Hidden Dangers in the Kitchen
"Let’s not sabotage our efforts by preparing and storing our food in cookware or containers that are leaching harmful chemicals and making us sick."
In today’s live show, Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, reveals the many hidden dangers that could be lurking in your kitchen — from toxic heavy metals leached by certain types of cookware and storage containers, to dangerous bacteria hiding on things like cutting boards and sponges, and more. The kitchen can be a pretty dangerous place, but it doesn’t have to be! Learn the healthy choices for a safe, clean and non-toxic kitchen with Dr. Nancy.
- 01:49: Hidden Dangers in the Kitchen
- 03:31: Cookware
- 15:55: Healthy, Safe Options for Cooking
- 24:18: Additional Cookware Tips
- 27:04: Other Potential Kitchen Hazards
- 32:58: Natural, All-Purpose Cleaner
- 36:36: Wrap-Up
We spend so much time talking about the benefits of eating clean, organic, healthy foods and learning healthy, delicious dishes that will support your health journey, but unless people are paying close attention to the specific type of cookware they are using to prepare and store these foods, they could unknowingly be making themselves less healthy and even sick in some cases.
Hidden Dangers in the Kitchen
Let’s start with our cookware. There are tons of different types of pots and pans to cook with — cookware tends to be one of those things we just take for granted. The pot or pan is there and we just use them, wash them and repeat, right?
But what if you learned that the pan you are using on a regular basis is making you sick, and leaching harmful chemicals and toxic heavy metals into your food, causing chronic inflammation in your body, and could even increase your risk of cancer? You might think twice about cooking with anything that would do that to you or your family, right?
Well, if you are cooking with Teflon or non-stick cookware, aluminum pots, ceramic-coated pans, or copper baking sheets, chances are you are doing exactly that! Don’t panic though — we’ll talk a bit about the dangers of each specific type and then show you which types of cookware are safest for you and for your family.
Teflon or Non-Stick Cookware
People love Teflon or non-stick cookware because it allows you to cook food with less oil and little clean up. These products make cooking really easy, but they are probably some of the most dangerous cooking utensils or tools in your kitchen right now.
Teflon cookware is coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a plastic polymer that keeps food from sticking to the pan, but also leeches harmful toxins when heated over 500°F. In fact, Teflon release 6 different toxic gasses when overheated. These toxic fumes can lead to you to experience serious flu-like symptoms, including headaches, chills, fever, and coughing. It even has its own name — polymer fume fever or Teflon fever. Believe it or not, these fumes are so toxic they are also fatal to pet birds!
Another non-stick chemical used in non-stick cookware is something called PFOA. Like Teflon, it has also been linked to really dangerous side effects such as the development of tumors, neonatal death, and toxic effects on the immune system, liver, and endocrine system. It has also been linked to breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer. Adding to the serious health effects of non-stick cookware is the fact that these chemicals have a long half-life in your body; up to 3 years! That means once your body absorbs it, it stays in your system for a long, long time. In fact, most people living in the United States have PFOA in their system right now.
Another commonly used, but dangerous metal in the kitchen is aluminum. We love aluminum — we love it so much that over 7 billion aluminum foil containers are produced each year and more than 316 million Americans used aluminum foil last year alone! And it makes sense; it’s convenient to cook with, it’s easy to use, and it’s recyclable… but it’s also really bad for our health.
Most people know about the potential dangers of aluminum in deodorant, and that aluminum is a neurotoxin and has been linked to numerous health issues, especially diseases related to your central nervous system — including Alzheimer’s and ALS.
Aluminum is a neurotoxic metal that is known to inhibit more than 200 biologically important functions in your body. Elevated aluminum levels have been linked to several central nervous system diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Though aluminum cookware is usually coated, over time, the coating is prone to chipping and scratching, which releases the toxic metal into your food while cooking.
Copper is so beautiful… we just love how it looks. Chefs love it because is heats up quickly and evenly, creating a perfect surface to cook off of. However, copper cookware is extremely susceptible to leaching copper into food, especially when the food being prepared is acidic — like tomato sauce.
We need a tiny bit of copper in our system, and we get most of that from our food; so having excess copper absorbed into food is not good. In fact, too much of it can cause heavy metal poisoning, which can cause serious mental health and nerve issues, as well as shortness of breath, vomiting, and severe abdominal pain. Too much copper can also suppress your zinc levels, weaken your immune system, and interfere with adrenal and thyroid function, which most commonly results in fatigue.
Another dangerous type of cookware is ceramic-coated cookware, which can actually be misleading. Cookware that is 100% ceramic is safe, and actually recommended as a safe way to cook. However, ceramic-coated cookware is not.
Ceramic coating isn’t the most durable, and starts chipping after several months of everyday use. When that happens, cadmium, and nickel that is sometimes found in the coating can end up in your food and later in your body. Both cadmium and nickel are toxic metals and known to cause a number of serious health issues, including issues in your lungs, your liver, your kidneys, and cause serious neurological damage.
Healthy, Safe Options for Cooking
If you’re thinking it’s time to switch over to that raw diet we talked about a few months back, well don’t be scared out of the kitchen! If you are using these materials, let’s just make a plan to switch to safe, alternatives. Remember, you can’t undo what’s been done and you can’t go back in time, but you can focus on today and making a difference for your health tomorrow and going forward! You can also start the healing process by making sure to take your smarter curcumin to help fight against the harmful effects of any inflammation, and the Smarter Multi to make sure you are getting your recommended daily allowance of essential vitamins and are not deficient in important minerals, including magnesium, zinc, and boron.
So let’s talk about some healthy, safe materials that we can cook with and store our foods in. Fortunately, there are a number of safe materials you can use in your kitchen.
Real Ceramic Cookware
Most 100% ceramic cookware contain no metals like lead or cadmium, and several brands make sure their glazes are made with non-toxic inorganic minerals and oxides. Remember, skip the ceramic coating — that’s not the same as 100% ceramic.
When you switch to ceramic, especially for sautéing, it will take a bit of getting used to but what people really like about ceramic cookware, in addition to it being safe, is that it cooks very evenly and is extremely durable, even under high heat.
Cast Iron Cookware
Using cast iron for some of your cooking is another good option to avoid leaching of toxic chemicals into your food. It has been used for generations, it’s durable, long-lasting, and requires minimal cleaning. It can also be used on the stovetop as well as for baking, and distributes heat very evenly.
If you do opt for cast iron, make sure you season it before you use it — if you don't do anything then whatever you are going to cook in it will stick like glue.
How To Season A Cast Iron Pan
Here’s all you have to do: preheat your oven to 350ºF and place a baking sheet in the bottom of your oven (to catch any dripping), then coat your cast iron pan inside and outside with coconut oil or olive oil (not extra virgin olive oil). Use a paper towel or brush on with a pastry brush. Place the pan on the middle rack, upside down, and bake for 1 hour, then turn your oven off and let it cool completely. That’s it! Once it’s cool, wipe the excess oil with a towel and you’ve seasoned your cast iron skillet and now have an all natural, safe, non-stick surface to cook with — you are ready to go!
Additional Cookware Tips
Let’s go over a few other cookware tips before we move on.
- Most people still have some type of Tupperware in their cupboards. We have talked quite a bit about the dangers of plastics. Instead of storing your leftovers in plastic or Tupperware, use ceramic or better yet, use glass — it’s durable, safe, and you can go right from the fridge to the microwave without the fear of leaching harmful toxins in your food, like plastic containers do.
- If you are going to continue to cook with non-stick or ceramic-coated cookware, make sure you are only using non-abrasive cleaners and sponges — steel wool or sponges with metal in them will scratch the non-stick coating, making it more likely for harmful toxins to leach out into your food.
Other Potential Kitchen Hazards
Okay, let’s shift gears a bit. We are staying in the kitchen, but we want to point out some other potential toxic and dangerous hotspots.
A recent study released in Scientific Reports found over 360 different types of bacteria in the average used sponge! Gross, right? Not all these bacteria are dangerous or harmful to our health, but several of them can be!
So, here’s our best advice: only use your sponge to wash your dishes, cookware, and utensils. Use a separate sponge to wipe down counters and stovetops and wash your sponge after you are done. When you are done using it, rinse your sponge for a minute under hot water — make sure you squeeze out the water a few times — and again at the end. We also recommend you sterilize your sponge by microwaving it for two minutes; that’s enough to kill any bacteria hanging out on it. Also change your sponges weekly, or if it starts to smell — whichever comes first!
Let’s talk about your cutting board. You’ve probably heard all kinds of conflicting advice on which kind of cutting board — plastic, wood, or bamboo — is the best, the most sanitary, and the least damaging to your knives, right?
A study from the University of Michigan found that more bacteria are recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface. The study also found that a knife-scarred plastic cutting board surface was impossible to clean and disinfect manually.
So if plastic isn’t safe, what is? Well, both hard-wood cutting boards and bamboo cutting boards are better options, in terms of sanitation, than plastic — we recommend going with bamboo. Bamboo isn’t a wood, it’s actually a super hard grass and it’s a sustainable, renewable resource that needs no chemicals to thrive or be harvested. And, bamboo boards absorb less liquid than wooden boards, making them a better option than both wood and plastic.
Natural, All-Purpose Cleaner
So we have talked a lot about the dark side of the kitchen today, including toxins and bacteria that hide out in places we might not consider! We need to also make sure we are keeping our kitchens safe and clean. We also need to be aware of the harsh chemicals we are using to clean our pots, pans, counters, and stovetops — they can leave chemicals and residues that also find their way into our food and into our bodies.
That’s why you can make your own all-natural, all-purpose kitchen cleaner. It contains safe, effective, natural ingredients, it smells great, and only takes a few minutes to make!
Here’s what you need:
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 5 drops tea tree oil
- 5 drops lemon essential oil (or your favorite oil)
- A 16-ounce glass bottle with spray attachment
All you need to do is add all ingredients to your glass bottle and shake it up — that’s it! White vinegar is a natural disinfectant. It contains 5% acetic acid, which is just enough to kill bacteria and cut through grease and grime. Tea tree oil is also known to be an antiseptic, and both tea tree and lemon oil have antibacterial properties — and they both smell really great!
All you need to do is spray directly onto the surface or onto a kitchen towel and wipe area clean.
So, let’s review — we spend a lot of time cooking and preparing foods that improve our health. Let’s not sabotage our efforts by preparing and storing our food in cookware or containers that are leaching harmful chemicals and making us sick.
Today, we talked about the dangers of cooking with non-stick cookware, including Teflon, aluminum, ceramic-coated pans, and copper. As a safe alternative, cook with 100% ceramic, stainless steel, or cast iron. We also discussed various options for storing your food and came to the conclusion that glass is the best way to safely store food. And since hidden bacteria are found in your kitchen sponge, make sure you are rinsing and microwaving your sponge — 2 minutes will kill those harmful critters — and throw your sponge out at the end of each week.
Bamboo cutting boards are Dr. Nancy’s pick for safe, clean, cutting boards, wood is the runner-up, and we recommend avoiding plastic. Once it’s been used for a while, plastic is nearly impossible to sanitize and keep clean. Also swap out your harsh, chemical-based kitchen cleaners for an effective all-natural kitchen cleaner like the one we showed you today — it’s a simple, but powerful combination of white vinegar and essential oils that will kill bacteria as well as clean all the surfaces in your kitchen.
Remember, knowledge is power. Don’t let the information about the potential dangers of your kitchen keep you preparing healthy, delicious dishes for you and for your family. Instead, use the information to make your kitchen an even safer, healthier place than is already is!