Is aluminum foil safe to use when cooking? That’s the question posed by AuthorityNutrition.com, and one that can’t be answered succinctly. Some people consider it a health hazard that has no place being anywhere near food. Other people claim that aluminum foil is totally safe to use in cooking, wrapping, and storing food. As such, the ultra-thin sheet version of aluminum metal can usually be found in the kitchens of most homes. But still the question remains: is it safe?
As one of our planet’s most abundant metals, aluminum can be found almost everywhere. Soil, clay, and rocks are the common sources of aluminum in its natural state. Due to this, certain foods—like mushrooms, spinach, and radishes—can sometimes contain traces of aluminum by absorbing it from the soil. Foods like meats, grains, and dairy products already have naturally-occurring aluminum in them. Even food additives and food packaging can come with minuscule quantities of aluminum. What all of this means is that we can be exposed to and consume aluminum nearly everyday. The good news, however, is that our bodies only sponge up a tiny amount of the aluminum we ingest; the rest is harmlessly passed every time we make a trip to the bathroom.
While we do indeed take in a little bit of aluminum almost daily, some studies have shown that cooking with aluminum foil can cause the metal to infiltrate our food. Researchers of a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Electrochemical Science wrote: “Aluminum foil used in cooking provides an easy channel for the metal to enter the human body. The increase in cooking temperature causes more leaching. The leaching is also highly dependent on the pH value of the food solution, salt, and spices added to the food solutions. Aluminum foil is not suitable for cooking specially with acidic food. It is also possible that excessive consumption of food baked with aluminum foil may carry a serious health risk.”
In contrast, the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry has deemed aluminum foil “generally safe” for use. The organization did, however, caution against excessive use of aluminum foil, as a number of health risks have been associated with the material. Bone diseases, brain diseases, nervous system diseases, and anemia have all been cited as possible health risks from consuming higher-than-average levels of aluminum. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Alzheimer’s disease have been potentially linked to excessive dietary aluminum as well, although it was noted that these were simply correlations and not definitive links.
So what is the final verdict? Nothing truly conclusive can be said about the detrimental health effects of aluminum foil use. What is certain is that aluminum foil can increase the amount of aluminum in our diet by just a small amount. Still, if you’d rather err on the side of caution than take a risk, then here are some ways to minimize your exposure to aluminum:
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