Is Non-stick Stuff Sticking to Us? | Seventh Generation
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Is Non-stick Stuff Sticking to Us?

Author: the Inkslinger

Cast Iron CookwareHere's a serving of culinary irony to go with your holiday leftovers: Non-stick cookware, which helps us avoid unhealthy fats when we cook, may actually raise our cholesterol levels. At least that's what a new study from Boston University's School of Public Health suggests. Researchers found that people with higher levels of non-stick polyfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs) in their bloodstreams also had higher levels of non-HDL ("bad") cholesterol.

This is a prime example of why (forgive the pun) it's always wise to stick to the Precautionary Principle. Because until we know something for sure, we really don't know anything at all.

There's been a simmering suspicion that PFCs are up to no good. Previous studies, for example, found a correlation between very high PFC levels in the body (like those found in PFC workers) and higher cholesterol. But this study is different: it's a general population study that hints that far lower levels of PFCs, like those found in regular folk, might also affect cholesterol.

The key word there is "hints," and it means that we have to take the study itself with a dose of precaution. It's a preliminary finding that identifies an association between PFC exposure and higher cholesterol but hardly proves direct cause-and-effect. There could be something else at work here, something unrelated to PFCs.

We just don't know. And until we do, precaution is advised. What does that mean? Well, first be aware that some of the PFCs in the BU study have been phased out. They persist in our bodies and the environment, but they're not being made anymore. Still, many PFCs and related chemicals remain in production, and one of these was linked to higher cholesterol in the BU study. There's also a fear that both the chemical replacements for the phased-out PFCs and those that remained in production simply break down into the banned chemicals as they age.

Until science gives us the all-clear, we should keep PFCs at arm's length. What does that mean? For starters, consider replacing your non-stick cookware with cast iron. Trust me -- once it's seasoned, it works like a charm. Try to cut out microwave popcorn and processed and fast foods, especially greasy types -- their packaging is typically coated with PFCs to prevent soak-throughs. Don't use glossy paper plates. And remember that the best defense is a good offense. Click here to learn more about PFCs and stay informed!

photo: Timothy Vollmer


cactushugger picture
Looks like they did look at all of that. My apologies, just wanted to introduce some healthy skepticism:
cactushugger picture
First of all I don't like or trust PFCs anywhere near my food and use steel and cast-iron pots and pans. But I do have one beef with studies like this... I haven't seen the paper, or any statistical analyses that they did, but I think it would stand to reason that folks who use non-stick (cheap) pots and pans are more likely (in general) to eat more fried foods, and opt for fast food more often than those who make a conscious choice not to use non-stick cookware, be it for health reasons or otherwise. So I guess I'm wondering how they correlated higher LDLs directly to the use of non-stick materials, vs. any underlying factors common with the target group. Food for thought.
jaderyan22 picture
I use safflower oil on mine (it's intended for high heat cooking or frying) but olive works just as well. Best purchase I've made in quite a while. Lodge makes bread pans too if anyone is interested, but they may only be available at their outlet stores.
danellesedai picture
I use just regular olive oil for all of it; worked wonderfully for seasoning the pan, its great for cooking, and so far it's done a good job for after cleaning storage as well.
willowsprite picture
I use a Starfrit ceramic coated pan and I love it! You still need a little oil to make it a bit slippery. I also have an Earth Chef ceramic wok. It works beautifully.
kvillani picture
What kind of oil do you use for seasoning the pan?
SpiritOaks picture
I LOVE my cast iron, my most prized pieces being from my Grandma (old Griswold pieces). I've never really cared for non-stick as to me it represents what I call "plastic food", but most importantly, the danger of it if it's used at too high of a temperature. My one observation for this article however is the comment of "Trust me -- once it's seasoned, it works like a charm." (which is 1000% true...yes one thousand lol), but then the picture used to represent the cast iron...good gawd folks...THIS IS NOT well seasoned cast iron. That set looks like it's been left out in the rain, or worse yet scrubbed with steel wool. BTW, a rusted pan can ALWAYS be saved...I've saved ones that sat outside in the rain for's just takes lots of love and elbow grease, but it is more than worth it. Truly well seasoned cast iron is uniformly black and should be kept LIGHTLY oiled after cleaning, which gives it a beautiful satiny shine. Once it is this way, it IS non stick...except for eggs. If meats are stuck to it while cooking, the meat is not yet ready for turning and will release itself once it is. And if anything else is stuck to it, scrape it while it's still cooking and you will be surprised. Oh and it's best to avoid acidic sauces (like tomatoes). If you've got a pan that you don't think you can get clean after you are done cooking, then fill it about halfway with water and put it on the stove, bring it to a boil and scrape with a metal spoon or spatula to remove the crusty bits...but ALWAYS remember... OIL it each and EVERY time you clean it...and NEVER let water sit in it for extended periods (unless you want the above mentioned task)...dry it right after washing too....and ENJOY! PS...the trace amounts of iron that are added to your food is good for you too. This is cookware that will last you a lifetime and can be handed down through MANY generations.