Aluminum foil is an easy-to-find ingredient in Brazilian kitchens. Whether it’s for roasting meat and vegetables in the oven, helping to prepare dishes at grill time or even for packing and storing food, it’s hard to find a home that doesn’t have one.
Its extensive use is justified by its excellent properties, as it is waterproof, anti-freeze, inert (it does not react with the environment, remaining intact when exposed to air), cheap and easily recyclable.
However, aluminum is a material with toxic capabilities and using it is not always the best option.
What are the risks when cooking with paper-Aluminium?
- Placing aluminum foil at high temperatures can aid leaching, which is the process of transferring metal to food.
- This contamination can be caused either by heat or by the presence of acidic substances in the spices.
- Aluminum sheets usually contain magnesium in their composition to help with the alloy’s final strength. However, this composition makes the metal alloy less resistant to attack by acids in various foods, which contributes to the leaching process.
- Aluminum is present in the human body and needs to be part of our diet, but in adequate amounts. Any excess of minerals in our body becomes toxic and can be harmful to health.
- Aluminum contaminated food may be associated with Alzheimer’s diseaseAnd Parkinson’s Diseaseand dialysis encephalopathy and orthopedic disorder breast cancer. In addition, excess aluminum in the body makes it difficult for the body to absorb calcium.
Does the type of food increase the risk?
- Studies show that foods cooked with the skin (such as fish, chicken, or even the skin of fruits and vegetables) may have less absorption of outside elements, due to the presence of this natural barrier.
- The presence of salts, sauces, vinegars, lemons, and wine can help with the filtration process.
Are there advantages to using aluminum foil in the kitchen?
- The main advantage of using aluminum foil is wrapping food to speed up and even out cooking, as well as keeping it warm for longer.
- Its low cost, thermal efficiency, inertia in contact with the environment and resistance to freezing are also positive points.
- Another positive factor is the ease of recycling of aluminum, as any product made of aluminum can be recycled countless times. However, it is not recommended that aluminum foil be reused due to the difficulty in cleaning up the material.
Is there a “better side” of aluminum foil for food contact?
- With regard to the risk of leaching, studies have shown that there are no significant differences in the rates of aluminum detected in food with respect to the shiny or dull side of the leaf.
- However, because it is softer, the glossy side causes foods and materials to stick less to its surface. It also reflects heat better. For this reason, the ideal method is to use aluminum foil with the shiny side inward, in contact with the food, to make better use of the heat source and reduce food loss.
Is it safe to store food in aluminum foil?
- In general, yes. Using aluminum foil to wrap food for transportation or storage is safe, as the main villain is the combination of aluminum foil and heat.
- However, although the dissolution of aluminum occurs slowly at low temperatures, it does not stop happening. In addition, aluminum foil is fragile and easy to break, which may damage the food insulation and even drop small pieces into the food.
- If you choose to wrap or transport food in aluminum foil, it’s best if it’s for a short time. For food storage, give preference to tightly closed glass jars.
What are safer alternatives to using aluminum foil in the kitchen?
- For cooking in the oven, a simple alternative is parchment paper, which reproduces the “greenhouse” created by aluminum foil quite well. Currently, there are also other materials that are resistant to high temperatures, such as nylon or polyester bags.
- However, these materials, if disposed of improperly, are a serious problem for the environment, as they are highly resistant to degradation.
- In barbecues, it is a good idea to use banana leaves, a practice of indigenous origin that does not alter the taste or quality of the food, in addition to containing antioxidants that can be transferred to the food during cooking.
Sources: Moacir José da SilvaHolds a PhD in Chemistry from the UFC Federal University of Ceará and developer of Puríssima natural cosmetics; Renata de Oliveira SilvaPhD in chemistry from the Federal University of Ceará (UFC) and researcher at Nutec (Ceará Center for Technology and Quality); Gabriel Digger SilvaProfessor in the Department of Gastronomy at Cenac São Paulo; Laura Content SouzaNutritionist from the University of São Camilo, specialist in Childhood and Adolescent Nutrition from EPM-Unifesp (Paulista School of Medicine of the Federal University of São Paulo).
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