From Padma Lakshmi the sultry hostess of Top Chef to chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay, from actress Jennifer Garner to celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwakar, the good old iron kadai that our ancestors used has a huge fan following across the globe.
Rujuta Diwakar, in a recent Instagram post, said “If you look around, you will notice that waists were slimmer when our kitchens were larger. Now we have homes with bathrooms larger than kitchens, because intuitively, the real estate market knows that people are spending more time in their toilets than in their kitchens.”
Rujuta suggested basic kitchen rules to lose weight while maintaining nutrition and health, and these included using cast iron utensils.
Container of goodness
Today, we tend to be so focused on the kind of food we should or should not be consuming that we often forget that the method of cooking has a bearing on the nutrition quotient. “The pots and pans we cook the food in are as important as the food that goes into them. While we splurge on quality local and organic ingredients, it is also necessary that we use cookware that boosts our health and immunity,” says Dr Siddhant Bhargava, fitness and nutritional scientist, co-founder of Food Darzee.
Most of us prefer to use Teflon-coated ‘non-stick’ pans for cooking. When heated to high temperatures, these tend to release chemicals called perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). PFC bioaccumulation is an increasing public health concern.
Emerging evidence links it with reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity and hepatotoxicity. When these chemicals make their way into our foods, it can lead to numerous health problems like liver dysfunction and brain health issues too.
Adding health, not toxins
Many of us unthinkingly purchase and use cookware that releases toxic substances into the food. “This gradual process eventually increases the body's toxic load and could be harmful in the long run, damaging systems and weakening bones, warns Neha Tasneem, Clinical Nutritionist, CARE Hospitals.
On the other hand, cast iron pans and cookware do not add toxic substances in our bodies.” Neha points out.
It is proven that cast iron pans are ‘non-stick’, without the need for any chemical coating, and also increase the nutritional value of food. These utensils reinforce iron content in food,” says Dr Suddhant. Various studies have shown that iron infused into food from iron pots is indispensable for increasing haemoglobin levels.
Iron kadais and tavas can be used to make sabzis and rotis. They help to improve haemoglobin levels and combat fatigue. Curries and vegetables cooked in seasoned cast iron pans absorb iron from the vessel and give the body much-needed iron supplements.
“Acidic food and items cooked for long periods tend to accumulate the most iron content when cooked in these pans,” says Dr Sidddhant. “For example, when tomato sauce is made in a cast iron pan, it will have 87.5 mg of iron. But when it is cooked in a glass pan, the iron content goes down to a mere 3.0 mg,” he says.
Even non-acidic and quick-cooking food items, like potatoes and eggs, tend to show a five-fold increase in iron content when cooked in an iron skillet, according to Dr. Siddhant. Food cooked in cast iron utensils is especially beneficial for menstruating women and expectant mothers who need more iron. “The haemoglobin of children who eat such food regularly also surges,” he adds.
Cast iron cookware is made of 90% iron. So the chemical-free cast iron range, found in traditional Indian kitchens since time immemorial will add value to your modern kitchen too,” says Neha.
“Cast iron utensils are known to distribute heat evenly, which means they are good for cooking all types of foods. Less oil is needed for cooking in these vessels, so they’re good for health in that way too,” says Neha. The need for less cooking oil when compared to aluminium and stainless steel vessels, will help control calorie intake, she adds.