How often do we pay attention to the types of cookware we are using to prepare our food?
The kind of times we are living in where people are getting more and more reluctant to even cook their food, due to a variety of reasons, paying attention to the metal used for cooking and its long term impact on our health seems a more arduous task.
So why should we really bother ourselves, in this time constrained era, to think about changing our utensils which we are so used to and comfortable with?
Does your kitchen tool need a refashion?
Most of the sophisticated and superior looking cookware sets are made of dangerous materials and are coated by toxic chemicals too. During the cooking process these utensils release dangerous substances such as Teflon, BPA, aluminum, etc. These substances ultimately reaches into our body through the food and finally become the causative factors for many diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer, liver tumors, reduced fertility, thyroid, kidney disorders, etc.
Our ancient science of Ayurveda has given immense importance to the metals that our cooking utensils are made of. Ayurveda believes that container helps in transformation of qualities of food items.
So, if you care even an iota about your health then there is every reason to slowly bring about a change in your utensils.
Apart from cast iron cookware, which I am particularly interested in touching upon in this article, there are several other types of metallic utensils ranging from copper, bronze, silver, stainless steel, etc. which have a wide variety of health related benefits.
The following article can give you a sneak peek into the types of cookware that are good for your health and kitchen.
Importance of iron – Iron sharpens iron
Those diseases which medicines do not cure, iron cures, those which iron cannot cure fire cures, and those which fire cannot cures are to be reckoned wholly incurable – Hippocrates, Father of medicine(460-377 BC)
Iron plays its basic role in exchanging of gases mainly oxygen from lungs to all over the body cells.
Rasa Shastra classics(Ayurveda) explain that Loha(iron) is par excellence a rejuvenator as it stimulates functional activity of all the organs, promotes life, strength, destroys a number of diseases, and acts as a restorative.
The reduction of iron deficiency (ID) and iron deficiency anemia (IDA) remains a challenge worldwide, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). One billion people worldwide suffer from IDA and a further billion from ID without anemia, with a high proportion of these conditions among children and females of childbearing age.
IDA results in poorer educational achievement, impaired cognition, increased mortality and overall morbidity in children, reduced work capacity in adults and poor pregnancy outcomes.
One way to reduce the iron deficiency is to use the iron supplements, which must always be taken under proper medical guidance. However, another cost effective, sustainable and natural way of getting sufficient iron is through using iron cookware to cook food.
Fortify your food with iron – Switch to cast iron cookware
According to a research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, cooking in the cast iron skillet can add significant amount of iron to the food. The researchers, who tested 20 foods, found that cooking in an iron skillet greatly increases the iron content of many foods, with acidic foods like eggs and tomatoes absorbing the most iron.
Hence, greater the acidity of the food and longer the cooking time, the more iron will get transferred.
Some of the interesting findings of the research were that the food cooked for longer periods of time absorbed more iron than food that was heated more quickly. It was also observed that foods prepared using new iron skillet absorbed more iron than those cooked using older skillets.
Also, foods those which were cooked and stirred more frequently absorbed more iron as they stayed in contact with iron more often. It was seen that the foods which were cooked for shorter period of times, turned once or not at all absorbed lesser quantity of iron due to their being in lesser contact with the iron utensil.
Another study conducted in a laboratory in order to assess the impact of iron on foods found that cooking in iron pots increases the hemoglobin (Hb) concentration than in any other pot. The study showed that the total and available iron was greatest in foods after cooked in iron pots, except for available iron in legumes for which there was no difference between types of pots.
Using cast iron cookware for cooking food is a cost effective, natural and simple method of dietary iron fortification for the prevention of iron deficiency anemia. However, it is to be noted that people dealing with hemochromatosis condition, where body stores too much iron, must avoid using cast iron cookware.
Other benefits of cast iron cookware
Cast iron is an iron-carbon alloy with a high carbon content (>2%). Instead of Iron cookware, Cast-iron cookware is recommended for cooking because it is much thicker and heavier and helps to heat food evenly.
Apart from providing benefit to the health through food fortification, cast iron cookware has other benefits also to offer.
- One of the great advantages of using cast iron cookware is that it is relatively cheaper than other pieces of cookware. Hence, it is a cost effective way to fortify your food with nutrition.
- As cast iron cookware is much heavier and thicker they help in heating the food evenly, irrespective of the cooking surface you are using.
- Cast iron cookware is also good in keeping food warm as they can hold heat for a considerable length of time. However, it is equally important to never leave your food, especially acidic food, in the cast iron cookware for a longer period of time as this can lead to rusting and also break down the seasoning.
- Cast iron cookware is very durable. In fact, they are passed on from one generation to other generations in the family.
- Cast iron cookware requires little cleaning and maintenance if they are taken care of properly.
- Unlike other cookware materials if a cast iron cookware is seasoned properly then you don’t need to use high quantity of oil or butter for cooking as they become naturally non stick, hence making your food fat free.
Maintenance tips for cast iron cookware
If a cast iron cookware is washed and seasoned properly then it can last for generations. Maintenance of cast iron cookware is not a difficult thing to do.
After you have finished cooking in your cast iron cookware, make it a habit to wash it immediately. The food must not be left in the cookware for long as it is neither good for the food as well as for the utensil.
You can use soap and a sponge for cleaning the cookware. Gently rub the soap using sponge to wash away all the dirt and grease from the cookware.
After washing the cookware, immediately dry it using a soft cloth. Apply a thin coat of oil to the cookware and wipe it across the cooking surface. This process of seasoning not just makes the cookware naturally non sticky but also prevents it from rusting.