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Why we must avoid foil when cooking?

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

A common household practice, we have grown accustomed to using aluminium foils for baking, storing leftovers and packing meals to keep them fresh while traveling. But has anyone thought about its effects on human health?

In 1910 J.G. Neher & Sons opened the first aluminium foil rolling plant “Dr. Lauber, Neher and Cie” in Switzerland and replaced the hitherto used tin foil.  Food could now be preserved for longer without the lingering taste of foil. Soon many companies began to wrap chocolates and candy in aluminium foil and popularised its usage. For years now aluminium has been under the scrutiny as a potential neurotoxin. Even though our body can process some amount of aluminium, this amount is very little- according to the World Health Organisation, it is considered safe to intake about 40mg of aluminium per kilogram of body weight. Considering this, most of us already consume a hefty dose of aluminium owing to antacids, vaccines, antiperspirants, and drinking water. Cooking or storing food in aluminium foil only increases the exposure and poses various life-threatening risks. Excessive presence of aluminium in our bodies is linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. It interferes with the digestion of calcium leading to hypocalcaemia, phosphorus, and fluoride, and can even result in osteoporosis. It damages the liver, and impairs the kidneys. It leads to colic, sleep disturbance, anaemia, speech problems, dialysis encephalopathy, bone disorder and human breast cancer.

So what can be done?

It is important to understand that aluminium is reactive and not fully inert. Studies have shown that when aluminium foil is heated to high temperatures while cooking, aluminium leaches into the food. This migration of aluminium into the food is above the permissible limit set by the World Health Organisation. Acidic and spicy food only accelerates the absorption of aluminium.

The logical and best solution is to completely eliminate aluminium foil from the kitchen and the cooking process. If you must use it, use it to store cold food and avoid hot, acidic and spicy food. A large range of aluminium free bakeware and cookware is readily available in the market. Glass is considered to be completely inert and safe as it does not transfer any harmful substances to the food. One can use glass containers to prepare, cook and store food. Iron and stainless steel utensils can also be used to cook and store the food. Unlike aluminium, iron transferred to the food would only prove to be beneficial for our health. To store or wrap food one can switch to silicone wraps, covers and bags.

Additionally, switching to these alternatives is not just healthy but also economical and environment friendly. Mining and processing bauxite for aluminium consumes a lot of energy and emits approximately 12 tons of greenhouse gases. When disposed of, it takes 400 years to decompose. Unlike aluminium foil, which is heedlessly discarded by most of us upon single use, glass and silicone containers or iron and steel utensils can be reused.

Author, Dakshita Chhabra @dakshitachhabra Artwork, Proteek Mandal @proteekmandalstudio

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