Non-stick pans make cooking a breeze, but at what cost? A high one, according to most reports. Still, that doesn’t mean we have to return to cooking with sticks over an open fire to keep our toxic load light (though that would be so Paleo of you). We’ve talked about the topic a lot, but we’re digging in once more – in case you’re not convinced. Clinical nutritionist and bestselling author Dr. David Friedman breaks things down below and we follow up with our top picks, including our beloved baby GreenPan…
On Obesogens + The Dangers of Non-Stick Pans
If you’ve struggled to lose weight, no matter what type of diet you’ve tried, the dangers of non-stick pans could be a contributing factor to the problem. Researchers from Harvard University recently conducted a study, published in the scientific journal PLOS Medicine, showing how non-stick cookware is linked to weight gain. They found people with the highest levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), gained the most weight. PFAS are chemicals used to make products more stain-resistant, waterproof or nonstick. Findings from this study showed people with higher levels of PFAS in their blood stream also have a lower resting metabolic rate and burn fewer calories throughout the day. PFAS have been also associated with the prevalence of thyroid dysfunction and osteoporosis in women.
PFAS fall into the category of obesogens or “endocrine disruptors,” which are chemical compounds that increase the fat cells you have, decrease the calories you burn and alter the way your body manages hunger. Because obesogens cause the liver to become insulin resistant, the body must produce more insulin to store energy, which causes increased fat storage, which can lead to obesity. Obesogens aren’t just found in your cookware, they are also in plastic containers and plastic bottles. While eating fast food is often blamed as a major contributing factor to the rising obesity epidemic, the wrappers and containers in which the food is served are manufactured with fattening PFAS. Silent Spring Institute, the Environmental Working Group, and the Green Science Policy Institute teamed up with researchers at the University of Notre Dame and the Environmental Protection Agency and found after analyzing more than 400 wrappers and containers from 27 fast-food chains throughout the country, about half the wrappers tested contained PFAS.
In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. While poor diet and lack of exercise is partly to blame, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency, being in contact with obesogens in early childhood can lead to unhealthy, excessive weight gain. Additionally, researchers at the University of Michigan, University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University report that seven- to nine-year-old children exposed to higher levels of bisphenol A (BPA) (another common obesogen used in food packaging) had an increased percentage of body fat. It’s not just kids’ bellies that are increasing, so are their cholesterol levels! The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found 12 to 19 year olds exposed to PFAS were more likely to suffer higher LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. A total of 12,476 children and adolescents included in this study, showed a significant association of increased total cholesterol and higher LDL levels.
How to Reduce PFA Exposure
Read Your Labels. When you’re out shopping, always look for products labeled “BPA-free.” Stay clear of plastic containers with the number 3, 6 or 7 recycle code on the bottom. Instead, look for the numbers 2, 4 or 5, which means they are BPA free.
Buy Better Pans. Throw away your pots and pans coated with a nonstick material. There are nonstick brands made without PFAs. Otherwise go for those made with safe, non-toxic materials like carbon steel, ceramic, lava rock, porcelain enamel, stainless steel or tempered glass.
Peek below for three top picks from the TCM team…
GreenPans Pure Ceramic + Magneto Nonstick Skillet | GreenPan is a pioneer of healthy ceramic non-stick pans. Manufactured without PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium, the coating won’t blister, peel or release any harmful fumes, even when we overheat the pan. CHECK OUT
Le Creuset Nonstick Fry Pan | This pan’s non-stick surface is PFA-free and triple-reinforced so it won’t flake, peel or rust. The ergonomic design and large stay-cool handles make it perfect for cooking with daily. CHECK OUT
Calphalon Ceramic Nonstick Finish Fry Pan | Designed to ensure even heating, durability and dishwasher-safeness, this non-stick pan allows us to cook using less fat, less cleanup time and most importantly, less chemical exposure. CHECK OUT
Dive deeper into the dangers of non-stick pans, and how to deal here.
Well, I knew plastic and Styrofoam containers are bad because they leach chemicals into our food, especially when heated, but now I have to worry about paper food wrappers, which I considered safe before reading this article. I appreciate the info (although my preferred pans for cooking are cast iron) but I’m just sad that getting healthy take-out food is becoming more difficult due to the containers and wrappers!
When eating out bring your own bpa-free containers to cut waste and toxin exposure.
Due to Covid, many restaurants will not take your containers or wrapping choices to package your food. You may have to ask for the food plated and wrap it yourself upon pickup. Such a complicated world we live in!