Monday, April 28, 2014


A lot of foodie-consumer-products are touted to be natural-like and more convenient for you. And some of them are supposed to help you cut calories. The reality is that most of that is just BIG-FOOD manufacturers' hype. Less costly natural ingredients are almost always more healthy and don't have to seriously add to food preparation time. The case in point, here, concerns commercial cooking sprays in aerosol cans. They contain oils, an emulsifier and a propellant to create a fine mist of oil onto a surface making it nonstick for cooking. The sprays are expensive relative to regular cooking oils. They also use many more natural resources - particularly, the aluminum cans.

This post urges you to toss out the oil spray can and get cooking in a healthier way. And, if you still need convincing, here is some more bad news about aerosol cooking sprays.

Unhealthy additives.
The aerosols in use in these sprays tend to be toxic chemicals and, even in tiny amounts, can't be good for your health. Just one glance at the ingredients and you'll know that it isn't pure or natural. Yeah. Ugly things like soy lecithin, mono and diglycerides, dimethylpolysiloxane, dimethyl silicone, and artificial flavors. The long-term effects of eating these chemicals on a regular basis are not well known but can't be good. As to lawful half-truths in advertising, some have simply listed a "propellant" as ingredient. Needless to say, they don't want to have to spell out what substances are in there. But word has it that the usual propellants are petroleum gas, propane, and butane. (Anyone in their right mind would want to avoid propellants.)

Genetically modified foods (GMO’s)
Most of the soy, corn, or rapeseed/canola commercialized in the US is GMO. (And that's as much as 90 percent according to some sources.) For years, scientific studies have shown that GMOs create health risks such as infertility, auto-immune disorders, diabetes, and changes in the gastrointestinal system. GMO foods also contain higher levels of pesticides than conventional crops.

Damage to the lungs
Because the aerosol particles are so tiny, you just can't stand back far enough to get away from them when you spray. So the cook - and any one else nearby in the kitchen - is always breathing in some part of the spray when they are in use. Over time, that kind of chemical exposure is a serious risk for respiratory disease.

Bad for the environment
Most cooking sprays contain propellants, all of which are greenhouse gases. That can't be good for the earth.  And the nitrous oxide, used in some, is particularly bad in that it doesn’t break down easily. That means they create environmental damage for many decades.

Unnecessary packaging
The manufacture of aluminum cans represents huge amounts of resources. Then, after use, most of the spray cans end up in landfills. Only a small fraction get recycled. But those also require a recycling, a process that involves a great deal of heat and electricity.

Help solve the oil spray can problem by not participating in it.
Don’t look to BIG-FOOD manufacturers to do you favors. Now that you know more about them, do you actually want to use cooking sprays? And the same can be said for many other foodie-consumer-products. Real food, in the form of fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, and good grade oils, bought as fresh as possible and prepared in the kitchen is what's best for you.

You can always do just what has been done for centuries by carefully using the right amount of oil for each type of food preparation. I remember that as a young girl, we used measuring spoons to add the oil. We also spread out the oil with our fingers onto the baking sheets. But, now-a-days, we tend to do our best to avoid such direct contact with the gooey oils. Fortunately, there are at least a couple of good ways to do spread out the oil without skin contact.

Solutions to the cooking spray can dilemma.

If you think you can't live without cooking sprays, there are some really good options to the commercial ones. And these alternative are less costly in the long run, more earth-friendly, and healthier.

First, you can always buy a hand-pump mister bottle at a big box store and fill it with your favorite cooking oil. But these misters tend to clog up and need a lot of unstopping. (I tried them a while back and decided it just wasn't worth all the fuss.)

Second, you can do what I do now to avoid the use of commercial sprays. I dispense my regular cooking oils - sunflower, coconut and olive oil - with a drip pour spout. I drizzle a few drops of oil into the pan or skillet. If I need a more uniform way of spreading it out - like for baking tins - I use a small silicon spatula to baste the oil onto the cooking surface. I use two bottles - one for regular cooking oil and another for olive oil. The color-coded caps keep me from grabbing the wrong one in a rush.

The little bottles with drip spouts are recycled soy sauce containers. I bought the spatula at a big box store. They work well and clean up perfectly with warm water and regular dish washing suds.


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