Aluminum foil lines our baking sheets and envelopes our vegetables, meats and fish in the form of no-fuss packets that make cooking a cinch, but are these simple cooking hacks health supportive? With more talk of the adverse health effects of heavy metals, like aluminum, accumulating in our bodies, it’s worth your time to consider the controversy, the possible outcomes and alternative practices you may choose to adopt from time to time to decrease risk.
Aluminum and Health
High levels of aluminum in the body have been linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s and some bone diseases, but at this point most of the research is inconclusive and controversial. That being said, I have always taken the approach of, “better safe than sorry” and aired on the side of caution when controversy exists all the while keeping in mind the notion that completely avoiding anything is out of the question. Instead, I like to take the information available and use it to make a decision that feels good for my family. As for cooking with aluminum foil, I try to limit it which fortunately, is easier than you think!
Exposure to Aluminum
Aluminum is the third most abundant element on Earth meaning we are exposed to it regularly. There is naturally occurring aluminum in some foods like corn and tea, it’s in our water, our cookware, food packaging, antiperspirants and some medications like antacids, aspirin and some vaccines. The World Health Organization states 40mg is a safe daily intake of the metal, but a study conducted by researchers at the American University of Sharjah showed that foods cooked in foil could contain well over that amount. Plus, we know we are exposed to Aluminum on a regular basis so ditching foil is an easy way to decrease your intake and cut risk.
Cooking with Aluminum Foil
Aluminum can leach from the foil into the food, more so when heated, though how much is still somewhat unknown. Besides high temperatures, the acidity of the food, and the use of spices can increase the amount of aluminum leached from the foil. Fortunately, our bodies can naturally rid themselves of small amounts of these metals, but frequent exposure and consumption can lead to health issues, so why risk it?
No Foil, Then What?
If you’re reading this thinking, oh no, I’ve been grilling my fish and asparagus in aluminum foil packets for as long as I can remember, don’t fret. Knowledge is power. We are all learning every day. Plus, there are plenty of other no-fuss ways to cook your favorite foods. Try this:
- Reusable skewers: not only are kebabs a fun addition to your barbecue spread, they are an easy way to incorporate more vegetables into your meals. With reusable, stainless steel, non-flammable skewers, you can throw them right on the grill without any foil.
- Grill baskets: If you’re using foil as a way to hold all your food together in one spot, this is for you. A stainless steel basket can hold your food, is easy to flip and move all at once, and it works really well for the fish and vegetables you usually put in a packet.
- Parchment paper: this is an easy swap for oven-ready meal packets, though you cannot grill with them as it will catch on fire. If you’re looking to line your baking sheet, try a Silpat baking mat. Not only can it be a better option than foil, but it’s reusable, and it never needs to be waxed or oiled.
- Cookware: If you’re thinking of using the stove or oven instead of the grill, consider switching up your cookware to stainless steel, ceramic or cast iron.
- Storage Containers: while it’s generally considered safe to wrap your food in foil for storage as the lack of heat prevents the metal from leaching, a set of glass storage containers are definitely less toxic than their plastic alternatives. Plus, you can bake with them which offers you another foil-free cooking vessel.