You try your best to cut processed foods out of your life – your lunch bowl is full of greens, you always carry a water bottle with yourself, you’re cutting out your favorite donuts and milkshakes and replacing them with green juices.
All this indicates that you’re concerned about your health.
However, if you truly want to keep your body free from everything bad, you need to look at what you cook and store your food in as well.
Many of us don’t know this, but much of our cookware contains toxins that make their way into our bodies and can negatively impact our health by causing problems like weight gain and other severe issues like infertility.
Read on as we uncover the hidden toxins in your kitchen and help you find alternatives that’ll keep your food clean and healthy.
- 1 Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
- 2 Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)
- 3 Lead
- 4 Bisphenol A (BPA)
- 5 Aluminum
- 6 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE)
- 7 Polystyrene
- 8 Vinyl & Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
- 9 Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs)
- 10 Phthalate
- 11 Polyfluorinated Chemicals
- 12 Copper
- 13 Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
While most of us think that non-stick pans are a blessing because we can finally get our eggs out of the pan without making them look like a dog’s breakfast, in some cases, they may be a curse.
Some non-stick pans, especially the Teflon ones, are made using PTFE.
When the PTFE is heated, it emits fumes that can make us sick and may even be strong enough to kill our pets.
Many such pans come with warning labels that tell the user not to use them on high heat. However, even one-time exposure can be quite harmful.
Apart from that, when the non-stick coating starts scraping off, it can release harmful toxins within just 2 minutes.
How to Avoid Using PTFE When Cooking
If you’re attached to your non-stick pan, you can try other options like stainless steel, cast iron, or glass that will help you achieve more or less the same results.
Try using some healthy fats like a splash of olive to keep your food from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)
Like PTFE, PFOA is commonly found in certain non-stick pans.
Some pans may also use a combination of both these synthetic polymers.
However, while you might enjoy the ease of cooking and cleaning a non-stick pan, it’s secretly harming you.
Research indicates that PFOA has carcinogenic properties, and repeated exposure can lead to cancer.
The chemicals contained in PFOA can also cause weight gain, infertility, and affect your learning abilities.
In recent years, companies have stated that Teflon pans have been designed to eliminate these harmful compounds from your cookware.
However, your older kitchen tools and some less known brands may still make use of this, so you need to keep an eye on the utensils you use to cook your food.
How to Avoid Using PFOA When Cooking
Similar to PTFE, the best alternatives to cookware containing PFOA are glass for baking and cast iron or stainless steel pans for stovetop use.
You’ll need to use a little more healthy fat to prevent your food from sticking, and cleanup may take a minute or two more, but it won’t cause any harm.
The world has become quite educated on the toxic effects of lead, so many well-known cookware brands are keeping it out of their cookware and storage items.
However, many ceramic and glass products may have lead in their glaze coatings.
Lead exposure can impact the brain, and especially in children, it can cause behavioral problems and even mental retardation.
Lead poisoning can cause convulsions and may, in serious events, lead to death.
How to Avoid Using Lead When Storing Food
The thing with lead is that it’s a little tricky to know if it’s present in what you’re using.
If you like collecting glazed ceramic and glass bowls with their hand-painted exterior, check the origin of these bowls.
This is because while the laws of keeping lead out of cookware are stricter in some countries, in others like Mexico, they are not.
Apart from that, try using unglazed glass or metal dishes to eat, especially if you’re having something like hot soup, which can speed up the transfer of lead into your food.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
The reason why many people have transitioned to sleek, metal water bottles isn’t just because plastic is harmful to the environment, but also because many plastic bottles contain BPA, which has serious negative effects.
This chemical has been linked to life-threatening problems like cancer, heart and brain problems, as well as infertility.
When containers lined with BPA are heated, it becomes even more dangerous for humans since the harmful chemicals transfer more easily to your food. This particularly applies to fatty and salty foods.
Modern research has shown that even ingesting a small amount of BPA can cause weight gain.
So even if you’re using your BPA-laced container to store a low-calorie salad, it won’t have the desired effect.
How to Avoid Using BPA When Storing Food
If you’re using plastic containers and bottles to eat healthy, home-cooked meals when you’re out, you’re already partially on the right track.
Now you just need to replace them with glass, card paper of steel containers and bottles. Instead of plastic cutting boards, look for wood or steel ones.
If you don’t have the budget for glass containers, look for BPA-free containers that usually have a glass container paired with a plastic lid.
If you order a lot of takeout, opt for places that deliver the food in cardboard and biodegradable containers. This especially applies to hot food like soup.
One-time-use aluminum containers and foil are basically entirely made of metal.
Whether you’re baking in foil containers to avoid having to wash the pans later on, or you’re taking a sandwich wrapped in foil to work, aluminum is practically a part of our daily lives.
However, research has shown that consuming aluminum can lead to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Most food-safe aluminum cookware is oxidized to prevent its harmful effects from creeping into your food.
But when you cook food at high temperatures and especially use acidic items like tomatoes, the harmful elements may be exposed and will seep into your food as it sits in the container for a long time.
How to Avoid Using Aluminum When Cooking/Storing Food
While aluminum storage items and cookware won’t be too harmful if they’ve been pre-oxidized and don’t stay in contact with the food for too long, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Use porcelain and glass dishes for baking. Use a little oil, butter, or non-stick spray to keep your food from sticking to the pan.
If you want to wrap up some food, use parchment paper.
This can also be used to line any aluminum containers that you’ve already bought and can’t afford to replace immediately.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE)
Apart from chemical compounds like BPA, many plastic containers also contain PETE. This is particularly true for low-grade plastic products like ketchup soda bottles.
In fact, if you’re one of those people who can’t throw anything out and reuse these cheap plastics, you’re increasing your exposure to PETE.
Increased exposure to these chemicals can cause metabolic trouble as well as inflammation in the stomach.
More seriously, these compounds have carcinogenic properties and a tendency to disturb your hormones, especially if the material gets worn down due to frequent use.
How to Avoid Using PETE When Storing Food
It’s a good idea to stock up on glass jars and containers for storing food.
If you have children who may break your precious glass jars or you’re simply too used to using plastic, you can try safer plastics like those containing polypropylene, a material that doesn’t release any dangerous chemicals into your food.
It seems as if synthetic compounds have made their way into every kind of disposable cutlery known to man.
From plastic cutlery to Styrofoam containers and cups, everything contains polystyrene.
Styrofoam seeps into your food and drinks and is extremely harmful since it contains carcinogens.
If you’re ordering takeout from restaurants that rely on Styrofoam packaging and opaque plastic cutlery, you’re harming yourself every time.
The worst part is that many places sell hot beverages and even soups in Styrofoam cups, where the heat makes it easier for the harmful chemicals to enter your food and, eventually, your stomach.
How to Avoid Using Polystyrene Containers
The first and obvious step is to stop ordering food and coffee from places that deliver it in Styrofoam containers.
If it’s impossible for you to stop ordering from such places, immediately transfer your food to glass or food-safe steel containers, especially if you’re storing it overnight.
Look for places that deliver food in biodegradable containers, which will not only be good for your health, but also for the environment.
Vinyl & Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Okay, so remember how we said that BPA is bad for you?
Well, it turns out that even if you opt for plastic containers, cans, or wraps claiming to be “BPA-free,” you’re still not in the clear.
Many of these BPA-free products contain vinyl chloride, which has been found to contain carcinogens.
How to Avoid Using Polyvinyl Chloride Containers
If you’re storing soup in a plastic bag, it’s time to switch over to food-safe silicone that doesn’t contain carcinogens.
For other storage purposes, you can switch to glass containers.
Often, the deli meat or certain other items you buy may be wrapped in plastic.
Transfer these to a food-safe container as soon as you get home, especially if you’re not using them immediately.
Food-grade silicone is becoming quite popular among many people because it serves pretty much the same purpose as plastic in that it doesn’t take up much space, it is freezer safe, and can be cleaned easily.
It comes with the added bonus of protecting your health.
Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs)
Most plastic utensils in your kitchen are loaded with BFRs.
If you open your kitchen drawer and see plastic spoons, spatulas, and other cutlery staring back at you, pick them up and toss them out without a second glance.
These utensils are most likely coated in bromine, and while this chemical will keep them from burning when they come in contact with heat, it will release BFRs into your food.
BFRs can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women as it can reduce the size and weight of their unborn child.
How to Avoid Using BFR Cookware/Storage
The best alternative to BFR-coated utensils is stainless steel.
If you feel like the steel spatulas and slotted spoons are damaging the surface of your pans, you even try silicone spatulas, which will be soft-edged and food safe.
If you’re chugging bottles of Coke with cheap plastic straws every day, it’s harming your health in more ways than one.
Apart from the sugars and chemicals in the drink itself, the bottle and straw emit harmful chemicals like phthalate.
These chemicals are most likely released due to the repeated use of disposable bottles, such as filling them up with water.
Research indicates that the phthalate that keeps your plastic bottles and bendy straws soft also causes respiratory problems and can affect a child’s behavioral, developmental, and learning abilities.
It can also lead to inflammation and metabolic syndrome.
How to Avoid Using Phthalate Cookware
If you reuse your disposable plastic bottles for water and homemade beverages, you can switch to glass or stainless steel bottles instead.
If you prefer plastic since it’s lighter and won’t break, get high-grade, high-density plastic bottles that are free of harmful chemicals.
Coming to another major chemical found in abundance in the food industry: polyfluorinated chemicals contained in food wrappers, bags, and boxes.
Research shows that many fast-food chains are using packaging that contains fluorinated chemicals in combination with other banned chemicals, such as those contained in Teflon coating.
Coatings that contain fluorine prevent grease from seeping through and damaging the packaging.
While the research on how easily they release their toxicity into our food is still ongoing, we know one thing for sure – they are dangerous.
These dangerous chemicals have been known to cause cancer, developmental issues, and fertility issues and can weaken your immune system over time.
How to Avoid Polyfluorinated Chemicals
Since most fast food packaging contains PFCs, the safest option is to eat at home.
Alternatively, you can look for environmentally-friendly restaurants that use a safe packaging and serve up healthy foods that’ll keep you safe from dangerous chemicals.
If you’ve seen or used copper cookware, you’ve probably noticed that it looks great.
Even more so, copper is a good conductor of heat, so it can heat your food up faster and more evenly. However, copper cookware can be quite dangerous.
While a small amount of copper can actually be good for us, excessive exposure to copper can lead to metal poisoning.
If the copper items aren’t coated properly, the metal will leach quite easily into your food, especially if you’re cooking something with acidic properties.
On the flip side, the coating used on copper cookware generally contains nickel, which is also toxic for humans.
How to Avoid Using Copper Cookware
Stash away your copper cookware and replace it with stainless steel.
Not only will it be lighter, but steel is also a good heat conductor, so you’ll still be able to cook your food quickly and evenly.
Even more so, it is resistant to scratches, and with a light coating of non-stick cooking spray, it will be perfect.
Just make sure that the stainless steel you’re purchasing is food-grade.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
You will have noticed that the majority of cookware and food storage items that contain harmful toxins are the ones that are provided by restaurants.
Think of this as a good time to switch to home-cooked food or to healthier restaurants that use eco-friendly packaging.
Many of these cookware items, especially aluminum and plastic ones, are not only bad for you but also for the environment.
Switch to options like glass, metals, and silicone that are not only food-safe but also a more sustainable option.
Scan your entire kitchen for any cookware, utensils, or storage items that are likely to have the toxins listed above.
Now that you know the alternatives for each, you can slowly start replacing these items to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from cancerous and other harmful chemicals.
If you order a lot of takeout, use your new, toxin-free cookware to store the food as soon as it reaches your doorstep.
A little bit of caution and a little extra effort in replacing and using your new cookware will keep you healthy and happy for a long time.