Is It Safe to Use Aluminum Foil in Cooking?
For years, people have been using aluminum foil to cook for various reasons. By wrapping food in aluminum foil, the heat from the cooking source is trapped in the foil and helps the food to cook more evenly. People have also used aluminum foil to line various baking sheets because this can make the cleanup process a breeze. Many people elect to store their food in aluminum foil instead of reaching for a Tupperware container because aluminum foil can be made to fit all shapes and sizes. Recently, people have been raising the question whether it is safe to cook with aluminum foil. Those who have concerns about using aluminum foil in their cooking regimen should keep some important information in mind.
Every Metal is Toxic in Excess
Aluminum, like iron and calcium, can be toxic to the human body if it exceeds safe levels. Healthy cooking can help keep this element in check; however, too much aluminum can cause problems for the bones, brain, and kidneys.
Aluminum is Deposited in the Bones
The bones are chiefly made up of calcium and depend on calcium to maintain their integrity, strength, and flexibility. Over time, aluminum can be deposited in the bones and disrupt this integral structure. Osteomalacia is the medical term for “soft bones,” meaning bones that are easily broken. Too much aluminum in the body can lead to osteomalacia and increase the risk of bone fractures.
Aluminum has Been Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease
Decades ago, research started to surface that aluminum toxicity was linked to Alzheimer’s disease after researchers conducting autopsies on people with Alzheimer’s found excess levels of aluminum in their brains. Since that time, modern-day scientists have failed to replicate this study; however, this doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been linked to other neurological diseases. In addition to the active research behind aluminum toxicity and Alzheimer’s, aluminum has been linked to a number of other neurodegenerative diseases, including amyloidosis and tau protein accumulation. The buildup of these proteins can contribute to severe neurological disease, all starting with the buildup of aluminum in the brain.
Aluminum can Cause Renal Failure
Excess levels of aluminum are also toxic to the kidneys. The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products out of the bloodstream. One of the elements that the kidneys must keep in check is aluminum; however, if the levels of aluminum are too high, the kidneys are unable to filter the aluminum out of the bloodstream fast enough. The high levels will overload the kidneys and send them into renal failure. This means that the kidneys stop doing their job and other toxins, such as urea and nitrogenous waste, buildup in the bloodstream, making patients sick.
Is Aluminum Safe in Cooking?
Once people understand the dangers of excess aluminum in the bloodstream, they often ask whether or not they should continue to use aluminum to cook with. Like many other substances questions surrounding diet, the answer is to use it in moderation and avoid it when it isn’t necessary. There are a few tips that people should keep in mind to make sure they aren’t using aluminum unnecessarily.
Don’t Place Aluminum Foil in the Microwave
Anyone who has made this mistake before understands what happens when aluminum foil is placed in the microwave. Microwaves are meant to cook foods quickly. Therefore, they use high-energy waves that will activate the aluminum, causing it to spark. This can lead to fires in addition to charring foods and the foil itself. Avoid aluminum when cooking with a microwave.
Aluminum Leeches at High Heat
When people use pots and pans made out of aluminum, they must make sure that the cookware has been anodized. These cooking utensils come in direct contact with high levels and heat and the aluminum that went into their production could leech from the surface at high heat and wind up deposited in the food unnecessarily. Ensure that the pots and pans have been chosen correctly.
Try Not to Store Food in Aluminum Foil
Many people use aluminum foil to store leftovers. While this might be more convenient due to the lack of lids and ease of disposal, it is an unnecessary exposure to aluminum. Instead, use Tupperware or a glass container when possible. People shouldn’t have to eat food that has been sitting in aluminum foil for days on end.
Try to Avoid Aluminum Foil When Using Acidic Foods
When people cook with acidic foods, it is more likely to dissolve the aluminum foil and wind up in the food itself. Acid dissolves substances, which is why chemists use it to clean their lab benches. Lemon juice, tomato juice, and anything with alcohol in it is slightly acidic. When this comes into contact with aluminum foil and then is cooked at a high heat, this increases the dissolving process.
What is Safe to Cook in Aluminum Foil?
Healthy cooking with aluminum foil simply requires the proper circumstances. Moderation means cooking safely with aluminum foil using the right foods:
- Baking: For those who like to cook pastries, cakes, and cookies using aluminum, this is fine. Many people line their baking sheets with aluminum and the inert pastries will keep the amount of aluminum in the foods to a minimal, almost undetectable, level.
- Meats: For solid meats that haven’t been marinated in a liquid for an extended period of time, aluminum is fine. Some people like to wrap their meat in a foil cover to help the meat cook evenly. This is a healthy application of the metal properties.
- Breads: For people who like to make their own bread, using aluminum foil in this manner might help the bread cook evenly throughout. Don’t be afraid to use the aluminum for this circumstance. Bread is an inert substance that will not leech the foil.
- Potatoes: Almost everyone uses foil to help bake potatoes because they would take hours to do so otherwise. People have been doing this from day one and will continue to do so. Wrapping potatoes in aluminum foil is fine.
*Disclaimer: This article provides general information about medicine, health, and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this article, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other health care worker.
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