Here is part two in my guide to a healthy kitchen with lessons from cooking teacher extraordinaire, Pamela Salzman.
A lot of things go into the food we cook without our knowledge. A major source of harmful chemicals is Bisphenol-A, known as BPA for short. BPA is the building block of polycarbonate plastic, a hard plastic used to make numerous consumer products, including the plastic lining of many food cans. Studies have shown a connection between BPA and a wide variety of health problems, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and infertility. But some canned foods are great pantry staples to have on hand, and are unavoidable, so here is a list of BPA-free cans:
-Vital Choice canned tuna and salmon
-Native Forest coconut milk
-Trader Joe's brand - some but not all canned items
-Eden Organic beans
Limiting Exposure to Aluminum
In addition to BPA, I am also concerned about Aluminum from cooking products leaching into our foods.
Although the jury is still out as to what are safe versus unsafe levels of aluminum for our bodies, I consider it to be a neurotoxin and something that we should limit our exposure to once we know where it's hiding. Some studies have shown that aluminum toxicity is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, anemia, and decreased liver and kidney function. By now, most of us have heard that anti-perspirants and antacids contain high levels of aluminum, but many people don't realize that it may also be lurking in your kitchenware, as well as some unsuspecting foods.
• Cookware - aluminum can leach when heated and even more so when it comes into contact with acidic foods. Anodized aluminum cookware, which is treated so that it doesn't leach, is fine until you scratch it. But I still see non-anodized aluminum pots and pans in restaurant supply stores and discount chains. Definitely avoid these! Best to stick with stainless steel, cast iron, enameled cast iron and glass.
• Aluminum Foil - if you are going to put food on foil and heat it, it's better to put a layer of unbleached parchment paper between the food and the foil.
• Baking Soda and Baking Powder - aluminum is completely unnecessary to bake your favorite muffins. In fact, health reasons aside, I think baking soda and baking powder, which contain aluminum, have a bit of a metallic taste to them and the non-aluminum versions will make your baked goods taste better. Look for Rumford, Bob's Red Mill and Whole Foods brands.
• Soda in Cans - why are you drinking soda anyway?! I know we're talking about sources of aluminum, but soda is pure crap packaged in something that isn't good for you either. Time to give it up!
• Table Salt - do a side-by-side taste test between table salt and sea salt and you'll never go back to Morton's. Many table salts contain aluminum to improve the "pourability" of the salt. You can read more on salt below.
What To Do About Canned Tomatoes?
Acidic foods, such as tomatoes, paired with aluminum cans make for a terrible combination since the aluminum leaches into the tomatoes more quickly due to their acidity. Two better options for tomatoes are glass jarred organic tomatoes by Bionaturae or Lucini, or boxed Pomi tomatoes, although they are not organic. Of course, when tomatoes are in season, the way to go is to buy them fresh and peel and seed them yourself. Use 1 pound of fresh tomatoes in place of a 14.5-ounce can.
In: Sea Salt, Out: Table Salt
Finally, a basic and easy lesson for the kitchen is to throw away your table salt and invest in some sea salt.
Salt is a perfect example of how your body reacts to a food that is processed versus unprocessed and also how something as simple as salt can make a world of difference in the taste of a dish. Considering how often we use salt in cooking, I think it's worth buying the best sea salt you can find. Let's take regular table salt and compare it to unrefined sea salt:
• Highly processed and chemically altered, table salt is acid-forming to the body
• It’s refined at super high heat (1200-ish degrees Fahrenheit), which changes the molecular structure of the salt and makes it hard to assimilate
• It can often contain additives such as sodium aluminosilicate
• It can be harsh or metallic tasting.
• The ingredient list should contain only one word -- salt
• Sea salt is essentially evaporated ocean water or salt mined from underground salt beds, so look for the words "hand-harvested," "hand-processed," or "solar evaporated"
• Lightly colored salts such as grey, black or pink contains a small percentage more trace minerals than the white
• In moderate amounts, sea salt is alkalizing to the body
• Unrefined sea salt tastes clean, pure and sweet
These are some very basic staples from Pamela Salzman has taught me about making my kitchen a healthy and safer place for my family. Look for more from Pamela soon on Rip+Tan. XXJKE