If you’re like most people, you grew up using aluminum foil. Your mom used it for cooking, to wrap your sandwiches for school and to store left-overs at home. You probably still use aluminum foil in your home because it’s so versatile. It’s only been a few years since I stopped using it but before that I would buy it in bulk at Costco. I used it for everything, from baking and grilling to storing things.
But when you know better, you do better, right? Aluminum foil is not the safest product and they are plenty of other alternatives you can use instead that are just as effective without posing a threat to your health.
So, why is aluminum foil so bad?
Aluminum is a neurotoxic heavy metal that has been linked to health issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease as well as malfunction of certain parts of your brain: memory decline, loss of coordination and body control.
The biggest concern with aluminum is that it builds up in your bones and can take the place of calcium, deteriorating your bone quality. People with too much aluminum in their bones will show high levels of calcium in the blood because that calcium is not deposited in the bones. This inhibits bone mineralization, resulting in osteoporosis.
The good news is that our bodies can process some of this aluminum and get rid of it. According to the World Health Organization, it is considered safe to intake about 40mg of aluminum per kilogram of body weight. However, if you have kidney issues that’s another story and an even bigger reason to avoid anything with aluminum, including aluminum foil.
The bad news is that aluminum is everywhere and we come in contact with it through many different ways. You can also find aluminum in antacids, astringents, buffered aspirin, food additives, antiperspirants and cosmetics. Aluminum has been also found on kitchen utensils, pots and pans and even on some packaged foods.
It accumulates in our body so minimizing exposure it’s very important for the overall health of our bodies.
Aluminum leaches into your food
Aluminum doesn’t seem to leach if you use the foil just to wrap food (I personally err on the side of caution and don’t use even for that). However, the biggest problem comes from cooking with aluminum foil. The higher the temperature you cook in, the more aluminum leaches into your food and you don’t want that.
All I can think about is the potatoes I used to grill a few years ago. The aluminum foil practically came apart from all the cooking. I’m mortified to think I was eating aluminum filled potatoes. But we can’t get stuck on what we did in the past, we have to minimize our exposure from now on.
Acidic foods can also make the aluminum leach into your food. Avoid using it around citrus, tomatoes and spices. Even if you’re only wrapping your food in aluminum foil and not cooking with it because these foods will make the foil leach aluminum straight into your meal.
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How do I minimize aluminum exposure?
The best thing you can do is avoid aluminum as much as possible. Keep in mind you won’t be able to avoid exposure all together because it’s everywhere but by taking it out from your kitchen and food preparation you’re minimizing a great deal of unnecessary aluminum exposure.
Here are the three things you should do now:
- Get rid of you aluminum foil. If you must use it, do not use it for cooking and don’t store tomatoes, citrus nor spices in it.
- Replace aluminum pots and pans. Keep in mind a lot of aluminum pans are coated so the aluminum doesn’t leach into your food, at least not right away. With prolonged use this coating can come off and because we use them with high heat your chances of aluminum leaching into your food are greater. You’re better off not owing any aluminum pots and pants. These are the safest pots I’ve found – read this post to learn more about safer cookware.
- Don’t buy aluminum kitchen utensils. There are bamboo, wooden, stainless steel and glass alternatives. Most of them are really affordable and don’t expose you to this neurotoxin.
- Use a water filter that filters out aluminum. This is the one we use. Read this post for more information on water filters.
What can I use instead of aluminum foil?
There are many aluminum foil alternatives. We have replaced aluminum foil in different ways:
- For storing food: we use glass storage containers.
- For baking we use: glass, ceramic, stainless steel when it comes to muffin pans and this parchment paper.
- For grilling: we just used the grill as iS but when we’re grilling smaller pieces of vegetables we use this grill basket or these cedar grilling papers.
- For wrapping food we want to bake or grill (like meats, potatoes, corn, etc): we use all natural cedar wraps (here’s a 3 pack).
As you may have concluded, we’re just better off avoiding aluminum foil for the sake of our health. Why expose ourselves to something that can cause complications when it can be avoided? Since there are so many other safer alternatives we can use, there’s no reason to keep using aluminum foil at all.
Have you ditched aluminum foil yet? If not, this is the time, and even more so if you have little ones at home!
Want to read more studies on the effect of aluminum?
Here is more information on the topic if you like the science this:
- Public Health Statement for Aluminum
- Risk Assessment of Using Aluminum Foil in Food Preparation
- Elevated brain aluminium and early onset Alzheimer’s disease in an individual occupationally exposed to aluminium: a case report
- Aluminium content of selected foods and food products
- Aluminum, a neurotoxin which affects diverse metabolic reactions
- Relation between aluminum concentrations in drinking water and Alzheimer’s disease: an 8-year follow-up study
- Aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease: after a century of controversy, is there a plausible link?
- Relationship between neurological diseases due to aluminium load, especially amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and magnesium status
I had hot food (rice,spicy dishes) daily 3 times for covering the foilpapper,is this any problem for health…?
Hi Alanta, we are exposed to so many things… I wouldn’t worry too much, just stop doing it from now on. 🙂
Thank you for this great article! The funny thing is I posted a recipe for homemade deodorant so that people avoid aluminum in store bought deodorant, but I didn’t stop to even think about ALUMINUM FOIL (which is WAY more obvious haha). I will definitely be sharing your article with my readers.
Ha!! Yeah, aluminum is just everywhere! 🙁 What’s your recipe? We also make our deodorant, although I haven’t posted the recipe yet.
These are my 3 favorite deodorant recipes and I like to use lavender or tea tree essential oil in mine – http://www.nontoxicreboot.com/homemade-deodorant-recipes/ Similar to what you do?
Yes! I do a combination of the shea butter and beeswax one. 🙂
Iris J Dexter says
Carolina, I’d love to eliminate aluminum foil from my kitchen. However, I bake alot of bread and other goods and often a recipe requires that you tent the bread or whatever with foil for the last half of the bake to prevent over browning of the crust. Can you suggest, or do you know of an alternative that I could use in this situation? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!
I don’t bake bread so I don’t have a solution for you off the top of my head but let me do a bit of research and I’ll get back to you.
Iris J Dexter says
Hey thanks for the reply! I’ll be interested to hear if you come up with anything. It shouldn’t have to be this hard to do things healthier, right?
Iris I asked to all my other natural friends (the ones that bake). They gave me several suggestions:
– Look for bread recipes that don’t grow as much so you don’t have to worry about having to use foil
– Don’t tent it
– Use parchment paper instead
– Bake bread in a dutch oven
– If you must use foil, put it high enough so the bread doesn’t touch it
Hope that helps! And I completely agree with you – doing things a healthier way shouldn’t be this hard.
Iris J Dexter says
Thanks so much Carolina for asking around about this. I think I’ll try covering with a double layer of parchment paper and see what happens. I bake mostly sourdough, so the oven spring is actually part of what I’m after (rise). It starts with a lid on a clay baker, but the 2nd half the lid comes off to let steam escape. We’ll see how heat proof the parchment really is 🙂 Thanks again!
Let me know how it works out! Good luck. ?
You can get a silicone pie crust thing or turn down your oven temp crack the oven slightly to let out the extra heat for a minute
Vivian Li says
Thanks for this informative article! I’ve always used aluminum in my cooking (aluminum foil & pans for broiling meat/fish in the oven), even up until yesterday. Just found out today – and confirmed further by this article – that’s it’s a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause cognitive decline. YIKES.
Just wondering – I’ve always used (until yesterday) aluminum baking pans to cook meat and fish in the oven. Do you have any specific suggestions for alternatives to aluminum baking pans/trays in particular?
Should I opt instead for stainless steel or ceramic pans for the oven? (If you have any particular brands you’d recommend, I’m all ears.)
I’ve switched to mostly using glass bakeware in the oven, like these: http://amzn.to/2jf6f2y, along with this parchment paper: http://amzn.to/2hIkjkW
When it comes to ceramic bakeware, the only brand I trust is this one: http://shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=835032&u=842869&m=52296&urllink=&afftrack=
You can also use cast iron pans if you have any.
Hope that helps!
Brittany Compton says
I’m trying to find an alternative to foil when used for placing on top of casserole dishes baking in the oven. Do you have any suggestions?
I just use the parchment paper I mentioned in the post. It doesn’t wrap around the dish like foil but it gets the job done.
Still don’t get a satisfactory reply…. What should be used to pack food for kids tiffin other than aluminum foil
You can use stainless steels or glass containers, there’s no need to pack food in aluminum foil. Here are alternatives to packing containers: https://mamainstincts.com/ditch-plastics-but-now-what/
I do a bunch of tin foil dinners in the oven. How would you suggest I go about being able to do this without tin foil?
Amber, that’s a though one…but I have switched to using parchment paper instead. There are also leaves that you can buy to wrap you food in.
Here’s a cool post I found with different leaves you can use for cooking: https://www.saveur.com/how-to-cook-with-leaves
Hope that helps!
I have many recipes that call for covering the dish with foil during baking, what could I use in place of foil during those instances?
I use the parchment paper mentioned in the post to cover all of my dishes. It doesn’t stick to the dish like foil does but it covers enough to cook it correctly. 🙂
Thanks so much for the tip! I was looking all over to see what to use to cover my baked vegetables besides aluminum foil. Trying the parchment paper for the first time now. Can’t wait to see how it goes. 🙂
Hi Carolina .. I have a dish that requires wrapping the meat in many layers of foil then cook it in the pressure cooker ..
I can’t think of any dish ware or other wrapping stuff that can take the pressure and the steam for 3 hours .
do you have a solution for that ?
This is a great question! I use this parchment paper https://amzn.to/2npbsYf on recipes that require foil. According to their site it can stand temperatures of up to 428F so as long as your pressure cooker doesn’t go beyond that, it should work.
However, that all I can think of right now… let me do some research and I’ll get back to you.