Do you know that the utensil you choose for cooking, directly affects the taste and the nutritional value of your meal? Non-stick cookware and other metal pans destroy most of the nutrients in our food. We always try to buy the best possible quality of food – like Organic or Non-GMO products, to get maximum nourishment from our meals. But along with choosing nutritious food, it is also very important to preserve its nutrients while cooking. With the help of clay pot or clay pan cooking, we can preserve and even increase the nutritional value of our food. How? Let us understand.
Since ancient times most of the cultures have had a tradition of using clay pots for cooking. Around 14000 BC, long before people started farming, they started making pottery out of clay in East Asia – around China and Japan. Likewise, early traces of pottery making are found all over the world. Clay pots have been used for many purposes, like storing grains when our ancestors started farming, storing drinking water, preserving fish by fermenting it inside the clay pot and most importantly for cooking food.
Modernization has indeed made our life easy and more comfortable than it was centuries ago. It has provided us with various modern tools and techniques to use for various purposes. This also includes the various modern kitchen utensils we use daily for cooking. But there is a serious problem with these modern cooking utensils.
The modern cooking utensils destroy the nutrients in our food and introduce poisonous chemical compounds in it. The very reason we eat food is to get the essential nutrients out of it. But if we are destroying most of the nutrition in food while cooking then whats the point of buying all the fancy modern utensils?
Why is Clay Pot cooking better?
1. Nutrients are preserved:
Clay is porous in nature. This quality makes clay pots / clay pans very unique and effective for cooking. Due to this porous texture of clay pot, moisture and heat circulates evenly through the pot while cooking. Clay pots take a longer time to heat than metal pots. This even and slow cooking plays very important role in retaining nutrients inside the food.
Researchers at the CDRI (Central Drug Research Institute) Lab in Lucknow, India have done a case study on Clay Pot cooking. In one of their experiments, they cooked some Daal (Lentil curry) in a clay pot and at the same time also cooked some Daal in a pressure cooker. Then they compared the nutritional values of both the curries after they were cooked. In case of the Daal cooked in the pressure cooker, only 13% of the original micro nutrients present in the raw Daal were left. But in case of the Daal cooked in the clay pot, 100% of the micro nutrients which originally present in the raw Daal were still present in it after cooking! Essentially what was left in the pressure cooked Daal was almost worthless and unusable by the body.
2. Alkaline nature of clay:
The second thing that makes clay pots special is that the clay is alkaline in nature. Clay interacts with the acidity in the food and neutralizes the pH balance. It is very important for our body to always remain alkaline and maintain its pH balance, which protects us from various diseases like cancer. Cancer cells develop in an acidic environment. Alkaline environment restricts the growth of cancer cells.
3. Less oil/fat required for cooking:
Clay has a natural non-stick properties. Also the process of cooking in a clay pot is similar to that of steaming. When clay pot is soaked in the cold water and then heated allows slow evaporation of steam from its pores. It provides plenty of moisture and eliminates the need of adding extra oil or liquid. The food cooks in its own natural juices.
4. Safe for food contact:
Clay is a natural material and it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals to react with the food. All it consist of is micro-nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, sulfur, etc. While other metal and non-stick utensils releases harmful chemical compounds in our food. These chemicals act as a slow poison in our body. In India, clay is considered as Pavitra (pure/ holy). Traditionally in every temple the Prasad (food offering to God) is made only in clay pots. The Prasad is eventually consumed by worshipers.
5. Environmental benefits:
Clay is an environment friendly substance. When taken care of these clay pots properly they can last quiet a long time. Even if the clay pots/pans get cracked or break, they are biodegradable. So no harm to our environment at all.
6. Retains heat for longer:
Once the food is cooked, a clay pot can keep it hot for much longer. Because of its insulating properties, clay pot retains heat.
7. Flavorful and nutritious food:
Food cooked in a clay pot with a lid on it, gets an intense and rich flavor.
In our home, my mother still uses clay pots to prepare most of the food. Yogurt made by my mother, in a clay pot tastes absolutely amazing! The taste which comes from cooking food in clay pots is very unique and delicious, I can’t explain it in words.
Many women in India, mostly in rural villages still use these clay pots for cooking. Those women might not know about how these clay pots are preserving and increasing the nutritional value of the food they are making. But they are simply following what their mothers and grandmothers used to do and are getting benefits from it – knowingly or unknowingly.
Our ancestors had a much better overall health than us. As compared to today, number of cases of diabetes, blood pressure, heart attack, cancer etc. were very low a few decades ago. Just because their lifestyle was very close to nature and they were getting all the nutrients from the food they were eating.
To experience how much better food can taste, just buy a cooking clay pot or a clay pan and try this way of cooking yourself. The result will be amazing! Once you start using clay pots, you won’t go back to the poisonous metal and non-stick cookware.
Rather than spending money on buying expensive multivitamins, which now some scientists say are not that effective and do not get absorb completely in our body as they are synthetically made, clay pot cooking is worth trying for taking care of our health naturally.
If you are planning to cook your food in clay pot there are some tips I am going to give in my next blog. These techniques will make your clay pot cooking easy and your clay pots will last much longer. I will put the link here once I post the next blog.
If you are living outside India you can buy clay pots from any Indian or Asian grocery store near you. In India you can buy these clay pots from any clay pot vendor near you.