Brenton Barker

Heavy Metals In Our Food Supply

Heavy metals in your food supply can lead to serious health conditions and play havoc with your microbiome. This article examines the harmful effect they can have on your body.

heavy metals in food

Over the past twenty years, health conditions such as gluten intolerance have become increasingly prevalent among the general population.

Similar to cancer, there were times when conditions like celiac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and gluten intolerance were unheard of and rarely observed. Now they seem commonplace, but why?

Recently, there has been a growing concern over pesticides and chemicals such as glyphosate sprayed on our food crops. Combined with the heavy metal runoff from factories into our water streams, it’s easy to see why vast numbers of the population are developing these relatively new health conditions.

Today we look at the dangers of heavy metals in our food supply and examine what precautions we can take to protect ourselves and our families from consuming poisoned food.

Heavy metals: what’s all the fuss about?

Heavy metals occur naturally and are also the result of manufacturing.

A few of the most common and harmful heavy metals are:

  • Arsenic

  • Lead

  • Mercury

  • Cadmium

Some foods and certain crops contain much higher levels of heavy metals, such as rice, wheat, fruit, and vegetable. These foods absorb the heavy metals from groundwater, air, and even contaminated soil.

It’s important to note that we all have minimal levels of heavy metals in our bodies. However, some people have higher levels due to lifestyle factors like poor diet and lack of exercise. Alternatively, some people are unaffected by higher levels of mercury which is commonly found in fish like tuna.

Heavy metals and health concerns


Heavy metals are harmful neurotoxicants that can hinder brain development in children. Although heavy metal levels are generally low in most foods and are of little concern, their accumulative effect on our health has more serious consequences.

Heavy metals have been known to cause health conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, constant headaches, autoimmune diseases, and thyroid problems. Additionally, heavy metal contamination can impede and hinder proper thyroid function, weaken your immune system, and impair mitochondrial function.

Three harmful heavy metals found in food

Inorganic arsenic

The most common heavy metal that causes severe health conditions is arsenic. While technically not heavy metal, arsenic has metallic and non-metallic properties making it what’s known as a ‘metalloid.’ Arsenic is typically discharged by large manufacturing plants finding its way into waterways and contaminating marine life.

Possible dangers: Cognitive impairment, particularly in children, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.


Lead is one of the most commonly used and harmful metals and can be found in piping, chemicals, alloys, paints, and pesticides. Lead is extremely dangerous and detrimental to our health and well-being. Foods like meat, wine, seafood, and tobacco are all susceptible to high levels of lead.

Possible dangers: Reductions in IQ, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.


Cadmium is found in the crust of the earth and, as such, poses an incredible danger to our soil and farmland. Cadmium also finds its way into groundwater, affecting nearly every type of food and crop. Some of the foods that are at the highest risk are:

  • Mushrooms

  • Freshwater fish

  • Alage, and potable water

Smokers are also at significant risk of cadmium poisoning, as are those unfortunate enough to breathe in second-hand smoke. Factory and refinery workers and people residing near rubbish tips are also susceptible.

Possible dangers: Cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and autoimmune disease.

Which foods contain the highest levels of heavy metals?


Most people don’t realise that heavy metals in our food supply are unavoidable. For instance, we typically ingest between 5 and 10 mcg of lead each day through foods like seafood and vegetables. If you know which foods to avoid, though, you can drastically reduce and limit your exposure to these harmful heavy metals.


All fish and seafood contain measurable traces of heavy metals such as mercury. Farmed fish, in particular, should be avoided at all costs due to its high levels of pesticides, heavy metals, toxins, and environmental containments.

Fish to avoid or limit:

  • Tuna

  • Marlin

  • King Mackerel

  • Swordfish

Safer and healthier fish options:

  • Haddock, anchovies

  • Tilapia

  • Trout

  • Salmon

  • Flounder

2Brown rice

Brown rice, although highly nutritious and tasty, does contain higher levels of heavy metals when compared to white rice. Rice absorbs arsenic from the soil and groundwater, with most of it found on the outer shell, which is responsible for its brownish colour. Brown rice is healthy, but it’s best to limit consumption as much as possible.

3Leafy greens

Like brown rice, many of your favourite leafy greens contain high levels of heavy metals, particularly cadmium. The most effective way to limit your exposure is to buy locally at farmer’s markets, where you can generally find organic dark leafy greens. Don’t forget to balance your vegetable intake with other equally healthy vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, and green olives.

Sum it up

So the bad news is that heavy metals are found in most, if not all, of our food supply, which spells even worse news for our mitochondrial function. Heavy metals have been attributed to causing serious health conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, celiac disease, and many other autoimmune issues.

Making small changes in your foods can have a massive positive outcome on your physical and cognitive health. For instance, try eating fish like salmon rather than swordfish, which contains high levels of heavy metals.

Want to learn more?

In this informative 5 minutes clip, Dr. Eric Berg, one of the foremost experts on nutritional health, examines ways to detoxify the body from heavy metals. Over time heavy metals can accumulate in our bodies, leading to serious health issues such as cancers and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Berg also discusses the 5 best foods to help you detox from heavy metal poisoning.

Healthypedia FAQ

According to consumer reports, food products made from rice were found to have the highest levels of heavy metals, particularly inorganic arsenic. The report went on to mention that rice absorbs 10X more arsenic when compared to other grains.

Fish such as salmon, tilapia, shellfish, crab, and shrimp make excellent choices for people looking to take advantage of their nutritional benefits without the risk of heavy metal poisoning. On the other hand, fish such as shark, tuna, king mackerel, and swordfish typically contain much higher levels and, as such, are best avoided.

Although the heavy metal levels found in most are generally low, their accumulative effect over time can adversely affect our health and well-being. Some health conditions that may arise from long-term exposure to heavy metals are lower IQs, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

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