Why is the water in earthen pots or “mitti ka ghada” is so cool to the body? Why are infants fed in silver utensils and why are the copper glasses a favourite for drinking water for lakhs of people in India and South Asia or why do we cook chapatis on iron tawa?
One answer sums it all. SUBSTANCE.
Substance of kitchenware makes all the difference. The choice of cookware and kitchenware dictates the difference in nutritive quality of food, its texture, flavour, aroma and of course the health benefits. One can enhance these features by picking up the right kind of substance for cooking, storing and eating and drinking.
Why It Matters
With health being the topmost priority today, it is time to go back to the roots, to nature and its offerings to reap the benefit of nutritive properties of food.
It is no coincidence that traditional methods of cooking are making a comeback as it aids good health. Nature has some excellent offerings that can complement our cooking methods.
Cookware made of metals like iron, silver, copper and clay and stone have been used since ages as they add to the medicinal and nutritive properties of the food. Some of these ancient metals and old-school cookware help raise immunity by guarding against infections being anti-microbial in nature.
Lets figure out each of these metals and their advantages one by one.
Cast Iron/ Iron
Starting with Iron, I always prefer cooking dry gravies in iron kadhai and can vouch from personal experience that it delivers a distinct flavour to food. Its healthy and best for slow cooking. Iron utensils are ideal for frying as it quickly heats and retains the heat for long.
I swear by my cast iron skillet which can put any non-stick skillet to shame. It’s the best I have laid my hands on, has no hassle of scrubbing and is getting better with aging. Does not rust and being heavy duty gives crispness that is quite savoury. Given the advantages, it is worth investing in heavy duty cast iron or iron cookware.
The biggest advantage of cooking in Iron and Cast Iron is that both are excellent sources of supplementing iron in the body. Iron is an essential nutrient for the growth of your body. Since it is responsible to promote the production of red blood cells, iron deficiency can lead to a number of health problems.
There was a 7.9 per cent increase in the haemoglobin levels of pre-school children in India, when they were served foods cooked in iron pots for three months, according to a study published in 2013 in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics.
Copper is another metal which steals the show with its look. Cooper cookware has been a prized possession for hundreds of chefs around the world.
- It is an excellent conductor of heat and is used extensively in making heavy duty kitchen cookware for professionals.
- Copper is excellent as it has anti-microbial, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. That is why it has been used since centuries for storing water. It is believed that using copper utensils for drinking and eating food helps optimal functioning of the thyroid glands.
- Copper has been widely used in water pipes and door handles in hospitals have often been made of copper so that the transmission of germs can be avoided.
Direct cooking in uncoated copper vessels is not recommended as copper can react with acidic foods, leeching traces of copper into food, over time can be toxic. For this reason, most copper cookware is lined with steel or tin
Clay is one of the oldest cookware used since time immemorial. I have since many years stopped drinking refrigerated water as clay pots give a much satisfying and refreshing taste of water in summer.
Cooking on clay has numerous health benefits according to the Ayurveda.
- It is easy to cook and improves the quality of the food as it is slow cooking which retains the nutrients of food in clay pots as compared to metal cookware.
- Food cooked on clay is easily digestible. As clay is alkaline in nature, it interacts with the acidity in the food, neutralising the pH balance. This makes food healthier and a lot tastier. That is the reason biryani cooked on handis are incomparable.
- Clay pots add many important nutrients like calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium and sulfur to food, which are extremely beneficial to our body.Food can be cooked with minimal or no oil in clay pots, reducing the fat content.
One shall be cautious against buying clay pots and utensils having red or yellow glazing as it contains lead which can leech into the food.
Stone cookware made from rocks has come of age. In India, traditional black stone pottery made in Manipur in the North-East is one variety that has caught attention of the health conscious consumers.
- The cookware is shaped out of naturally found special stones, by hand and not on pottery wheels. These rocks are filled with naturally-occurring iron. When food is cooked in these pots, iron is automatically supplemented into the food .
- Cooking meat in these pots, takes care of microbial growth in the meat.
- Food doesn’t burn retaining its flavour and nutrition, even if simmered for hours in these pots.
- The food sizzles for a longer time even after the pot is taken off the stove. This means meals are kept warm for longer, so goodbye to re-heating.
- This cookware is actually microwave-friendly! Though I not a fan of microwave cooking but the making of these pots is done under intense heat to toughen the cookware. Hence, it can withstand high gas flame to searing heat in oven.
Eating in silver utensils is a sign of affluence and social status. It is one metal that is used extensively from making ornaments to utensils. Though silver is not everyone’s cup of tea, being one of the precious metals.
Why Feed Kids In Silver
- According to Hippocrates (Father of Medicine), silver is a tool that can kill microorganisms and is a tool to prevent any sort of decay.
- Silver has been the preferred choice for feeding infants. The reason is it’s deemed to have effective anti-bacterial properties.
- Storing and eating food in silverware is a great idea to keep the infections at bay.
- In absence of the refrigerator, earlier milk was infused with silver coins to prevent it from curdling.
- Water and wines were also kept in silverware in anciemt civilizations to help enhance freshness and keep it tasty for more time.
- Silver utensils support stronger metabolism and better immunity.
- Silver utensils have a cooling effect on the body that further smoothens digestion and helps improve the body’s metabolic system.
Why The Need To Introspect
Inappropriate choice of cookware and ignorance is draining human health and nutritive properties of food.
In modern day living, people have begun to rely on easy and convenient cookware. But this ease has led us to some inappropriate choices of cooking.
Some of these choices are non-stick and aluminium cookware that has the potential of leeching harmful chemicals in the food, depending upon the quality of coatings and chemicals used in the manufacturing.
Why Non-Stick Is A Sticky Choice
Non-stick cookware made with Teflon when heated at high temperatures, release toxic fumes. The main chemical in Teflon is polytetrafluoroethylene or the PTFE. These fumed when inhaled can be hazardous to both humans and pets (especially birds).
Non-stick also release chemicals called PFC’s (perfluorinated compounds) into the air. Using a worn out and scratched non-stick cookware, is all the more harmful as it releases even more PFCs into the food.
Studies have linked certain PFCs, namely PFOA and PFOS, to numerous health problems relating to hormones, liver dysfunction, and brain health. PFCs are particularly important for mothers to avoid, as it passes through breastmilk.
Non-stick Degrade Environment
These chemicals are harmful from the environmental perspective also. These chemicals not only intrude into your food, but they end up down the drain and in landfills, polluting waterways and ending up back in the food chain (like fish that live in contaminated water). Even worse, they take many years to biodegrade.
Though now many global non-stick brands now claim to have stopped using PFOA or Teflon but regulation in India is not stringent. Some non-stick cookware may indeed be PFAO -free, but it is very difficult to know for sure. Also it can also be very difficult to find out what the coatings do contain.
This is an age-old sturdy metal widely used in cooking from households to industries. Its heavily used as foil for wrapping food. Though the amount of aluminium leeched into food is said to be low but over a period of time this may lead to health issues.
The Public Health Statement for Aluminium, published by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in Atlanta, Georgia stated “ brain and bone disease caused by high levels of aluminum in the body have been seen in children with kidney disease. Bone disease has also been seen in children taking some medicines containing aluminum. In these children, the bone damage is caused by aluminum in the stomach preventing the absorption of phosphate, a chemical compound required for healthy bones.
The jury is divided on adverse effects of aluminium. Some experts feel that the harmful effects are negligible. But according to Dr Manik G Hiranandani “Some unpleasant effects of eating foods cooked in aluminium are hyper-acidity, peptic ulcers, indigestion, flatulence, skin problems like pigmentation, eczema, dandruff and chronic inflammation of the intestine etc. Aluminium reduces growth of bone and predisposes to osteoporosis.
However these side effects can be curtailed by using hard anodised aluminium cookware which is coated and prevents food from direct contact of aluminium.
Going to back to natural metals while choosing cookware is a choice, based on one’s health consciousness.
The wisdom of going back to the roots is immense. The more we are sensitised towards better choices, healthier the living. Food is the fuel that recharges our body. The way we cook, can alter the nutritive properties of food.
Being in sync with the ancient metals and old-school cookware is a great way to harness the gifts of nature for healthy living. Tapping the benefits of these metals and ancient cookware with adequate knowledge and caution, supports the idea of healthy food, better digestion and metabolism for the body.
I hope this blog has helped to impress upon you the idea of choosing healthy cookware. Do give your feedback on what you think of your choices and if this has helped change your mind. Keep checking out www.letsfigureoutlife.com