7 Best Alternative Ways To Stop Using Aluminum Foil
Aluminum foil is a household staple but is it healthy?
Most people use it for cooking and storing food but is it safe to cook with or good for the environment?
What are some alternatives to aluminum foil?
As a mother, one of my priorities is to raise healthy resilient kids. As much as I can, I remove things from our house and daily life that negatively affect our health.
So today’s question is this:
Is aluminum foil healthy or good for the environment?
Before we get into the 7 best alternatives to aluminum foil, let’s take a quick trip back in time.
Where did Aluminum foil come from?
In 1910 the first aluminum rolling plant opened in Switzerland, where aluminum foil made its first appearance in food packaging. The famous Swiss chocolate bar, Toblerone, was wrapped and packaged to be sold in aluminum foil.
In 1903, aluminum foil was first discovered in France. However, it wasn’t until World War II that aluminum foil used in packaging replaced tin foil. Major aluminum plants across the world use the sedimentary rock Bauxite ore to produce aluminum foil.
Since WWII aluminum plants popped up in most nations and have been used liberally across many industries.
Is Aluminum foil toxic?
Aluminum foil can be harmful when heated to high temperatures such as through cooking as heat absorbs aluminum into food. Cooking and baking in aluminum foil or aluminum cookware can leach small amounts of aluminum into the food. Acidic foods are more reactive with aluminum.
One of the benefits of aluminum foil is that it blocks out light, moisture, and bacteria completely. This makes it an excellent material to use in food packaging in order to preserve food and keep it shelf-stable. On the other hand, the problem we now face affects the environment and our health.
Aluminum naturally works its way through the food web meaning that most people have small amounts of this metal stored in their bodies. However, people come into contact with aluminum today in more ways than in the past. The biggest culprits for overexposure are over-the-counter medications, personal care products (especially baby powder and deodorants), and baking powder.
This means that people aren’t just ingesting aluminum but also absorbing it through the skin.
Over time, the metal accumulates in the body and affects vital organs like the brain.
Children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable to elevated levels of aluminum. According to this article from the Internet Scientific Publications, aluminum exposure to a fetus during pregnancy can cause significant neurological damage in later life.
Taking this further, a 2010 study performed on infant formula found aluminum levels too high than what is deemed safe. The worst culprits were soy-based milk powders which measured up to 700 micrograms per liter.
To put that into perspective, the recommended aluminum levels should not exceed 4 to 5 micrograms per Kg of the weight of the individual per day.
Aluminum foil is not a health concern to store or keep food. That is an environmental one. The issue of toxicity comes from cooking in aluminum. If you use aluminum foil to bake or grill with, heat causes the aluminum to seep into the food.
Is Aluminum foil bad for the environment?
Aluminum foil takes around 500 years to degrade in oxidized landfills. Because of this extended period of time, it builds up a lot of waste. The manufacturing process of aluminum foil creates substantial waste and polluting gas emissions.
Even though the aluminum foil is recyclable, many recycling centers don’t accept it. This means that most end up in landfills to decompose over time and since it takes up to 500 years to decompose, the waste builds up.
While aluminum foil can be reused, it may actually be better for the environment, for your health, and more cost-effective to use alternatives.
7 Best Alternatives to Aluminum foil
Glass is an excellent material for baking and storing food. If taken care of, glass can last many years which makes this option cost-effective and better for the environment. Glass is also non-toxic and won’t leach any toxins into food when heated to high temperatures.
My favourite glass baking dishes are ones that double as storage boxes too. Simply bake or cook your food then pop the lip on the place it in the fried to store. This Ello Duraglass Baking Dish is a great option. It even has a protective silicone layer on the bottom to prevent the glass from slipping on surfaces.
This material is best for storing food instead of baking. Silicone is made from a mixture of silicon found naturally in the earth but the final product is made from synthetic polymers. While the FDA has approved it as a “food-safe substance” there isn’t enough research to show that this is the case.
Do any toxins leach into the food when heated to high temperatures?
For now, we don’t know.
Silicone tupperware is a great option to store food and is an eco-friendly alternative to aluminum foil. I like these Collapsible Silicone Food Storage Containers or these Silicone Stretch Lids for easy storage.
Stainless steel is one of my favourite go-to materials I use all the time in my kitchen. It’s non-toxic, durable, and keeps food hot or cold. You can find stainless steel cookware, baking trays, and storage boxes almost anywhere.
This LunchBots stainless steel storage container is a great choice and has a compartment for different foods. If you’re on the go or have kids that take lunch to school, stainless steel is one of the best options.
Not only is it non-toxic and durable, but it lasts a very long time which makes it really affordable.
Beeswax and Cotton Cloth Wraps
Cloth wraps are becoming popular as alternative ways to aluminum foil to wrap food. You can use a cloth to wrap a sandwich, cover leftovers, or store foods like cheese.
There is one major difference between cotton wraps and beeswax wraps and that is that beeswax wraps keep moisture out of food and so keeps it for longer.
On the other hand, some people find that beeswax wraps leave a faint smell of wax on the food.
I would use beeswax wraps to wrap foods that I want to keep for longer like cheese and organic cotton waps if I am packing a lunch to go and will consume the food before it goes bad.
Fabric and Silicone Covers
Plastic cling film and aluminum foil and the most commonly used kitchen materials to wrap and store food. Both aren’t good for your health or the environment.
If you have bread to rise, a salad that needs to be covered, or left-overs that need to be put in the fridge why not try fabric or silicone bowl covers. As long as the silicone isn’t heated, they are both non-toxic and environmentally friendly options for covering bowls.
Parchment paper is one of the alternative ways to stop using aluminum foil. On the other hand, most brands bleach the paper.
Parchment paper also contains dioxins. These are a group of chemicals that may cause developmental and reproductive problems.
Parchment paper is otherwise a healthier alternative to aluminum foil and is 100% biodegradable. This Unbleached Parchment Paper is non-toxic, unbleached, and natural.
Often people use aluminum foil to cover food in the oven. When aluminum foil is exposed to high temperatures, it leaches into the food and contaminates it.
In a study conducted in Italy, food that was wrapped and baked in aluminum foil leached the most amount of aluminum into the food.
Instead of using foil to wrap your food, try baking with lidded cookware. Lipped cookcare are baking dishes and trays that come with a lid.
Some options include glass, cast iron, and ceramic.
These are my top suggestions for lidded cookware:
Cast Iron: Le Creuset Dutch oven
Ceramic: Casserole Dish with Lid
Aluminum foil is easily accessible and useful but its effects on the environment and our health aren’t positive. It can take up to half a century for it to fully degrade in oxidized landfills.
Its effects on our long-term health can be detrimental as the human body stores this metal in our bodies. Too much and the accumulation can build up in our vital organs, especially the brain.
If we can implement other ways to cook, store and keep our food, we’ll be on the way to a more sustainable and healthier world.
As mothers, we can play a vital role in creating a better future for our children and future generations.