Cooking with Aluminum Foil – Why It’s Not a Safe Option

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Cooking with Aluminum Foil – Why it’s Not a Safe Option
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Most of us cook with aluminum foil, however, because of dangers associated with leaching from aluminum foil, that may no longer be a safe option. Research into the dangers of cooking with aluminum foil has found that some of the toxic metal can contaminate food. This is especially true when foil is used to cook or heat spicy and acidic food. Increased levels of aluminum in the body have been linked to osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Aluminum is used in many cooking processes, not just wrapping fish or meat in foil and putting in the oven or on the barbecue. Many cheap pots and pans are made using aluminum. Also, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), aluminum is used in the production of processed foods which are stored in aluminum containers that are then heated in an oven.1 Aluminum is also used in producing certain medications, antacids, some cosmetics, and deodorants.

Although the body can effectively eliminate small amounts of aluminum that is ingested, many people are worried about what a buildup of this toxic substance can do to body functions.

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For example, the ATSDR acknowledges that “eating large amounts of processed food that contain aluminum or cooking acidic foods in aluminum pots exposes a person to higher levels of aluminum than a person who consumes unprocessed foods and uses pots made from other materials.”1

In this article, you will find out the harm that aluminum can do to your body and why you should avoid cooking with it. You will also learn about the true dangers of cooking with aluminum foil.

Dangers of Cooking with Aluminum Foil

The dangers of cooking with aluminum foil occur when it is heated to high temperatures. The heating process causes aluminum leaching which contaminates food. There are a number of factors that cause leaching of aluminum into food.

A study published in the International Journal of Electrochemical Science found that leaching from aluminum foil can result in unacceptably high levels of aluminum contamination in food. The study showed that the aluminum concentration was connected with the type of meat, the type of cooking involved, cooking temperature, and the addition of fruits and vegetables.2

For example, red meats that were cooked for 40 minutes at 400°F (205°C) were found to have up nearly 380% more aluminum contamination than before cooking. Poultry, especially the breast meat, showed levels of just over 200% more aluminum than was present before cooking.

Researchers also found that acidic food increased the dangers of cooking with aluminum cookware. So, more aluminum leaching occurred when the foods contained lemon juice or tomato juice (for example, in a marinade).

The author of the study and Head of the Chemistry Division at Ain Shams University, Ghada Bassioni said that aluminum foil used in cooking allows the metal to enter the body. She concluded by saying that “aluminum foil is not suitable for cooking, especially with acidic food.”2

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Similar leaching from aluminum pots and pans has also been reported. Two of the researchers who took part in the study just mentioned found that food cooked in aluminum pots and pans contained high amounts of the toxic metal. They reported that salt and citric acid increased the aluminum leaching.3

Dangers of Aluminum in the Body

Aluminum is a naturally occurring metal in the earth and we are all exposed to small amounts of it from the air, food, water, and soil. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the acceptable dose of aluminum per day should not exceed 1 mg per kg of body weight.2 Many sources show that on average we consume about 9 mg aluminum per day in food.4

However, should we be concerned about the danger of aluminum contamination in the body?

According to professor Bassioni, cooking with aluminum foil can cause levels of aluminum in food that are unacceptable according to the values outlined by the WHO.2

The ATSDR says that aluminum toxicity can affect health. They have linked exposure to aluminum to decreased functions of the central nervous system, Alzheimer’s disease, and bone diseases.4

Let’s look at what scientific studies have shown regarding the toxic effect of aluminum on the body and mind.

Aluminum negatively affects brain function

Many scientists have found that increased levels of aluminum can negatively affect brain function. They have said that over-exposure to aluminum can cause memory impairment, learning difficulties, central nervous system disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

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The International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease looked at the aluminum-Alzheimer link. They found that people with Alzheimer’s disease have elevated levels of aluminum in brain cells.

The journal reports that aluminum can enter the bloodstream through the gastrointestinal tract and that aluminum can enter the brain through the blood. This can cause severe health problems in people, especially infants, the elderly, and people with kidney disease.5

Another study published in the journal Neurotoxicology found that exposure to aluminum does affect brain function and causes “behavioral, neuropathological, and neurochemical changes.” They recommend that “avoidance of aluminum exposure, when practical, seems prudent.”6

Aluminum is linked to osteoporosis

Increased levels of aluminum are also linked to brittle bones and osteoporosis. Calcium is needed for strong bones and is an important mineral, especially as we get older. However, it seems from studies that aluminum interferes with how calcium is absorbed by the body.

The Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that the aluminum present in antacids interfered with the metabolism of calcium and fluoride intake – both of which are important in preventing osteoporosis. This resulted in a calcium deficiency in the body. The researchers found that aluminum causes calcium loss and prevent the absorption of fluoride and contributes to bone loss.7

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Another study from Norway found that in areas where there are high levels of aluminum, lead, and cadmium in drinking water, more people suffered from hip fractures because of brittle bones.8

Should you be worried?

Despite the reported health risks regarding the dangers of consuming food and drink that contains high levels of aluminum, some websites try to dismiss the allegations. They point to the fact that more research has to be done and that the ingested amounts of aluminum are relatively small.

However, as professor Bassioni pointed out, cooking with aluminum foil is on the rise. Aluminum is found in processed foods, used for heating processed foods, antacids, and is used in purifying drinking water. The body can of course successfully excrete a small amount of aluminum effectively to prevent a harmful buildup in the body.

However, with the rise in the use of aluminum in food and drink preparation – is it not wise to limit unnecessary exposure to this toxic metal?

Many people are now doing that because there are many acceptable alternatives to using aluminum foil in cooking.

Alternatives to Aluminum Foil in Cooking

It is very simple to avoid the dangers of aluminum foil in cooking. Aluminum foil became popular because it is a cheap and easy way to protect food during the cooking process. Here are a few tips on avoiding the risks associated with aluminum leaching during cooking:

  • Bake your food in heatproof glass or porcelain cookware.
  • Remove pre-made processed foods from their aluminum containers and heat in stainless steel or iron pans.
  • Only use aluminum foil to store cold food for short periods of time.
  • Change from using aluminum pans to using high-quality stainless steel pans. However, if this is not possible, professor Bassioni suggests boiling new aluminum pans a few times in boiling water until the surface is matt. This oxidation process prevents aluminum leaching.

Read my other related articles:
1. 7 Cancer Causing Products to Remove From Your Home
2. 6 Hidden Dangers of Hand Sanitizers
3. How Safe Is Your Nonstick Cookware?
4. Why You Should Stop Using Petroleum Jelly On Your Skin

Article Sources:

  1. ATSDR. Aluminum.
  2. J. Electrochem. Sci., 7 (2012) 4498 – 4509.
  3. J. Electrochem. Sci., 6 (2011) 222 – 230.
  4. ATSDR. ToxFAQ for aluminum.
  5. Int J Alzheimers Dis. 2011; 2011: 276393.
  6. Neurotoxicology. 2000 Oct;21(5):813-28.
  7. J Am Coll Nutr. 1985;4(1):121-8.
  8. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2014 Jan;157(1):14-23.
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20 Responses to Cooking with Aluminum Foil – Why It’s Not a Safe Option

  1. Steve says:

    Yeah like back in the 1990’s people tried to link cooking in aluminum pots with what became known as Alzheimer’s. That was debunked.

    • Jenny Hills says:

      It’s your choice Steve. Do what you believe is right for you.

    • Mary Trevino says:

      Not just aluminum foil. I always wondered about my kids cooking chicken on the grill over a beer can. That aluminum heating inside the chicken cant be healthy

      • Peter says:

        I not a total believer in the aluminum causing Alzheimer’s debate. But I do agree with you Mary that beer can chicken and turkey isn’t good for you. It’s not just the possible aluminum issues but think about the paint on the can and I’m pretty sure they line the inside of the cans with plastic to prevent an aluminum taste. Think about that stuff boiling into your meat.

  2. Garry says:

    Do anodized aluminum pots & pans leach?

    • Jenny Hills says:

      From what I’ve read in whfoods website anodized aluminum is less reactive than non-anodized aluminum and will leach less aluminum as a result, provided that the surface has not been damaged. Dr Weil also say that well-made anodized aluminum cookware that doesn’t have any scratches is probably okay.

  3. Randy Eckstein says:

    In food service applications we often spray the top of the food with spray oil, put on a layer or two of plastic wrap and then final cover with the aluminum foil. Prevents foil contact with the food, protects the plastic from burning and allows for proper cooking of the food. Of course, those predisposed to petroleum sensitivities would be better served by using glass containers.

  4. Jerri Peterson says:

    Is it safe to wrap cheese so it doesn’t go bad? I don’t think that would be called long term’

    • Jenny Hills says:

      You can use aluminum foil to store cold food (like cheese) for short periods of time, or you can simply wrap it in a waxed paper.

  5. Karen says:

    So ditch the foil but we can still slather aluminum on our underarms, or get it in vaccines. I’m glad people are starting to wake up, but it may be too little, too late.

  6. Ashley's Organics says:

    I am attempting to rid my life of aluminum products.

    I primarily use aluminum foil when baking for easier clean up.

    Would silicon baking sheets work for this? Are there any concerns when using those?

    • Jenny Hills says:

      The use of silicone in cookware is relatively new, so there hasn’t been much research regarding its safety for use with food, the potential for leaching at high temperatures or chemical sensitivities in lower-quality silicone. Many people prefer to use silicone at low temperatures and try to avoid using it in high temperatures (although the FDA approves it to be used up to almost 450°F). You also need to make sure it is high quality and doesn’t contain fillers or dangerous additives. Dr. Andrew Weil says that no safety problems have been reported so far, but if you’re concerned, stick to silicone kitchen tools (such as spatulas) and avoid bake-ware.

  7. John says:

    “The ingested amounts of aluminum are relatively small!” “They recommend that “avoidance of aluminum exposure, when practical, seems prudent.” What they forgot to mention, was about the nano particles of aluminium that we are all breathing in, because of the aerosol spraying of chemtrails that is happening on a daily basis. A nice concoction of aluminium, barium, and strontium. Until they stop this practice, there is “no way” to avoid exposure!

    • Bacchus says:

      You may not be able to avoid exposure, but you can limit it. Knowledge is Power

    • Lisa says:

      Absolutely, and Noone talks about Chem Trails. The Media surely will not talk about it and they are using it to control our weather. And, it’s poisoning us, our grounds, animals! Everything!

  8. bMorpheus says:

    A long time ago (the 80’s) I learned about aluminum foil and that the dull side is where the aluminum is coated. My lasagna that I made and stored with aluminum foil shiny side facing up, dull side down. The aluminum that touched the tomato sauce came off on the food. I have tried relentlessly to educate people, but they won’t listen to make I am telling them. Perhaps this post will educate them!

  9. Jeffrey Mason says:

    well…Aluminum is literally saturating us now. Three of the main heavy metals being sprayed on us due to geo engineering is strontium, barium and aluminum in nano particle percipients. Research it. This is literally killing us, causing mass die offs of animals, sterilizing our soils and killing tree roots systems ect. Then, the trees absorb these metals and when fires happen they literally can burn from the inside out even if they were not touched externally by the fire. We are literally breathing in these metals with each breath and it is killing us, causing cancers, heart rhythm issues, POTS, chronic kidney and liver disease and failure. Never mind the Aluminum you use in cooking, that’s nothing compared to this and geo engineering you and I cannot avoid and it is literally killing us with every breath. Stop Geo engineering then worry about aluminum in our cook wares.

  10. Sharon says:

    Instead of aluminum foil I use parchment paper to cover my pans . Pans are made of glass . Four members in my family have this disease so I’m being careful will everything I use .

  11. H. Johnson says:

    Yes indeed…Aluminum foil has been contaminating my food for 72 years and yours for who knows how long. So here’s the plan…unroll all of your aluminum foil, cut it in pieces about 30″ each and follow these instructions… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS8dNzRhMgk

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