In this current day and age, it’s likely you have some heavy metals and other contaminants in your diet and in the products that you use daily. If these toxins pile up too much in your body, they could cause dangerous side effects like auto-immune diseases and cancer. For this reasoning I wanted to go through the dangers of different types of heavy metals, why they are dangerous and where you can find them so they can be avoided. Detoxing from these contaminants can be extremely beneficial to your overall health, so let’s take a look into how they are introduced into our bodies in the first place.
According to the Food And Drug Administration (FDA), “Certain metals, such as arsenic, lead and mercury, have no established health benefit, and have been shown to lead to illness, impairment, and in high doses, death. Understanding the risk that harmful metals pose in our food supply is complicated by the fact that no single food source accounts for most people’s exposure to metals in foods. People’s exposure comes from many different foods containing these metals. Combining all of the foods we eat, even low levels of harmful metals from individual food sources, can sometimes add up to a level of concern. “
The reality is that our food supply contains metals, including lead, arsenic and mercury because these natural environmental pollutants are found in water, soil, and the air and so they enter food supplies through those elements when plants absorb them as they grow.
Fish is a good example, which contains high levels of mercury from the water they swim in, and so experts recommend eating fish only two times per week to reduce intake of mercury.
The FDA has created a workgroup to monitor metals in food and to protect all populations, especially the most vulnerable who are children. It is important to be aware of the metals in food and to take precautions as needed in your diets.
Fish from the ocean contain a large amount of natural mercury. Although a small amount of this is easily eliminated by the body, if you are starting on a journey to completely detox you diet of heavy metals, any ocean caught fish needs to go!
(Consider purchasing ethically farm raised fish instead. Limit fish to 2 meals a week.)
Lead is metal which has proven toxic in high doses, leading it to be highly controversial in recent history.
According to the USDA, “Lead is a poisonous metal that is harmful to the body. Lead poisoning is most dangerous to young children and unborn babies. Small amounts of lead can seriously affect their health.”
Lead In Canned Food
According to the USDA, “The canned food industry in the United States stopped using lead-soldered cans in 1991. In 1995, the Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule prohibiting the use of lead solder in all food cans, including imported products.”
The FDA reports that most intentional uses of lead are now banned in the United States, for example the previous use of lead in paint.
But lead can still be found in food due to its presence in the environment:
- Lead from soil can be absorbed by vegetable and fruit crops, this lead is cannot be completely eliminated by washing the produce.
- Lead found in plants, and water may be eaten by animals which we then eat.
What You Can Do
- Increase your intake of iron, calcium, and vitamin C, as these nutrients aid the body in absorbing less lead.
- Gardening – If you are going to grow your own produce make sure to test your soil for lead levels. Root vegetables, like carrots and sweet potatoes are at highest risk, since they have direct contact with the soil. According to the Soil Science Society of America, this risk is highest in home gardens.
- Avoid sweets imported from outside of the US that contain tamarind, chili powder, and salt which has been mined outside America.
- A 2015 article in the Washington Post reported concerns about the lead content in chocolate. While that content was within FDA requirements, the concern is when we eat too much chocolate lead can build up over time.
- Reduce consumption of tap water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the risk of high led consumption can be especially high when the home has lead pipes or fixtures.
Heavy Metals in Juice
Beware of bottled fruit juices. In 2019, Consumer Reports published findings after they tested 45 different fruit juices for heavy metals and found that almost 50% of those contained unsafe levels of mercury, lead, cadmium, and inorganic arsenic.
“Five of the juices we tested pose a risk to adults at 4 or more ounces per day, and five others pose a risk at 8 or more ounces” said Consumer Report’s chief scientific officer, James Dickerson. Many of these heavy metal ladened juices are popular and very well-known brands.
“Aluminum is one of the most common metals found in the environment and consequently, in food. However, Al levels have been increasing over time due to acidification of the soils and anthropogenic activities. All is a known neurotoxic agent because this metal tends to accumulate in the brain. Several studies have reported the correlation between Al levels and different diseases such Alzheimer’s disease.” (Aluminum Exposure Through the Diet, Hardisson, et al)
A report from the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in Berlin reports that even though aluminum exposure from dietary sources is on the decline, human beings are still ingesting too much aluminum from nonfood sources which is a health risk.
Medical News today says that cosmetics and antiperspirants, might just be exceeding the levels of mercury humans can tolerate. Experts advise that eating a varied diet and alternating brands can help reduce aluminum exposure.
Healthline advises the following to reduce aluminum exposure:
- Don’t use aluminum utensils
- Don’t use aluminum utensils in cooking
- Don’t mix aluminum foil with acidic foods, including tomato sauce and chicken
- Limit the amount of tap water you drink
According to the World Health Organization, “Arsenic is a natural component of the earth’s crust and is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water and land. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form. People are exposed to elevated levels of inorganic arsenic through drinking contaminated water, using contaminated water in food preparation and irrigation of food crops, industrial processes, eating contaminated food and smoking tobacco.
Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic, mainly through drinking-water and food, can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning. Skin lesions and skin cancer are the most characteristic effects.
The greatest threat to public health from arsenic originates from contaminated groundwater. Inorganic arsenic is naturally present at high levels in the groundwater of a number of countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, China, India, Mexico, and the United States of America.
Fish, shellfish, meat, poultry, dairy products, and cereals can also be dietary sources of arsenic, although exposure from these foods is generally much lower compared to exposure through contaminated groundwater. In seafood, arsenic is mainly found in its less toxic organic form.”
Drinking purified water is your best line of defense against arsenic contamination. The WHO reports that at least 140 million people from 50 different countries drink arsenic contaminated water with levels higher than the WHO recommended level of 10 μg/L.
The most common contaminant in the American diet is pesticides, which are commonly found on fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Every year the EWG puts out its Dirty Dozen List, which is the list of produce highest in pesticide residue, the year 2020 list is as follow:
- Hot Peppers
Ways to reduce Pesticide Intake:
- Remove the produce above from your diet and buy only fruits and vegetables with a peel that is removed and discarded before eating.
- Purchase organic produce for the list of choices above especially, as well as other produce where there is no peel or you eat the peel.
- The only way to avoid grains which have been treated with pesticides is by purchasing organic grain products.
Overall, eliminating all the heavy metals and toxins from your diet is going to be challenging. But steps can be taken to make your diet safer and to minimize exposure.