I reach for aluminum foil more than just about anything else in my kitchen. I top a roasting chicken with it to keep the skin perfectly browned. I wrap chopped zucchini, onions and herbs in packets and throw them on the grill. I line a cookie sheet with it to cook bacon in the oven.
But… is it safe to cook with aluminum foil? It is a metal after all. Stories circulate from time to time linking aluminum with Alzheimer’s disease and bone, brain and kidney health. I decided to do some research.
Aluminum is everywhere
One thing I found out is that it’s not just foil that could expose us to aluminum that we might ingest. Aluminum is used to make cans, pots and pans and utensils. Plus, it’s found in antacids, buffered aspirin, some processed foods and food additives. It’s also often found in drinking water. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the average adult eats seven to nine milligrams of aluminum a day.
But what about cooking in aluminum foil?
When you cook with aluminum foil some of the aluminum does, in fact, leach into the food. The amount varies based on the type of food you’re cooking, the cooking temperature, and the acid content. (Cooled food wrapped in aluminum foil doesn’t appear to absorb the metal.)
But, I wondered, does that aluminum stay in your body? Not much of it does, according to the National Institutes of Health. They report that only 0.1 to 0.3 percent of the aluminum we ingest makes it into your body. The rest is eliminated by your digestive system.
Megadoses may cause problems
When researchers study animals, they don’t find that aluminum intake affects their health until they reach doses many times what we could eat or drink in a day, from all sources, not just aluminum foil.
Does any aluminum that stays in your body cause health problems? It’s not clear. The link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease is fuzzy. The CDC notes that some studies have found a connection between the two, while others have not. If you want to limit your exposure to aluminum, they recommend minimizing your intake of antacids and buffered aspirin.
The Alzheimer’s Association says the connection between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease is a myth and reports, “Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.”
After diving into all that research, I decided I’m going to keep my foil. All the workhorse benefits of aluminum foil outweigh any perceived risk. I’ll keep an eye on the research, but until I hear otherwise my foil can keep its cherished place in my cabinet (and in my oven—just check out these recipes).