The new year is a great time to start practicing new, and healthier, habits and the kitchen is a great place to start!
For many people, cooking “healthfully” means choosing hormone-free dairy products, organic vegetables, unprocessed foods, and beef raised without antibiotics. But to cook truly healthfully, you need to pay as much attention to how you are cooking your food as to what you are cooking.
How you Cook Matters to your Health
Virtually all cooking creates chemical compounds and particulates from the combustion and the food itself! Gas stoves release fumes from combustion. Electric burners create ultrafine particles by volatilizing dust. High temperatures turn the amino acids and sugars in some foods into carcinogens. Even some types of cookware can leach chemicals into your food. Since you are probably standing close to the stove or open oven when these chemicals and particulates get into the air, exposure risk can be high. Not to mention, many people cook multiple times each day, every day of the year!
Without appropriate ventilation, cooking can reduce indoor air quality and may cause health problems. A Berkeley Lab Study (2013) found that the aggregate health consequences of poor indoor air quality—of which cooking is the major but not sole source—are as significant as those from all traffic accidents or infectious diseases in the United States1,2
Here are 3 easy things you can do today:
#1 Run your Range Hood Every Time you Cook (or fry, boil, roast, or simmer!!)
- Set the fan to the highest setting that the noise is tolerable.
- Make sure it vents to the outdoors. If it doesn’t, the hood will simply recirculate air in the kitchen.
- If your range hood does not extend over the front burners, cooking on the back burners could make the hood up to twice as effective at removing pollutants.
- Running the range hood when you are simmering or boiling helps to eliminate excess moisture and reduce mold risk too.
- When roasting foods in an oven, the experts at IndoorChem suggest ventilating every time the oven door is opened if you aren’t running the fan continuously.
- If having a range hood is not possible, open a window while cooking.
#2 Chose Less-Toxic Pots, Pans, Utensils, and Cooktops
- Avoid non-stick (Teflon), ceramic coated, and aluminum cookware.
- Choose less-toxic options like cast iron, stainless steel, and glass that doesn’t leach chemicals and spread heat evenly.
- Avoid plastic cooking utensils that can melt or flake with high heat potentially causing chemicals to get into your food. Choose wood, bamboo, or stainless steel instead.
- Opt for induction stovetops over gas or electric.
#3 Avoid High Temps and Charred Food
- Cook food more slowly and at a lower temperature (below the smoke point of your cooking oil). Keep cooking temps between 140 C to 180 C (284 F to 356 F).
- Avoid overcooked/charred food. The browner/more charred your toast/fries/meat, the more chemicals (including acrylamide or HCAs) will be present.
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ARE YOU CONCERNED YOUR HOME IS MAKING YOU SICK?
Our guide on indoor quality will help you diagnose possible issues and implement intelligent solutions to improve the quality of the air inside your home.