How Cookware Affects Nutrients in Your Food

One of the biggest fights my parents had when I was a child was over cookware. My mother wanted a complete set of stainless steel cookware – it was the latest and best thing. My father said it was way too expensive.

My mother won.

She was still using them 50 years later.

I have a mish-mash. I started with cheap Teflon, then bought a complete stainless set, then anodized aluminum, a few ceramic roasters, and my latest additions are a few decent non-stick skillets.

I need to make up my mind.

Read on for some cookware tips – maybe they’ll help me decide….

The healthiest food can make you sick and cause severe health complications if you cook them in the wrong pots or pans. Not many people know this, but your health does not depend exclusively on the kind of food you put inside your body or your lifestyle.

You may put in a lot of work to choose the healthiest foods for your family and still fall short of your nutritional targets. This can happen if the cooking vessels you use frustrate your efforts by depleting the nutrients in that food.

Your pots and pans matter as much as the quality of food you eat and how much sleep you get. When buying cookware, the focus is often on how nice they look and how much they cost. But there are other things about kitchen utensils you should be aware of.

How cookware affects nutrients in food

The two main issues with the type of cookware used in the kitchen are the utensil’s ability to preserve the nutrients in food and the toxicity of the materials the cookware is made of.

Here are how the different types of pots and pans you use in the kitchen affect your food.

1.   Aluminum cookware

Aluminum is popular because of its scratch-resistant and nonstick qualities (if it is anodized aluminum). Anodized aluminum has excellent heat conduction and a hard surface (created by an electrolytic process) that keeps the metal from reacting with food. If you’d like to go with this type of cookware, read about some of the sets in this review by HomeDesignX.

Uncoated aluminum cookware may leach minute quantities of metal into your food, but not enough to cause health problems. Pitted aluminum pots, on the other hand, will severely deplete micronutrients in food. It is best not to cook acidic foods in aluminum pots as they can react with the metal.

2.   Stainless steel

Stainless steel pots are mostly made from an alloy of iron, nickel, and chromium. The advantage of stainless steel cookware is its low price, ability to withstand high heat, and above-average durability.

Stainless steel pots do not interact with food but may deplete heat-sensitive nutrients. Some stainless steel pots have an aluminum or copper bottom to aid even heating. For people who have nickel sensitivity, the nickel in stainless steel cookware may cause problems if it leaches into the food. But this will only happen if the pot surface has been scratched.

3.   Lead in cookware

Lead is a dangerous material to have in cookware and it has been linked to a wide range of health issues and diseases. The toxicity of lead is made worse when it comes into contact with acidic foods and hot beverages.

However, lead is really not an issue with cookware that is manufactured in the USA since the FDA regulates the use of lead in cookware and food containers. But this may not be true for dishware/cookware – especially ceramic – made in other countries. If you are unsure of the presence of lead in imported ceramic, do not use them for cooking.

4.   Copper in cookware

Copper has the distinct quality of being able to heat evenly, which is a desirable feature in cookware. Even heating prevents hot spots, burnt food, and lets your food cook deep inside. Copper does not pose a threat as long as it doesn’t come in direct contact with food.

Unlined copper cookware can cause mild discomfort to serious issues for people who ingest food cooked in it. Copper cookware that is coated with another metal poses no danger as long as the coating remains intact.

5.   Cast iron cookware

Cast iron cookware is expensive but worth every dollar you spend on it. Because cast iron heats up very slowly and retains heat well, food will cook thoroughly without being overcooked.

Cast iron cookware will leach small amounts of iron into your food, which is a good way to supplement your iron intake. The exception is if you suffer from hemochromatosis, in which case it is best to avoid cast iron cookware altogether. Cast iron pots and pans are not typically nonstick but you can remedy this by seasoning the pot.

6.   Pure ceramic cookware

Pure ceramic cookware is easily the safest option for cooking. In addition to being safe, they will retain more of the nutrients in your food, as well, as its taste. That is because ceramic is porous and excess steam will escape through the pores of the cookware, leaving just enough water to cook the food. But this only applies to unvarnished ceramic pots and pans.

Ceramic pots can withstand heat as a high 2500℉ and they have a nonstick surface that is chemical-free. Their only drawback is they break easily.

7.   Teflon

There has been a lot of concern in recent times about the safety of Teflon in cooking utensils. One of the issues is a possible link between Teflon and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a known carcinogen. But the EPA has stated that there is no perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in Teflon. The main issue you will face with Teflon-coated pots is overheating. These types of cookware are best used at low or medium heat.

6 thoughts on “How Cookware Affects Nutrients in Your Food”

  1. I have a mix which I use according to what I want to cook. I intended ditching a black cast iron casserole bought at a vide grenier, when I cosolidated our two homes. An early purchase in our married life was an enamelled one of the same size made by a firm subsequently absorbed by the Le Creuset group. The two cook differently and I have kept both.

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  2. I use my cast iron as well as my stainless steel for cooking. I find they’re the best choice for me though I do use a small ceramic pan for eggs. I’ve never quite been able to get eggs out of my cast iron and I don’t like using a lot of oil to fry eggs. I prefer butter.

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