Cookware for a healthy kitchen


Peek into anyone's cookware cupboard, and you'll spot pots and pans crafted from a variety of metals and plastic containers nestled inside of glass and ceramic casserole dishes. In some circumstances, the foods you cook may absorb materials from the pots and pans in which you cook them.

But with health and safety factors being about equal, the choice of which material your cookware will be made from really depends on your personal taste and cooking style.

If your cookware is made from stainless steel...
You're using the most popular type of cookware in North America. And it's popular for good reasons – stainless-steel cookware is safe, durable, and versatile. Stainless steel is made of a variety of metals, including iron, chromium, and nickel. These three could affect your health in high doses. These metals may find their way into our foods but, unless the stainless-steel cookware is dinged or pitted, they are in such small amounts that there is no real cause for concern.

Tip: While it's safe to cook acidic foods, like tomatoes, in stainless-steel cookware, once food is cooked, store in a different container that's not made of stainless steel.

If your cookware is made from aluminum...
Aluminum cookware is lightweight, affordable, and conducts heat well. But fewer cooks use it than stainless steel. That could be because of the fear that aluminum increases a person's risk of Alzheimer's disease (no definitive evidence has been found) or due to general fears of aluminum in food (only 1 mg to 2 mg from aluminum pots and pans; the World Health Organization says adults can safely consume 50 mg per day). Also, most aluminum cookware is anodized, meaning its surface has been made scratch-resistant and thus less likely to leach out into food.

Tip: Aluminum is not a good choice for slow-cooking. Also, choose a different type of cookware for dealing with acidic foods and green leafy vegetables, which absorb more aluminum from pots and pans than do other foods.

If your cookware is made from silicone...
More and more kitchen tools and gadgets are being made from silicone, a synthetic material akin to rubber. You might see more utensils made from the material, but silicone cookware and bakeware are available. So far, no health hazards have been noted.

Tip: Silicone will melt above 220 °C (428 °F), so choose another material for very high-heat recipes.

If your cookware is made from cast iron...
You may have inherited a cast iron skillet or frying pan from your grandmother. Decades ago, it was the cooking material of choice. Though it takes some patience to wait for it to heat up, sturdy cast iron distributes heat evenly, making it a good choice for frying, cooking eggs, or baking cornbread. If well-seasoned and well-cared for, cast iron's surface stays naturally non-stick. Like stainless steel, cast iron can add iron to foods when cooked, but at levels that are safe for most people.

Tip: Learn how to properly care for your cast iron cookware to prevent damages to the surface. No suds required for scrubbing them clean - just hot water and a stiff brush, followed by a coat of cooking oil. Your grandmother may have used lard or bacon grease to season her cast iron cookware - saturated fats are less likely to go rancid - but olive oil will do in a pinch.

If your cookware is made from copper...
Copper cookware looks lovely hanging from hooks in gourmet kitchens. More than decorative, they're a go-to choice for cooks looking for precision and quick, even heating. Problem is, copper can be easily scratched, making the metal more likely to get into foods through cooking. If you bought a copper pot or pan in Canada, it should be coated to protect food from the copper. If you inherited vintage copper or brass pots or pans, save them for the wall - not for the stovetop.

Tip: Clean copper cookware gently, since the surface protectant can be scraped away. Don't use badly scratched copper cookware.

If your cookware is made from ceramic, enamel, or glass...
Glazed ceramic cookware gives the kitchen a homey feeling, while glazed enamelware evokes campfire memories. But the materials used to cover the surface of these items can be harmful to our health. So Canada imposes strict guidelines for the levels of lead and cadmium allowed in ceramic cookware, enamelware, as well as glassware.

Tip: Travellers who collect glazed ceramic should be cautioned that not all countries impose the same strict guidelines. Use items purchased abroad with caution or else use them decoratively.

What about non-stick coating?
Non-stick surfaces are applied to many pots and pans these days, making them easier to cook with and a cinch to clean. Since you can cook with little or no butter or oil, non-stick is a frequent choice of those on heart-healthy diets. But safety concerns have made consumers think twice about the convenience.

A synthetic chemical, of which small amounts are used to produce non-stick products, has been deemed a "likely carcinogen" linked to cancer in rats. No human risk has been found. There is no risk of exposure to this synthetic chemical from using non-stick cookware since it is used in the manufacturing process and doesn't remain in the cookware after manufacturing. The only risk associated with non-stick coatings is if heated at temperatures higher than 350 °C (650 °F), such as what might happen if an empty pot or pan is left on the burner. Irritating and poisonous fumes can emit.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2024. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

Choosing the right cooking oil

Diet and Fitness


Add oil to food and you add flavour – and fat. No need to hide your cooking oil in the back of your cupboards, though – your body needs some fat, and certain kinds of cooking oils provide just the right kind.
If you choose cooking oils comprised of the right kinds of fat – monounsaturated or polyunsaturated – you help to lower your LDL cholesterol and maybe even boost your HDL. You should be consuming no more than 30 mL to 45 mL (2 to 3 tablespoons) of unsaturated fat each day, and you can find the fat you need in the following cooking oils:

  • olive oil
  • canola oil
  • peanut oil
  • soybean oil
  • safflower oil
  • sunflower oil
  • corn oil
  • flaxseed oil

Your choice of healthier oil will depend on what type of food you're preparing. Oils have different "smoke points," the temperature at which the oil begins to break down and give off smoke. When this happens, oil loses some of its flavour and nutritional properties and can release harmful vapour into the air.

  • Oils that have lower smoke points, like flaxseed oil, are better suited to use in dressings and marinades.
  • Sesame, soybean, corn, and virgin coconut oils have a relatively moderate smoke point and work well for sautéing.
  • Oils that don't smoke until they've reached higher temperatures include canola, peanut, grapeseed, avocado, sunflower, refined coconut, and extra virgin olive oil. These oils lend themselves to baked goods, stir-fry, and foods roasted or baked in the oven, and have smoke points of 400 °F (204 °C) or higher.
  • For the higher temperatures required to fry, brown, or sear, you'd want to select avocado oil.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2024. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

The healthy pantry makeover

Diet and Fitness


Faced with a choice between cooking a healthful meal and ordering out, many weary (or wary) cooks will opt for take-out. But with take-out they can be taking key nutrients out of their diets. If you have your local eateries on speed-dial, you could be under-nourished and overspending. A smart pantry makeover will put nourishing meals and wholesome snacks within your reach.

Open your cupboard. Is it bare as Old Mother Hubbard's? Do you see a castle of untouched cans? A spice rack gathering dust and losing flavour? Individual tastes may vary, but for a robust, useful cupboard, fill up on the following staple items. Mix and match: They can become the fixings of many a quick snack or hearty meal.

Essential elements

These are the go-to items that pull everything together.

  • oils and vinegars that are low in saturated fats
    • olive oil
    • canola oil
    • balsamic vinegar
  • herbs and spices
    • oregano
    • basil
    • dill
    • sage
    • thyme
    • peppermint
    • salt and pepper
    • rosemary
    • garlic
    • ginger
  • sweeteners
    • honey
    • blackstrap molasses
  • grains, nuts, seeds
    • sesame seeds
    • pine nuts
    • oats
    • granola

Meal makers

The meal makers are those items that bulk up or provide the base for lunches and dinners.

  • broths and soup stock
  • rice
  • pasta
  • dried beans

Can do

Canned foods are affordable pantry standbys. Long shelf-lives make them convenient and handy in a pinch. Closely eyeball the labels to monitor salt, fat, and sugar content, and try to choose the ones with the simplest list of ingredients.

  • canned tomato sauce or paste
  • canned beans: garbanzo, black, navy, kidney
  • canned seafood: salmon, tuna, crab

Snack shack

Nutritious snacks are a necessity. For a boost of energy or just to fill in the gaps between meals, stash away some of the following wholesome, bite-sized treats.

  • sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
  • almonds, walnuts, peanuts
  • peanut butter
  • popcorn
  • dried cranberries, apricots, sun-dried tomatoes
  • whole-grain crackers

Ways to wash it all down

The cupboard can be home to a few beneficial beverages.

  • green tea (has antioxidants that fight, and may even prevent, cell damage)
  • mint tea (may help in digestion and soothe the stomach)
  • hot chocolate (dark chocolate may protect against heart disease)

Shady foods

Some foods thrive in the shadows. For vegetables, this precaution prevents sprouting. For other food items, it's just a matter of preserving freshness and flavour.

  • potatoes
  • yams and sweet potatoes
  • onions
  • coffee
  • dried herbs
  • garlic

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2024. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

Cooking vegetables without losing nutrients

Diet and Fitness


Generally, the more we expose foods to heat and water, the more nutrients will be lost, especially water-soluble vitamins like vitamins B and C. However, not all foods react the same way to different cooking methods.

Nutrient-maximizing tips:

Chop vegetables into larger chunks. When finely chopped, veggies will have more surfaces exposed to the air, which can zap vitamins and minerals.

Put away the peeler. When apples and cucumbers are peeled, their antioxidant content decreases by 33% to 66%.

Take a break after chopping veggies. After chopping collard greens, Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower, wait about 10 minutes before you cook or eat them. Some studies show that time enhances activation of certain nutrients in the vegetables.

Let the stinky stuff breathe. Garlic, onions, and leeks can be quickly drained of many of their nutritional benefits when cooked. To maximize nutrient availability, slice up garlic, onions, and leeks and let them stand for about 10 minutes before further handling or cooking them, allowing time for some nutrients to be released.

Let off some steam. Most veggies stand up well when given a good steaming. This quick-cook method increases carrots' antioxidant potential by nearly 300%, while cabbage gets a more than 400% boost!

And be quick about that steam! The super nutritional powers of some vegetables can be short-lived when cooked. That's why short cook times are crucial when preparing mega-vitamin-packed vegetables like broccoli, Swiss chard, green beans, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.

Griddle your vegetables. Tossed on a griddle (a flat metal pan) with no cooking oil, vegetables may hold onto more of their antioxidants.

Zap your veggies in the microwave. Despite the microwave's bad reputation, "nuking" vegetables can maintain or even boost the antioxidant content of several types of vegetables, including carrots and spinach.

Give peas a chance. Green peas, along with cauliflower and zucchini can be drained of most of their nutrient potential when boiled. Steaming would be a better option if you want to benefit from the vitamin C, fibre, and folate bursting from these bountiful vegetables.

Let vegetables show their true colours. Cooked just right, brightly-hued vegetables like bell peppers, spinach, or tomatoes will become even more deeply and vividly coloured. Let them cook too long, though, and you'll notice once vibrant vegetables turn pale and colourless. Less colour usually means less nutritional potential.

Should you put a freeze on frozen? If properly blanched (boiled or steamed) before freezing, fruits and vegetables last about 8 to 12 months. Many salad staples don't hold up well there, though. Once thawed, cabbage, lettuce, cucumbers, celery, radishes, endives, and watercress will be drained of colour - a clue that they've also been drained of some nutrients.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2024. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source:

Tricky issues of 2 cooking methods

Diet and Fitness


Worries about foodborne illnesses may compel cooks to blast foods with high temperatures. High heat can kill bacteria that could potentially make you sick, but high heat can also zap nutrients and trigger release of potentially troubling toxins from certain foods.

Grilling is a popular high-heat cooking method – that smoky flavour a staple of summer parties and picnics. When muscle meats (beef, pork, poultry, fish) are cooked at high temperatures – as in grilling, frying, and broiling – heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are created. HCAs and PAHs are chemicals that may increase risk of certain types of cancer. Studies have shown that there may be a link between people who have high intakes of meat cooked at high temperatures and an increased risk of stomach, colorectal, pancreatic, prostate, and breast cancer.

No set guidelines exist for safe levels of HCA or PAH consumption, but you can minimize your risk:

  • cook at lower temperatures: In research, HCA levels went up threefold when cooking temperature was boosted from 200 °C to 250 °C (392 °F to 482 °F). You can still enjoy your favourite grilled goodies, but you'll want to do so in moderation. Instead of cooking at high temperatures or over open flames, opt to oven-roast, bake, boil, stew, poach, or steam your foods - lower-heat cooking methods that will result in lower levels of HCAs and PAHs.
  • don't eat "well": Of course, you should eat healthfully, but you should take your meat medium-rare or rare instead of well-done or medium-well. Shorter cooking times could lower levels of HCAs. Also, remove charred portions of meat to reduce HCA and PAH exposure.
  • copy fast-food restaurants: In one study, food from fast-food restaurant chains were found to contain low levels of HCAs, which could be due to shorter cook time or to the fact that fast-food burgers are not often cooked "to order" and thus less likely to be overcooked.
  • pass on the gravy: Drippings and gravies made from meat can contain relatively high levels of HCAs.
  • microwave meat before you cook it: A quick precook in the microwave before exposure to high temperatures can slash HCAs.

Microwaves are another popular high-heat cooking method. Microwaves create their high heat by causing water molecules in the food to rotate, creating friction between molecules and quickly boosting the food's temperature. As long as your microwave is well-maintained and properly used, those microwaves pose no known health risk.

But many healthy foodies have thrown out their microwave, figuring them to be unsafe energy-and-nutrient suckers. Actually, as noted in "Cooking vegetables without losing nutrients," microwaves can be a real health and safety asset in the kitchen. The antioxidants in carrots and spinach actually get a boost from a spin in the microwave.

To minimize nutrient loss and prevent undercooking and risk of foodborne illness:

  • even things out: Pre-cut food into small, equally-sized pieces and arrange uniformly on a platter. This allows for thorough, even cooking.
  • shelter the steam: Use a microwave-safe lid or wrap to keep steam near the food so it cooks uniformly.
  • check your tools: Be sure that any containers, plates, or covering you use are made from microwave-safe materials. Some types of materials can melt or seep into food.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2024. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: