7 Absolute Worst & Best Cookware for Health

Natural Philosophy

Pans, Pots, and Other Cookware for Your Health

Intro - Best Cookware for Health

Discovering the best cookware for health is an important and often neglected task in the pursuit of health and  vitality. These are the best and worst types of cookware materials for your health.
(See the conclusion at the bottom of this page if you’re looking for a synopsis)

This subject is relatively straight-forward, without much controversy. But it does touch on one of the fundamental health questions within our society: mineral consumption. Like mineral supplements, pots and pans contribute a significant amount of concentrated minerals into our diets. In olden days, the vegetables and fruit from the forests and gardens sucked up the minerals from the earth, and we consumed them in a holistic form which has followed us through all of our evolution. Only recently did we start gathering the minerals up ourselves, packaging them, and selling them as remedies. It may be a necessity in a world of depleted soils, but there is significant evidence that mineral consumption in this form causes build-up on the organs, glands, and tissues of the body. Even something as inert as Vitamin D is brewing controversy. At the same time, it is known that elephants will travel hundreds of miles to reach salt-mines, so pure mineral consumption is not unknown in nature. Ponder that contrast for yourself, and sign up for the newsletter to get updated on a future colloidal silver post which will elucidate some of the pros and cons of concentrated metal consumption.

This post is all about the worst and best cookware for health that every kitchen dweller should know about. 

Non-stick Cookware

 

This type of cookware can have a variety of different metals as its base, coated over with a plastic. Before 2013-2015, teflon/nonstick pans contained perfluoroocatanoic acid (PFOA) which was linked to some forms of cancer, infertility, kidney, liver, and thyroid problems. In 1999 a study showed that 98% of the US population had some level of PFOA in their blood. PFOA was replaced with the Teflon plastic PTFE, which is somewhat safer because it requires a heat of around 300°C to emit the toxic fumes. However, it still has the same health problems associated with the banned substance, and a temperature of 300°C is not uncommonly reached in cooking. Also, if the pan becomes scratched it will leach whatever metal is below the surface (likely aluminum).

Overall this is a risky choice, as unless you are heating at low temperatures, toxic fumes will go into the air and leach into the food, and if the pan becomes scratched the metal base will leach.

non-stick cookware is not the best cookware for health

Cast-iron & Carbon Steel Cookware

Cast-iron is made of 97% iron and 3% carbon to harden the iron; carbon steel (Blue Steel) is 99% iron, 1% carbon. Iron pans are often a preferred choice for the health-minded, as they are simple and contain nothing but iron. The problem with iron cookware is that it leaches a lot of iron. One meal cooked in a cast-iron pan infuses 1-6mg of iron into the meal, and the recommended dose of iron for men is 8mg/day (for females 19-50 years of age, 15mg). If you cook 2 meals a day using this pan, most of the population will have reached their daily intake. That intake comes in a somewhat unnatural form, whereas the iron you’d receive in meat or vegetation comes caked in a natural, holistic form. Some people think that’s a fine way to consume minerals, I personally believe it’s a game of chemical whack-a-mole and in this case causes an excess, but there are arguments on both sides. This may be the healthiest option, or one of the worst, based on your perspective.

cast iron is one of the best cookware for health

Stainless Steel Cookware

The steel is nontoxic, but the coating is a mixture of chromium and nickel; similarly to cast-iron, they will leach into the food. Chromium isn’t as harmful because our body can manage larger amounts of it, but nickel is only needed in very small amounts. Notably, the first few cooks with the pan will leach a much higher amount of the metals, but later cooks will still leach, in a similar proportion to iron from the iron-cast pans. If you can get a mostly chromium coating it would be better than a high-nickel one, and most manufacturers use the nontoxic chromium type; but you’ll still be getting a relatively large amount of chromium and/or nickel every day.


Personally I’d rather have iron leach into my foods than chromium or nickel, and would take the cast-iron over this, but it may be dependent on your unique chemistry.

(Good study for more information on different types of stainless steel.)

healthy cooking options with stainless steel

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Aluminum Cookware

If it’s a non-coated aluminum pan it will, like the others pans, leach aluminum. There is a laundry list of known health complications from too much aluminum intake, including Alzheimer’s. So if it’s a non-coated pan it should be avoided or replaced. There are two common coatings for aluminum pans: nonstick and anodized.

We’ve already discussed the health concerns with nonstick. An anodized pan has gone through an oxidation process where the pan is dipped in an acid bath and shocked with electricity, this process creates aluminum oxide, which is essentially rust. This process hardens the metal significantly, and reduces leaching, but you’ll still be getting some aluminum in your food every time you cook.


I would avoid this type of cookware, as aluminum has more negative health consequences than some of the other metals. 

aluminum is not one of the best types of cooking pans

Ceramic Cookware

 

In this category there are: 100% ceramic (glazed) products, and a few varieties of ceramic-coated metal pans (also glazed).

 

The ceramic-coated non-stick types contain nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, and there’s good evidence (at least in animal studies) that they are pathogenic. These mostly only get released if the pan is scratched, but they’ll also be released at high temperatures (around 500°C). Another compound that might be used with ceramic coatings is Thermolon, which in some studies has been shown to leach at least a small amount of a variety of metals. The ceramic-coated cookware also has the risk of scratching, in which case you’d get the leaching of whatever metal is underneath the coat. You also have to consider what type of glaze is used, some of which include carcinogens and, in some cases, lead. Lead is a toxic metal.

With the 100% ceramic cookware brands there are no titanium dioxide risks, and the ceramic is nontoxic; the only health risk depends upon what type of glaze was used. One of the most popular brands of ceramic cookware is Xtrema, which is 100% ceramic, and claims that their glaze is “made of various inorganic minerals and oxides (which) contain no metals or lead and cadmium.” Not all 100% ceramic cookware will have nontoxic glazes, so research is needed to ensure your brand does.

 

It seems like a 100% ceramic pan with a nontoxic glaze is an excellent option, but the coated varieties have a variety of health risks.

Note: After finishing the research for this blog, I purchased cookware from the brand: Xtrema (no affiliation).

 

ceramic is one of the healthiest types of pots and pans

Granite Cookware

 

This is not actual granite, it isn’t a “rock” pan, it’s named for the aesthetic pattern. Granite cookware utilizes one of the usual metal bases (e.g. aluminum, stainless steel), with a granite-looking coating. The coating is either: non-stick, or vitreous enameled.

 

We’ve already discussed the health risks of non-stick coatings. If the label says that the product is PFOA/PTFE (non-stick) free, it is likely a vitreous enameled cookware, also termed porcelain enamel. This isn’t actual porcelain, it’s just a marketing name for vitreous enamel, which is a type of glass. Glass is usually nontoxic, but it can chip and whatever metal is beneath the enamel will leach into the food if it does. The chipped glass itself is also a potential health hazard as it could get into your food without you noticing. Also, some manufacturers use lead in the glass coating, so ensure that the product is lead-free.

 

Overall, if the type of granite coating is vitreous enamel/porcelain (glass), it is one of the best cookware for health, unless the glass coating is damaged or if the glass is made with lead.

granite cookware can be the a healthy material for cookware

Copper Cookware

Copper is extremely toxic, and so these pans are lined with either (usually) tin or stainless steel. Tin seems to be a relatively inert and harmless metal, and doesn’t leach much, but it’s a soft metal and can easily bruise or scratch, revealing the copper base. A stainless steel lining will be coated with nickel/chromium, with their associated health risks (discussed above). So if the lining is tin, there’s a bit of a risk, as a brand new pan is a relatively safe option (just a bit of tin leaching), but if the pan is damaged by utensils or incorrect cleaning, it may be one of the least safe options, as the toxic copper will leach.


Possibly a good option if you buy brand new and don’t cook much, or if you treat your cookware very well, but risky otherwise.

copper is one of the 7 healthiest cookware for health

Glass Cookware

A major concern with glass cookware is that it’s more likely to shatter if used improperly, but  you can mitigate this risk with a bit of research and purchasing the correct type of glass. There are two common types of glass cookware: Soda lime and Borosilicate glass.

 

Borosilicate glass contains about 1.1% aluminum. Compared to an aluminum pan, which has a much higher proportion of aluminum, the 1.1% is insignificant. Researchers in laboratories have been able to extract/leach the aluminum with certain chemicals, but the chemicals in regular meals are unlikely to cause any leaching. The major health risk with this type of cookware is whether the glass is leaded. Leaded glass can contain up to 20% lead. Lead is an extremely toxic metal.

 

As long as the glass is lead-free, it appears to be, perhaps, the best cookware for health; or, at least, it won’t add anything to your meal.

glass - best healthy cooking

Conclusion

In order of the best cookware for health to worst: If you’re willing to deal with and learn the correct use of (unleaded) glass cookware, in my opinion that is the healthiest option. A close second is 100% ceramic (not ceramic-coated) cookware with a nontoxic glaze (I personally purchased this type, brand name Xtrema). Vitreous enamel granite (not non-stick/teflon/PFOA/PTFE granite) cookware is also a good option if the vitreous enamel/glass coating contains no lead and is undamaged. Copper is a decent option if it’s brand new (will just leach a bit of tin), but if it’s beaten up or mistreated it will leach toxic copper. Cast-iron is another decent option, but you will consume a significant amount of iron if you cook with it regularly; some health professionals claim that’s a good thing; I disagree, but make up your own mind based on your own circumstances and understandings. Stainless steel will leach chromium and nickel; chromium is preferred, so if you can get a mostly chromium-based lining it isn’t a bad option, but personally I would take iron over chromium/nickel. Aluminum, even anodized aluminum, I’d avoid, as it will leach toxic aluminum, and we get a significant amount of exposure to aluminum already in our environment. But non-stick (teflon/PFOA/PTFE) cookware is probably the worst, as it only requires a temperature of 250-300°C to cause the emission of carcinogenic toxic fumes into our lungs and the food we’re eating, and 300°C is commonly reached in cooking.

This Post was all about the best cookware for health...

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Justin McArthur
Herbalist

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