We are exposed to heavy metals on a daily basis. The top 10 foods can help our bodies get rid of metal in a natural way.
The water we drink, the personal care products we use, and even some of the foods we eat are all contaminated with heavy metals.
Mercury, lead, cadmium, copper, iron, zinc, and arsenic are some of the metals that wind up in our body. Heavy metals can wreak havoc on our health if they are exposed in large amounts.
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How We Get Heavy Metals in Our System
Since we are exposed to them through various routes, heavy metals can build up in our body. Here are the most common heavy metals we’re exposed to, and how they get into our systems. (1, 2)
Lead: Lead is released into the air from vehicle exhausts and settles into our soil, which then seeps into the water we drink. This heavy metal is also found in lead-glazed containers and older paints.
Arsenic: We’re exposed to arsenic through the air we breathe and certain foods, like rice and even infant cereal. (3)
Mercury: Seafood like swordfish, shark, tuna, and king mackerel contain mercury, as do certain thermometers and amalgam fillings. (4)
Cadmium: People can be exposed to cadmium through rechargeable batteries, tobacco smoke, industrial working environments, and even some fruits and vegetables via the transfers from the soil to the plant. The scary part about cadmium is that once it’s in your system, it continues accumulating for life. (5)
Aluminum: Aluminum occurs naturally in the water, soil, and air; mining can elevate levels.
The Health Risks of Heavy Metal Exposure
Heavy metals can cause a wide variety of health problems. These are the major health concerns when it comes to exposure to heavy metal.
Neurological Disorders: Arsenic can increase your risk of developing brain problems like neurological issues, neurobehavioral disorders, and developmental abnormalities. (6) Aluminum is also linked to neuronal atrophy. (7)
Cancer: Heavy metal exposure may increase your risk of cancer, with arsenic directly linked to increasing your risk of multiple cancers, including skin, lung, liver, bladder, kidney, and colon. (8)
Pregnancy Issues: Mercury is a big concern when it comes to reproductive health. Even in small amounts, mercury exposure can affect the brain of the fetus, leading to cognitive problems down the road. (9)
Kidney Issues: All environmental heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium are linked to kidney problems. Cadmium exposure is of particular concern for increased risk of chronic kidney disease in those with high blood pressure or diabetes. (10)
Developmental Issues in Kids: Lead exposure can directly affect the brain, leading to central nervous system issues and convulsions. (11) Keep in mind that no amount of lead exposure is considered safe.
10 Foods That Help Detox
There are ten foods you can add to your diet to support the process of ridding yourself of heavy metals.
Cilantro is a powerful all-natural detoxifier and is helpful in removing neurotoxins, such as mercury, from the body. (12)
Adding freshly chopped cilantro to your favorite salad dressing recipe or even adding it to your juicer with lemon, parsley, apple, and cucumber is a great way to get rid of toxins.
2. Wild Blueberries
Blueberries are super high in antioxidants, and the wild variety contains an even higher count. The powerful antioxidants found in wild blueberries help to pull heavy metals out of the body while also reversing oxidative damage caused by those heavy metals.
If you want to get wild blueberries into your diet, you can either top them with coconut yogurt or almonds for breakfast. Most grocery stores have frozen out fresh wild blueberries.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice can give your body the detox boost it needs when trying to rid itself of heavy metals. Much of this has to do with hydration. Adding freshly squeezed lemon juice to a glass of water can keep your body hydrated, which in turn can help flush out toxins. Lemons are also rich in vitamin C, which helps protect your cells from damage.
Research shows that lemon juice is especially helpful in detoxing lead from the body. (13, 14) A study found that a daily dose of vitamin C reduced the total amount of lead in their blood after just one month of supplementation.
Try sipping on a mug of warm water with a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice first thing in the morning. This also helps support optimal digestion and elimination, another key part of natural detoxification. (15)
Also known as blue-green algae, spirulina is a plant-based superfood with anti-inflammatory properties that support the body while detoxing heavy metals. (16) Spirulina can also reduce oxidative damage in the brain, according to animal studies. (17)
A dash of bright green spirulina powder can be added to any smoothie.
Chlorella is incredibly nutrient-rich algae grown in fresh or saltwater. Like cilantro, chlorella helps the body detox from neurotoxins such as mercury. (18) One study looking at the effects of chlorella extract in mice found protective benefits when used following lead exposure. (19) Another study found that chlorella intake may help counteract heavy metal poisoning in rats when exposed to cadmium by decreasing cadmium absorption in the body. (20)
You can buy chlorella supplements online or at your local health food store.
Garlic can boost the production of glutathione, the body’s most powerful antioxidant and a critical antioxidant for detoxification. (21)
Get lots of fresh garlic in your diet by sautéing it with veggies like cauliflower rice or spaghetti squash, or adding it to homemade bone broth, soups, sauces, and stews.
Beets are great for supporting liver health, which is essential for proper body detoxification. One study found that rats given beetroot juice saw an increase in detoxifying enzymes, such as glutathione, which are important for the body’s antioxidant defense. (22)
If you want to add beets to your salads, roast them in large batches, or enjoy them warm with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
Like beets, artichokes are also great for supporting the liver. Animal studies found that artichoke extracts from the leaves and roots of the plant held liver-protective benefits in addition to helping liver cells regenerate. (23) This is important when it comes to helping the body detox from heavy metals since one of the primary functions of the liver is to remove toxins.
Enjoy artichoke roasted as a healthy snack or as a side with your favorite Paleo meal.
The active compound of turmeric, curcumin, helps protect the body after mercury exposure when consumed regularly. According to a study conducted on animals, curcumin reduced the markers of kidney as well as liver injury caused by mercury, while also having a positive effect on glutathione levels. (24)
Try adding turmeric to your diet every day by using it in stir-fries, mixing it into smoothies and drinks (like this golden turmeric latte). Tip: Always add a pinch of ground black pepper to boost turmeric’s bioavailability.
Ginger is another excellent anti-inflammatory spice that can help fight off free radical damage in the body caused by heavy metal exposure. (25)
Adding fresh ginger to your diet can be accomplished by making apple, lemon, and ginger juice. Do you not have a juicer? Add a dash of ginger to your soups, stew, or desserts.
The Bottom Line
When we are exposed to large amounts of heavy metals, they are harmful. We can eat foods that help remove heavy metals from the body, even though we can’t completely eliminate all sources of exposure. Try to eat these foods frequently, as they support health and detoxification.