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Healthy Cookware: The Aviva Philosophy

By Nathan Zassman

One of my passions at Aviva is researching and evaluating products that can provide health benefits to our customers. My philosophy has always been to look for products that can be integrated into a person's lifestyle, rather than require conscious effort.

Our customers know they don't have to do the research when they're looking for a product at Aviva because I spend so much time comparing and studying every type of health product, from cookware to air purifiers to juicers, from footwear to supplements. If I'm not happy with any product in a particular category I will choose not to carry it, or as in the case of water purification, I thoroughly research the technology and design an original and unique product to meet my demanding specifications.

Cooking has always been a major interest for me. Finding the best cookware has been one of my interests because I spend so much time in the kitchen . I love being creative, and when it comes to cookware , I personally use the products we sell and recommend at Aviva.

Non-Stick Cookware Coatings

Most non-stick cookware coatings use some type of 'polymer' material to impart the non-stick quality into the cookware surface. PTFE made by Dupont is known as Teflon®, however there are other companies that make PTFE materials under different names. PFOA, a 'carrier chemical' that appears during the production of Teflon and other PTFE raw materials, is the harmful chemical that the EPA has cited as a health risk . During the production process used by Scanpan and Swiss Diamond all PFOA is removed and captured in filters which are then discarded in compliance with applicable laws.

Some websites mention that if you overheat a PTFE (Teflon, etc.) coated pan and you have birds nearby, that the birds can be killed. The respiratory system of birds is extremely sensitive and even overheating cooking oil or butter may kill your beloved parakeet, so this issue is somewhat exaggerated. Nevertheless, there is no PFOA in Swiss Diamond or Scanpan cookware.

Studies have shown that PTFE coated cookware that contains PFOA (brands other than Scanpan and Swiss Diamond) will release the PFOA into the air when heated to high temperatures (over 500°F). By the year 2010, all cookware manufacturers have agreed to produce PFOA free cookware, but Swiss Diamond and Scanpan are PFOA free now. Aviva does not sell cookware with PFOA.

PTFE, even without PFOA, can release noxious fumes when heated to temperatures above 650°, but temperatures above 500° are not recommended for healthful cooking. Foods cooked at high temperatures could be as dangerous to your health as the PTFE fumes. PTFE materials that are heated to over 650° may produce a symptom called "polymer-fume fever," temporary flu-like symptoms that disappear in 24-36 hours and are rarely serious. There have been only a few reported cases of polymer-fume fever in over 50 years of use of non stick PTFE based cookware.

Normal Use vs. Abuse

I do not recommend high heat for cooking any food, as dangerous AGEs (Advanced Glycation End Products) are produced which may be more harmful than the PFOA produced by normal Teflon coated pans. In addition, heating cooking oils (including butter ) to high temperatures may create toxic byproducts. I recommend keeping cooking temperatures under 325F.

The advantage of non stick coatings that use titanium/ceramic or diamond crystal material, as opposed to a coating that is "pure Teflon," is that the majority of the material used is not PTFE (or Teflon). The material used is predominantly either titanium/ceramic (Scanpan) or diamond crystals (Swiss Diamond), with a small percentage of the non stick PTFE material added to provide the non stick qualities. With products that are Teflon coated, there is only the Teflon material coated on aluminum; there is no "carrier material" like titanium/ceramic or diamond crystals.

Aviva has been selling Scanpan cookware for almost five years, and while we have been pleased with the quality, performance and durability of Scanpan, I am always looking more great products, as it is my goal to offer the very best in each product category. When I learned of Swiss Diamond cookware I was intrigued and decided to research the product.

I asked for references from customers who had purchased the product, and every individual I spoke with told me that they loved cooking with Swiss Diamond and that they felt this was the most durable, best quality non stick cookware on the market.

At this time, I learned of Mike Adams' article on NewsTarget, now the Natural News website (a great resource). Adams took a sharp pointed fork and scratched the surface of a Swiss Diamond pan, indicating that the surface was easily damaged. As a user of Swiss Diamond cookware for over a year, I have learned that it would take considerable effort to cause this type of damage, and that normal use, even with metal utensils will not damage the surface of a Swiss Diamond pan. Under normal circumstances, cookware would never be subjected to the level of abuse illustrated by Adams. Choice Magazine (Australia) published a comprehensive durability comparison of non-stick products. Swiss Diamond placed 2nd, withstanding an automated, motorized grinding process using a scouring pad that ruined many other pans. The coatings on many of the pans in this test were worn completely off showing the bare aluminum below, but Swiss Diamond showed virtually no damage.

While Scanpan and Swiss Diamond indicate that it is safe to use metal utensils with their cookware, I see absolutely no reason to do so. A sharp fork can scratch the surface of any pan, including stainless steel, cast iron, ceramic and enamel. If you use wood or plastic utensils on Swiss Diamond products and you do not exceed the 500°F maximum temperature, the surface should last a lifetime. In my opinion the non- stick surface of Swiss Diamond is more durable than Scanpan, and the overall finish reflects fine Swiss craftsmanship. Plus, Swiss Diamond coats the exterior with an easy to clean, durable surface. Swiss Diamond also offers a new line that can be used with induction cooktops and a terrific new wok that can be used on induction and ceramic ranges.

Cooking Alternatives

I have evaluated many of the alternatives to non- stick cookware products, including enamel, ceramic and stainless steel. Nickel is combined with steel (a steel/nickel alloy) to make steel "stainless." As nickel is difficult for the body to eliminate, and as some people have nickel allergies, I do not recommend stainless steel cookware or storing foods in stainless steel containers. Plus, foods can easily stick and burn with stainless steel cookware.

Enamel is a reasonable choice as the material is more inert and safer than stainless steel, but as with stainless steel, foods stick and burn easily with enamel cookware when compared to non-stick products. New non-stick coatings including GreenPan (Thermalon), EarthPan (Meyer), and Silit Ceraprotect offer non-stick performance and the ability to withstand higher temperatures without the use of PTFE in the coating. Early test reports with some of these new materials indicate that there may be durability issues, and some reports have indicated that the non-stick qualities are not long lasting. Once I have fully evaluated these newest non- stick products I will update this article to reflect my findings.

As the percentage of non-stick material (PTFE) in the Swiss Diamond coating is lower than traditional Teflon coated pans, and as there is no PFOA in the material, I feel Swiss Diamond is an excellent, healthy choice in high- quality non-stick cookware.

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