When buying food for yourself and or your family, are you glancing over the Nutrition Facts panel to make sure you’re making a healthy choice? If you are, are you looking at the fine print in the ingredients list, to see if there are any artificial additives, natural flavors or preservatives you want to avoid? What isn't listed on the label, is how much toxic heavy metals you may consume per serving.
What we eat and drink is one of the primary points of exposure for heavy metals. These toxins make their way into the food chain thanks to decades of industrial pollutants entering the air, soil and water.
In the past, many experts believed this wasn’t a cause for concern. The idea was that the human body is perfectly capable of dealing with trace amounts of heavy metals via its detoxification pathways. They missed the big picture. Over exposure to conventionally raised foods begins to create a sluggish digestive system and over burndens the liver. We have all felt bloated after eating something. We have all felt hungry and couldnt eat much because we were still bloated and could eat much. Inflammation. When digestion is sluggish and the liver is overburdened, what cannot be detoxified will be stored as fat. We can begin to have joint problems becasue we can't get the nutrition and we stop moving.
“Even though the levels of a metal in any particular food is low, our overall exposure adds up because many of the foods we eat contain them in small amounts,” said Conrad Choiniere from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (1).
To make matters worse, over the years, these toxins can accumulate and cause substantial harm, including to your heart health and brain health. The liver is the protector of the heart. The first organ blood goes to after it has been 'detoxified' by the liver is the heart. This is why reducing your exposure to heavy metals is so important. And it starts with avoiding some of the worst offenders.
Here’s a list of food and beverages with the highest amounts of heavy metals to watch out for:
1. Drinking Water
It’s not just the water in Flint, Michigan or Camp Lejeune. An investigation by USA Today found that over 2,000 water systems in the US have high levels of toxic lead (2). And an estimated 10 million homes get water through lead pipes, which corrode over time, adding lead to water (3). SOme of those pictures are so gross.
Lead isn’t the only toxic heavy metal lurking in drinking water. Mercury is another one of many toxins found in water supplies.
To help reduce exposure through your drinking water, use a water filter that can filter out heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and mercury. Water filters that I like are from 4Patriots and Berkey Water. 4Patriots has a better price. It is not just heavy metals in the water but that is another post.
2. Processed Fruit Juices
Many parents give young children a juice box to satisfy their thirst and think it’s a healthy option due to the fruit content. They may even think it's a healthier option than soda. Maybe?However, research shows many fruit juices also contain heavy metals (4).
One survey from Consumer Reports tested 45 popular fruit juices including apple, grape, pear, and fruit blends. Every product they tested contained varying amounts of cadmium, arsenic, lead, or mercury with half of the brands tested having “concerning” levels (5). In some of the tested juices, drinking just 4 ounces a day (half a cup) is enough to cause harm. It’s not just an issue for children either, since adults often drink more than 4 ounces, which puts them at risk too. Instead of juice, aim to eat organic whole fruit as a healthy snack. This is not limited to juice boxes for children. A large number of fruit and veggie juices that are marketed to adults are pretty bad too. Go investigate. Trust but verify you maybe surprised.
3. Baby Food
Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of heavy metals since their brain and body are still developing.
Plus, young children get a much higher dose of heavy metals by weight based on their small size.
“Exposure to these metals early on can affect their whole life trajectory,” explains Jennifer Lowry, M.D., chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health (S).
It’s particularly disturbing to learn than many foods targeted for infants have been found to contain heavy metals. One study, for example, found that 95% of sampled baby foods contain dangerous levels of arsenic and lead (6). To reduce exposure for babies, avoid rice cereals and rice puffs, and aim for organic foods and a variety of organic grains. The more that a drink or food is processed, the worse it is for you.
4. Non-Organic Food
Many non-organic foods are riddled with a variety of pesticides. In addition to their other toxic effects, studies have found that certain pesticides contain trace amounts of heavy metals. One scientific survey, for example, tested 22 different pesticides and discovered the presence of arsenic, chromium, cobalt, lead, and nickel (7).
What’s even more concerning is that heavy metals and pesticides exert a synergistic effect (8). This means, pesticides can amplify the negative effects of heavy metals and vice versa. The combination of lead and a pesticide called dimethoate, for example, results in increased weight gain, liver enlargement, and thymus enlargement.
Eating organic has many benefits, including studies that have found a reduced risk of cancer. If you can’t eat organic all the time, aim to buy organic for these foods since non-organic versions have been found to be most sprayed by pesticides. I grown most of my own food, even in the winter indoors. I aim to buy from farmers markets the majority of the time. It's imperative to get to know your farmer and buy locally.
5. Brown Rice
Testing by Consumer Reports shows that arsenic is a problem in many types of rice, which depends in part on where it’s grown. However, brown rice contains upwards of 80% more inorganic arsenic than white rice (9).
You can reduce your risk by thoroughly rinsing the rice. Also, consider switching to other grains with lower arsenic levels such as barley, buckwheat, millet and quinoa.
Most people that feel they are gluten intolerant are mostly likely having a reaction to glysophate that is sprayed on the crops before harvest. Know where where your food is handled and grown.
6. Large, Oily Fish
Oily fish is an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fats. Some varieties of fish, however, are extremely high in mercury. According to an FDA report, these include swordfish, king mackerel, big eye tuna, orange roughy, and grouper (10).
Given the high mercury levels of these fish—especially swordfish —it’s best that you consume them in moderation or eliminate them from your diet. Many other fish are affected by this for various other reasons such as being farmed and genetically altered. Only buy wild caught. Some packages you have to really hunt for the terms wild caught or farmed. There are been many occasions I missed it. And yes, I through it all out. I will not eat farmed fish and no one else should either.
7. Cheap Spices
Depending on where they are sourced, many spices are contaminated with heavy metals. Turmeric, for example, received a lot of flak in the media for its high concentrations of lead (11). You also want to look for on the bottle for the words not irradtiated or irradiated free. They do this to spices.
Based on surveys, scientists “hypothesize that turmeric is being intentionally adulterated [in India and Bangladesh] with lead to enhance its weight, color, or both” (12). Of course, not all turmeric is high in lead. To prevent contaminated products reaching shelves, it’s up to the companies who import the turmeric to test it for heavy metals like lead.
Researchers have also found excessive amounts of lead and cadmium in dried basil, cinnamon, savory, and dried onion (13). To protect yourself, see if your brand routinely checks their spices for heavy metals. Read your labels and learn marketing terms.
8. Brewed Tea
A study on brewed teas suggests that many varieties (especially those from China) contain unsafe levels of lead and aluminum (14). Pesticides may also be a contributing factor since non-organic teas are among the crops most sprayed by pesticides.
Researchers found that brewing tea for longer periods of time resulted in greater exposure. Check the sourcing on your tea, and consider taking an organic tea extract in supplement form to avoid exposure from brewed tea. I just watched video of the amount of heavy metals were in a bag of tea. Shocking! Don't be fooled that loose leaf has none just because it's loose. Know where your food and herbs are coming from and how they are processed.
The Bottom Line
Even if you manage to reduce your intake of these foods, scientists are always discovering new sources of heavy metal exposure. That’s why it’s important to detoxify heavy metals in addition to reducing your exposure. There is no way to avoid any of this in our world. The goal is to reduce our exposure. We do have control of what we put in our mouth and on our skin.
I have had many, many clients over the years to stop using aluminum to bake or barbeque their foods in; switch deodorants that do not have aluminum; shift into certified organic foods and major results in pain reduction in the body and clearing up brain fog.
You need to research the products your buying. You also need to do this slowly and support your body with high quality foods and #supplements. As the body goes through a detox and purging these out of the body, your body will need the support.
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