We normally try our best on a day-to-day basis to make sound food choices and live a clean lifestyle. But sometimes an edible that we think encourages health can actually cause harm. Due to an affinity with heavy metals in the environment, some plants and animals absorb toxins like cadmium more readily than others. In light of this, steering clear of these common foods can help prevent serious problems down the road.
Over the last decade, flax has been embraced as an exceptionally healthy food, since it supplies ample amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, along with notable levels of lignins and fiber. Women wishing to avoid breast cancer have eagerly included the seed in their diet after learning about the protective phytoestrogens that flax supplies. However, researchers have discovered that flax also introduces cadmium into the body — which is notorious for encouraging breast cancer, kidney disorders, heart disease and osteoporosis. The soluble fiber of flax increases cadmium absorption, while the crop itself is known to take up cadmium from the soil, thereby infusing the plant with the metal.
Flax grown in heavily contaminated soil poses the greatest threat. Parts of Canada, where a majority of the world’s flaxseed is grown, tend to have high cadmium in the soil. North and South Dakota, two other large flax producers, also have soil with elevated levels. And flaxseed from China and India — two countries infamous for heavy metal pollution — are more likely than not to be contaminated. Since organic (as well as conventional) food isn’t tested for heavy metals by the USDA, the certified organic label is worthless in regard to cadmium found in flax. You can learn more about this state of affairs here.
Regrettably, flax isn’t the only edible at risk. Shellfish frequently contains cadmium as the result of environmental pollution. Inexpensive shrimp from Asia is one of the worst examples. Oysters from the east and west coasts of Canada are problematic too. Sunflower plants are also prone to accumulating cadmium. Beware of oil and seed butters made from sunflower, especially those grown in North and South Dakota. Polluted Louisiana is one of the main growing regions for rice in the United States, which is yet another crop that easily absorbs the metal. Additionally, if you are a fan of dried apricots, try to source varieties other than those grown in Turkey, which are often loaded with cadmium. Moreover, free-range escargot snails test high due to contaminated soil. Indian black mustard can also be troublesome.
Just as some foods can increase your cadmium load, others can help you detoxify. Fleur Hupston offers valuable tips on how to reduce your toxicity in “Top foods that chelate the body of heavy metals.” And make sure to visit The Consumer Wellness Center Forensic Food Lab website to see how your favorite natural food products rank on the heavy metal scale.
Sources for this article include: