We are exposed to heavy metals every single day. Here are the top 10 foods that can help our bodies naturally detoxify from metal exposure.
Heavy metals are in everything from the water we drink to the personal care products we slather on our skin, and even some of the foods we eat.
The types of metals that wind up in our body include mercury, lead, cadmium, copper, iron, zinc, and arsenic. When exposed to them in large amounts, these heavy metals can wreak havoc on our overall health.
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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 be toxic and lead to a wide variety of health complications. These are the major health concerns when it comes to heavy metal exposure.
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
Here are ten foods you can add to your diet that help support the detoxification process of heavy metals.
Cilantro is a powerful all-natural detoxifier and is helpful in removing neurotoxins, such as mercury, from the body. (12)
Top salads with freshly chopped cilantro, add it to your favorite homemade salad dressing recipe or even add it to your juicer with lemon, parsley, apple, and cucumber for a super detoxifying drink.
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.
Get wild blueberries into your diet by tossing them into a smoothie, or topping them over coconut yogurt with almonds for breakfast. If fresh wild blueberries are out of season, you can find them frozen at most grocery stores.
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)
Add a teaspoon of bright green spirulina powder to smoothies, fresh pressed juice or homemade guacamole.
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 find chlorella supplements online or at your local health food store in either powder or tablet form.
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)
Roast beets in big batches to add to your salads, or enjoy them warm drizzled 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)
You can add fresh ginger to your diet by making a homemade apple, lemon, and ginger juice. Don’t have a juicer? Add a dash of ground or freshly grated ginger to desserts, soups, stews, or bone broth.
The Bottom Line
Heavy metals are toxic, especially when we are exposed to large amounts. While we can’t completely eliminate all sources of exposure, we can eat foods that help remove heavy metals from the body. Try enjoying these foods regularly, as they support overall health as well as detoxification.