The Hidden Dangers of Teflon and Cast Iron Cookware
We all have concerns about the safety of modern cookware. As new technology evolves, we see many new cookware products advertised on TV and endorsed by celebrities but are these cookware products safe.
Dangers of Teflon
Many Naturopaths and practitioners of Alternative Medicine advise against the use of Teflon frying pans as Teflon is made from perfluorinated compounds which have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is most commonly marketed under the trade name Teflon. PTFE is a synthetic polymer that is useful for its thermal stability and non-stick properties. The problem arises when cooking temperatures exceed 280 °C as Teflon emits degradation products in the form of particulates and gas at these high temperatures.
For centuries, cast iron pans have been promoted as traditional cooking vessels. We assume that as it is a natural material it is safe, but this is not necessarily the case.
Frequent use of cast iron pans can lead to leaching of iron into the food that is being cooked. Whilst some may regard this as a good therapeutic strategy for those suffering from anemia or heavy menstruation it can lead to adverse effects in others as Iron has been linked to Alzheimer’s, colorectal cancer, cardiovascular disease and iron toxicity in children.
The Recommended Dietary Intake for Iron is:
• Women aged 19–50 years – 18mg
• Pregnant women – 27 mg
• Lactating women – 9mg
• Women aged 51 years and over -8mg
• Men aged 19 years and over – 8mg
Excessive iron stores in the body can lead to Haemochromatosis. This can lead to damage of the liver, heart and pancreas. Typical symptoms include fatigue, weakness, joint pain, weight loss, loss of body hair, skin darkening, diabetes, sexual difficulties, and abnormal heart rhythms.
Iron is an essential for oxygen transport, metabolism, and neurotransmitter synthesis. There are two forms of dietary iron:
a. “Heme” iron – found in meat, fish, and poultry
b. “Non-heme,” iron – found mainly in beans, grains, nuts, dried fruit, leafy greens, asparagus, and strawberries.
Most people get sufficient iron from their diets with the exception of women with heavy menstrual periods, pregnant women and vegans.
If you have an iron deficiency, then you need to consult a Naturopath or Alternative Medicine practitioner, or Integrative medicine doctor. They will recommend a good iron supplement that has limiting side-effects of constipation, abdominal cramping and provide appropriate dietary advice.
Your integrative medicine doctor will also be able to run a blood test to test your iron levels to monitor your health status.
While Dutch ovens and pots are relatively safe when made from iron, the same may not apply to Dutch ovens casserole dishes that are made from aluminium. The cast iron pot will be heavier and have superior temperature stability for the same thickness and size. So do try and avoid Dutch ovens made from aluminium.
If you cannot part with your trusted iron skillet, then here are some strategies that will reduce iron absorption into the body:
• Regularly mix the food while cooking
• Increase cooking time
• Use liquid rather than dry frying
• Avoid lemons and oranges in the recipe as they increase iron absorption
Recommendations for non-stick pans
While we wait for new ultra-safe cookware to be developed and you still want to use non-stick pans here are some guidelines;
• Do not use non-stick pans if the coating is peeling off
• Do not use Teflon or silicone pans above 250 degrees Centigrade
• Avoid aluminium pots and pans
• Avoid ceramic dishware that is cracked or chipped as it can leach into food
• Poor quality glazed ceramic cookware may have cadmium or lead present
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