When non-stick cookware first entered the commercial consumer base in 1956, it took the world by storm. Like all great inventions, this one quickly began to transform our day to day life, as we know it today. And why not? From our frying pans to sandwich toasters, non-stick has made kitchen time for home cooks in India a lot more endearing and easy. Watch any culinary show, and you will find celebrity TV chefs wielding sleek and colourful non-stick pots and pans with a flourish.
That being said, not all is glory and fame when it comes to non-stick cookware. Recently, the US federal agency, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that PFAS chemicals were found in several food samples. These PFAS chemicals, potentially harmful for the body, have often been used for producing non-stick cookware.
So, are these utensils harming our bodies, and should we start looking for alternatives? Read on to find out.
A brief introduction
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals that are used in multiple industries for further production of items. Excellent for repelling oil and water, they have been an obvious choice for industries like food packaging, waxes, paints, and of course, non-stick cookware.
Also called “forever chemicals”, PFAS like PFOA and PFOS are very persistent in nature. Meaning, they don’t break down easily, and tend to accumulate and stay in the human body for a long period of time. Now, how does that become a problem?
According to studies conducted on the nature of PFAS chemicals, they can introduce several threats to the human body. While the most common results point at increased cholesterol levels, there are other findings, albeit limited, that offer a more grave picture. For example:
1. The PFOA have been linked with cancer.
2. The PFOS have been linked with thyroid hormone disruption.
3. Numbers also indicate towards effect on infant birth weights, and human immune system among others.
What’s the risk?
While around the world, concrete action is being taken to ban and restrict PFAS chemicals, the fact is, a lot of such chemicals are still being used in the manufacture of non-stick cookware. Thus, given the persistent nature of these chemicals, they can keep on accumulating in your body over the years. So, while you may not show immediate symptoms, the PFAS can adversely affect you in the long run. With the recent findings, it has now been proven that the chemicals have entered into our food chain, including water. And, one source for that is said to be non-stick cookware.
So, the next obvious question that pops up is, if not non-stick cookware, then what?
Traditionally, Indian kitchens have always had multiple ranges of cookware, often described by our elders as “healthy”. While you may have shrugged away their words earlier, it might be a wise idea to revisit them now. It has been proven that many traditional cooking instruments are not only efficient, but also eliminate the risks associated with non-stick cookware. Here is a brief list of alternatives you can try for a healthier lifestyle.
1. Cast iron cookware
If you don’t have a particular sensitivity to the said mineral, cast iron cookware might be the best option for you! They are cheaper, longer-lasting, and even have a natural “non stick” ability if seasoned right.
2. Earthen and clay cookware
That’s right, our traditional cookware is making a slow comeback, and for all the right reasons. Just make sure that the items you buy are unglazed, since the glaze can contain harmful chemicals. Beyond that, clay items are known to be absolutely safe and easy to use.
Other materials like stainless steel are not only popular, but also less likely to cause harm. Even copper cookware, if handled the right way, can be a safer choice.
So, it’s not enough to just rely on organic food for our safety. We have to make sure we are cooking the right way, too. Why not make the smarter choice today!
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