Cooking is something most of us love to do. And the one thing we ensure while cooking is that we are using proper and clean utensils and vegetables to maintain good hygiene for presenting the tastiest food. But what if we tell you that the utensil sets you are using for cooking can play a major role in improving or degrading the quality of the food you are cooking in it. There are several metals that we consume with food that comes through cooking utensils and these metals not only rob several nutrients from food but also make it toxic.
Although trace levels of some metals, such as Chromium (Cr), are essential for vital functions in the human body, excessive intake of such metals can result in health problems. Therefore, the release of toxic metals such as Nickel (Ni), Cadmium (Cd) and Lead (Pb) from food contact materials is a major public health concern. Most of the metallic kitchen utensils are not composed of a single material, rather are composed of alloys.
Harmful Materials in Kitchen:-
Choosing the correct cookware is very important while cooking as utensils play a major role in it. Here are a few kitchen utensil sets which we should stop using for cooking purposes:-
- Unlined Copper Cookware:- In old times drinking from copper vessels used to be considered healthy. But if copper cookware is not used properly it can lead to copper toxicity. While cooking in copper cookware copper particles leak into the food and this increases the health issues like liver or kidney damage.
- Aluminum Cookware:- Aluminum is another commonly used cooking utensil. As it's an excellent heat conductor it is widely used by people. However, most of us are not aware of the health problems one can suffer from when the utensil is heated. Aluminum cooking utensils can react with acidic foods like tomatoes, vinegar and citrus. This reaction can make the food toxic and might also lead to stomach troubles and nausea and leaches out the food’s nutritional value. Therefore, it is advised to avoid cooking such food in aluminum utensils.
- Brass Cookware:- Brass cooking utensils are considered to be old kitchen utensils and used to prepare traditional recipes like those of chicken, mutton, and biryani. Eating in brass kitchen utensils may not cause any harm to our health but cooking in these utensils might not be a good idea. Because during heating brass reacts easily with salt and acidic food which is why it's better to avoid cooking although brass kitchen utensils can be used for mild frying.
- Clay Pot:- Clay pots are considered the best cooking utensil. It allows moisture and heat to circulate through the food that helps in retaining nutrients. But due to modern manufacturing techniques, the purity of clay pots has been compromised. These may include impurities, iron oxide, and traces of metal. Some of these materials can be harmful to your health.
- Iron Cookware:- Iron cookware are also considered the safest way to cook as it helps in the absorption of trace elements known as “iron”. But it is safe as long as you take a few precautions. It is best not to cook in an iron vessel every day, keep it to no more than two to three times a week. Sour or acidic foods may react with the iron to create an unpleasant metallic taste. Wash the iron utensils with a mild dishwashing detergent and dry immediately. Don't use any abrasive kitchen scrubbers or sponges, such as steel wool. Before storing, apply a thin coat of vegetable oil to protect it from rust.
Harmful Effect on The Body:-
Cooking utensils that have the combination of nylon, non-stick or Teflon are always best to avoid. They usually have chemicals, even some utensils that claim that they are BPA -free will still have some chemicals, therefore it is best to avoid them. According to the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessments (BfR), if utensils are heated to temperatures up to 70 degrees centigrade, they can release toxins into food that they come into contact with. These substances are called “Oligomers”, they can potentially cause liver and thyroid diseases. Apart from the heating point, plastic kitchen utensils such as spoons, spatulas, barbecue tongs and many more can cause damage to your thyroid and liver. Most of us use non-stick tawa or griddle- Constant usage can erode the utensils and get mixed with your food. The non-stick surface is made of carcinogenic substances that could sweep into our bodies and lead to liver or GI problems. Browned old kitchen utensils can cause health problems when not washed properly. It is often seen with aluminum kitchen utensils.
Are you slicing raw chicken and then veggies on the same cutting board? Don't do it as the germs from uncooked meat can get into whatever you are cutting next. The bacteria can double up after 10 minutes of use no matter what you are cutting.
The Most Poisonous Kitchen Utensil?
The food contact materials (FCMs) that are used for cooking at high temperatures are made of metals and alloys. The most widely used metals are aluminum, iron, tin, copper, nickel, and chromium. Most of the kitchen utensils are made up of alloys rather than a single material. Even arsenic, cadmium and lead can be added as contaminants or impurities in the manufacturing process. Heavy metals are known to disrupt the functioning of our vital organs, and they also disrupt the essential nutrients or minerals by preventing them from fulfilling their basic functions. Therefore, it is important to remember all metals at high temperatures can be toxic and some can be poisonous even at small concentrations.
Cooking Utensils to Keep your Kitchen Toxin Free:-
As we learnt till now, cooking is not just about the ingredients but also about the utensils you are using. Making the switch might take some time but it's worth it in the end. Here are some safe cooking utensils which will not toxify our food:-
1. Stainless Steel Utensils:-
- Stainless steel utensils are nowadays becoming very popular among people due to their sleek appearance and shiny surface. Stainless steel kitchen utensils are metal alloys (A mixture of chromium, nickel, silicon and carbon ).
- Stainless steel cooking utensils are quite safe products for acid foods as it allows cooking without the risk of leaching any harmful chemicals.
- Its cooking ability is good- quick heat absorption and it gets heated evenly.
- Very durable.
CAUTION:- If the mixture is not created in correct proportions this can be harmful to the human body. Therefore quality checking is very important while buying these kitchen utensils.
- Wooden Kitchen Tools:-
Wooden Kitchen utensils like spoons and spatulas are quite popular. They are soft and won't scratch your cookware. The wood material is non-reactive and won't leach harmful chemicals into your food. Wooden utensils don’t react with the acids in foods and don’t leave a metallic taste as metal spoons do. Research indicates that some woods (pine and oak) appear to have natural bacteria-killing properties. Germs and bacteria grow faster on plastic and metal than on wooden kitchenware surfaces.
CAUTION:- Utensils are harder to clean, quickly lose their glossy appearance, pick up the stains, develop cracks or splinters.
- Glass Cookware:- The advantages of glass cookware are it responds well to most oven based cooking, it does not react with acidic foods, safely stores all foods in it, and most importantly it is healthy as there are no adverse side effects from cooking in it. Their non-reactive nature makes the cooking healthy. They neither release elements into the food nor absorb anything from them and thus, result in nutrient-rich final dishes.
Kitchen Utensils play an important role while cooking. In case we are not cautious with the type of utensils we are using during cooking its overall effect will be on our health and can lead to health problems like liver and kidney issues, headaches, hormone disruption, thyroid and reproductive issues, weekend immune system etc. Serving nutrient-rich and healthy food to our family is on the top priority therefore, it is important to be aware of which kitchen utensils you should use to cook and which you should avoid.
- Dabonne, S.; Koffi, B. P. K.; Kouadio, E. J. P.; Koffi, A. G.; Due, E. A.; Kouame, L. P. Traditional Utensils: Potential Sources of Poisoning by Heavy Metals. 2010, 4.