When it comes to food, what certified organic label means is that a certain item has been grown without use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics, sewage sludge, irradiation and is GMO-free. Unfortunately, buying organic produce doesn’t protect you from heavy metals.
Heavy metals occur both organically in the environment and inorganically as a result of human activity (= pollution). They are found in the soil, water and air and are absorbed by plants making that way into the food chain.
Please be cautious when you hear about minimum permissible levels for heavy metals. The truth is you don’t want ANY toxic metals in, on or around your body in ANY amounts. Research shows that for babies and young children, contaminants can be harmful at even very low levels. Sometimes they stick around in our bodies for decades because our body has no efficient way of getting rid of them causing a number of adverse health effects such as impaired nervous, cardiovascular and reproductive systemsand also possibly cancer.Therefore cumulative repeated exposure to even trace amounts of toxic metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic is especially disconcerting.
There are NO safe limits to heavy metals
Not all heavy metals are toxic: iron, copper, manganese, and zinc are essential for good health – as long as they are consumed in small quantities.
Importantly, it’s impossible to avoid all the toxins given the polluted environment we live in. But you can definitely reduce some of the exposure!
How to reduce heavy metals in your food:
- Buying organic is still your best shot as it’s non-GMO and free from harmful chemicals. Better yet – if you can, buy biodynamic like Demeter or regenerative produce like Regenerative Organic . They do the “true” organic farming operating holistically to ensure soil health, animal welfare and social responsibility.
- When organic is not available, buy produce that normally contains smaller if any pesticide residues. Check out EWG’s dirty dosen and clean fifteen list. Also peel your non-organic veggies!
- To eliminate any pesticide residues, soak your veggies and fruits in a 10% salt solution (1:9 salt to water) and then scrub them. Research has shown that commercial veggie and fruit washers are not any better!
- Diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains and unrefined plant-based foods helps eliminate heavy metals from the body
- Get rid of toxins by breaking some sweat – exercise regularly or go to sauna
What to avoid:
- Avoid rice and its derivatives (e.g. milk, pasta, syrup, crackers) as it’s high in arsenic. To reduce the amount of arsenic, soak rice overnight then rinse, cook in excess water and the drain it. Brown rice absorbs more arsenic but body doesn’t absorb as much of it compared to white rice, which contains less nutrients.
- Avoid foods that have been cooked and processed at high temperatures: fried potatoes, coffee, biscuits, crackers and bread to name a few. They’ve been found to contain acrylamide (a chemical, not heavy metal), which is a probable cancerogen. Levels of acrylamide increase with the time of heating. Some teething biscuits, baby cereal, and crisps have been found to contain acrylamide.
- Nearly 80% of baby formula and 65% of baby food has tested positive for arsenic. Baby food has been also found to contain lead, cadmium and acrylamides
- Consume cocoa in moderation as it may contain high levels of cadmium + lead
- Some supplements such as calcium or protein powder have shown to contain high levels of lead
- Avoid commodities grown in polluted and industry-heavy countries as well as less those with strict environmental and health legislation. While it’s not a bullet-proof approach, I buy green tea from Japan rather than China, cinnamon from Sri Lanka rather than India, produce from Europe rather than US.
- If you consume fish, avoid tuna, mackerel, swordfish, marlin, cod etc that are high in mercury + lead.