Aluminum is the most common metal making up the earth’s top surface layer. It’s naturally found in our soil, but what about rumors regarding toxicity? What’s all the fuss about?
So, What’s All the Buzz About Aluminum?
Aluminum is everywhere, and living a virtually aluminum-free life is next to impossible. Did you know that we eat approximately 7–9 mg of aluminum daily? That’s not including the amount that we come into contact with in the ways of antacids, antiperspirants, cosmetics, toothpaste, OTC (over the counter) medications, and just breathing good ol’ oxygen to name just a few. Now think about if you cook with aluminum pans or foil? Do you think we’re adding harm to our daily lifestyle? And how do you avoid something that makes up so much of our earth’s top surface?
Here’s the Good News!
According to The World Health Organization, daily consumption of aluminum of up to 50 mg should not be harmful to us. Most of our food intake that contains aluminum comes from the processed foods that we eat. So, if we minimize processed foods, we are automatically reducing the amount of contamination we are ingesting into our bodies, creating an immediate health improvement. It’s already a win-win situation! As well, in healthy people, the kidney’s filter out approximately 99% of ingested aluminum. Kidneys for the win!
Hail All Cooks!
For all our cooks out there, while aluminum is secreted in small amounts during the cooking process, you should be aware that certain foods when used with aluminum, give more of a chemical reaction than others.
For example, vegetables cooked in aluminum pans are said to produce hydroxide poison. I know, that sounds horrible, right? Hydroxide poison neutralizes our good digestive enzymes and possible stomach upsets can occur. A secondary effect from Dr. A. McGuigan’s study showed in extreme situations that stomach ulcers and colitis have occurred.
Other studies have shown that highly acidic foods such as tomato sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, or even oranges have shown to have 3–6 mg per 100g serving after being cooked in an aluminum pan. If 50 mg of aluminum is our safe zone, and you consume high amounts of aluminum cooked acidic foods, it’s safe to say that you are increasing your own toxicity levels. Aluminum is a toxic element, and our bodies gain no benefits from it, especially over long-term contamination.
What About Aluminum Foil or Disposable Aluminum Pans?
On the positive side, in a cold environment (covering your plate of food with foil before putting it in the fridge) aluminum foil has no transference of toxicity into our food. In comparison, foods cooked with minimal heat in aluminum foil or in disposable aluminum pans, show signs of leaching and contamination. Aluminum is so easy to grab for, especially if we’re in a rush or we don’t want to dirty all those extra dishes when cooking something in the oven. Bottom line, we can’t avoid daily exposure to aluminum, but we can control any extra added contamination we give ourselves by cooking with aluminum-free cookware.
Kidneys and Aluminum
People with renal (kidney) failure should try to avoid any extra exposure to aluminum. For example, cooking with aluminum. Although impossible to live aluminum free, the kidneys are responsible for processing the aluminum we are exposed to. Those with kidney disease can’t process the aluminum and are left with aluminum retention. This can create additional areas of concern in the bone or brain.
Those subjected to higher aluminum dust contamination (such as workers in an aluminum factory or those close by) are at higher risks for aluminum toxicity. Symptoms may include lung issues, abnormal chest x-rays, and possibly a compromised nervous system. Again, additional exposure to aluminum cooking just increases a high-risk person even higher.
We can naturally reduce the amount of daily aluminum we are consuming just by reducing the amounts of processed foods we eat! That alone is a great benefit to us!
Cooking Without Aluminum
As we continue to strive in making ourselves healthier and stronger, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate our uses of aluminum while cooking and start making better choices for ourselves. With a few cooking options out there, we all can make better decisions.
- Iron and stainless steel are better choices although they still transfer a small amount of metal.
- Anodized aluminum is a much safer choice compared with just aluminum.
- Glass and enamel (cadmium-free versions) are also good choices.
- If you open a can of tomatoes and don’t use it, it’s wise to store the contents in a separate storage container before placing into the fridge instead of leaving it in the aluminum tin!
- Aluminum pots and pans are relatively cheap which makes them more marketable and affordable. If you’re not ready to take the next step in eliminating aluminum cookware, at the very least, replace your scratched-up ones as needed. Scratched aluminum releases higher amounts of aluminum into your foods.
Happy Cooking to all!