You may have heard about the risks linked to using aluminum cookware before, or perhaps you are reading about it for the first time. The debate has been open for some time now, with opposing views on either side of the fence. Whether you use aluminum pots and pans or not, it is worth knowing what all the fuss is about.
Aluminum is widely regarded as a metal that provides no benefit whatsoever for the human body. The body has no use for it, so it will only be removed and excreted if it enters into the body through food or any other source. It can enter the body in many different ways, from certain medications, deodorant aerosols, lipsticks, talcum powder, and all sorts of other products.
High levels of aluminum in the human body are toxic and dangerous. It competes with calcium for absorption, so high levels of aluminum in the body can result in reduced skeletal mineralization, which can be extremely degenerative for infants. There has also been studies conducted that aluminum can be a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease, however the evidence for this is inconclusive.
Some people are allergic to aluminum, and ingesting it could mean they develop a skin rash, also known as contact dermatitis. Other dangers posed by aluminum toxicity include liver disease, stomach and intestinal ulcers, skin problems, and heartburn, among others.
Avoid Acidic and Basic Foods
One of the main concerns of using aluminum cookware comes from the types of foods that they are used to cook or prepare. While trace amounts of aluminum will be found in all food that is cooked in aluminum cookware, there are a couple types of food that pose a significantly bigger risk for increased aluminum consumption. Acidic foods, like tomatoes, citrus fruits, and vinegar, should not be cooked or stored in aluminum cookware because some aluminum will dissolve into the food. In addition, foods that already contain aluminum, basic foods like table salt, self-rising flour, and baking powder, will end up having an even higher aluminum content if cooked in aluminum cookware.
Another problem with aluminum pots and pans is that they can melt if they are left empty and heated up to a high temperature. Aluminum is a soft metal, so heating them up too high means they will become more malleable and the process of aluminum leaching into foods will happen faster.
Alternatives to Aluminum
Go through your kitchen as see how many of your utensils are made from aluminum, and see what you can do without. For those pots and pans that you need to replace, don’t worry. The good news is that if you have decided to sell all your old aluminum cookware for scrap metal, there are some much safer alternatives. Cast iron cookware is a great alternative, and some chefs regard cast iron as the best material for cookware. Sure, it is heavy, it needs to be kept seasoned, and needs more general looking after than something like stainless steel. However, a well-seasoned cast iron pan will perform just as well as any of the fancy non-stick pans out there on the market. Stainless steel cookware is also a better alternative to aluminum, and it is lighter and easy to look after than cast iron. However, aluminum is used to bond the layers of stainless steel together, so it can still enter food cooked in stainless steel cookware.
Other alternatives include copper cookware, but they rely on their tin or steel lining, and once this has gone they must not be used for cooking again. Ceramic cookware is also an option, but make sure it is of good quality and has been made especially for cooking, as the glaze contains lead, and if this migrates into food it can be very dangerous. New anodized aluminum pots do not have to be avoided. They are much better than the older non-anodized ones because the anodizing process stops the aluminum from leaching out of the pan and into the food while it is being cooked.
Whichever You Choose, Look After It!
The most important thing you can do no matter what type of cookware you choose to use is to keep scrupulously clean, and avoid using harsh cleaners or scouring pads. These will degrade the protective layers that most cookware has, and also scratch small grooves into its surface which can become a haven for bacteria to grow. When your cookware starts looking a bit old and used, get replacements as soon as you can.