to vomiting, nausea, and diarrhoea.

"Copper cookware, if not lined well, may react with acidic foods. High levels of copper in the body can cause stomach and liver issues," shares Dr Rao.

Nonstick cookware

Dr Diyora goes on to say, "Nonstick cookware, particularly those coated with Teflon, can emit toxic fumes when heated at high temperatures. These fumes can cause respiratory issues and a condition known as polymer fume fever."

As per Dr Rao, "Teflon-containing cookware can cause liver cancer, breast cancer, thyroid disease."

To minimise the risk, it's best to use nonstick cookware at low to medium temperatures and avoid overheating or using scratched pans.

"Nonstick is often (unfairly) pegged as a cheap, lower-quality beginner's cookware option," adds chef Singh.

"While you can certainly find extremely cheap nonstick pans (which will, almost inevitably, start to die out after a year or two), you can also find durable, high-performing nonstick cookware," he explains.

Iron cookware

"Iron cookware can be beneficial for increasing dietary iron intake, particularly for individuals with iron deficiency," says Dr Diyora.

She further mentions that cooking acidic foods in cast iron pans can also increase the iron content of the dish. However, while iron leaching from cookware is generally considered safe and even beneficial, it may not significantly contribute to overall iron intake for most people.

It is important to make sure that the iron vessel is cleaned and dried properly so that there is no oxidised layer forming over the iron vessel, and it should be removed before using it again.

Ceramic cookware

This is a popular alternative to nonstick cookware. However, some ceramic coatings may contain lead or cadmium, which can be harmful to your health.

"Lead and cadmium could cause several serious medical problems such as brain damage, and certain types of cancer," mentions Dr Rao.

Clay cookware

Clay (mitti) cookware is valued for its traditional and natural properties. It is generally considered healthy for cooking, imparting a unique flavour to dishes and retaining moisture well.

The experts feel that it is generally safe to cook in clay cookware if it is properly made and used correctly. However, some may contain harmful metals like lead and cadmium.

What to choose?

  • It is essential to choose cookware made from safe materials, particularly if you plan to cook at high temperatures or with acidic foods. Experts also advise purchasing cookware from well-known brands that ensure thorough quality checks and balances.
  • "Iron cookware is hands down the best possible metal for cooking. You can easily do any type of cooking using iron utensils, as they have zero harmful effects. Iron gets heated up uniformly and helps in quickly cooking the food. When heated up, it also releases iron which gets absorbed by the food and is beneficial for our body," says chef Singh.
  • He adds that another great option for safe cooking is earthenware. Clay pots are gaining popularity nowadays because of their special style of cooking.
  • Meanwhile, Dr Rao also suggests cooking food in cast iron and stainless steel cookware. 
  • However, Teflon-coated nonstick cookware would be an absolute no for him. "Apart from that, I would recommend avoiding aluminium cookware, uncertified clay cookware, and uncoated copper cookware," the doctor adds.

Dr Diyora, who also suggests cooking in stainless steel, iron, and clay cookware, says that while picking cookware, always check for certification indicating lead and arsenic-free materials.

Ensure proper maintenance and consider the reactivity of metals with certain foods; for instance, avoid cooking acidic foods in copper or brass cookware.

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2024-04-15T10:02:20Z dg43tfdfdgfd