Adefolake Adekola: Effects of Toxic Metals In Your Food & How to Avoid Them

As a typical Abuja girl I am a genuine lover of catfish, point and kill to be specific. You go

As a typical Abuja girl I am a genuine lover of catfish, point and kill to be specific. You go to a bar/garden/joint and select the fish you want out of a large variety and they grill it to your specification.
Just like me, many people are drawn to good food and most times eat from just anywhere when hunger comes knocking. For those that do not eat from just anywhere and have the strength to resist a fine plate of pounded yam with vegetable soup or fried rice with salad, they might think this topic is not referring to them, but that is untrue. The presence of heavy metals in food can be from the fish you bought from the market or the eggs you bought from your neighbor that has a poultry farm or just maybe from your favorite restaurant.

I have come across people that shy away from certain diets because of the side effects they have heard about. Although this is good but it is important to know what might be in the food we eat and how to prevent toxins as best as we can.

According to Joel Kahn a Cardiologist (mindbodygreen, 2016), he mentioned hidden sources of toxic heavy metals that can harm our health and how they are present in our regular meals. Mercury, Lead, Arsenic and Cadmium are four major heavy metals found in the earth which play no positive role in the human body but find their way into the body causing cardiovascular diseases and much more. Research carried out by Environmental Protection Agency discovered that about 30% of pregnant women had Mercury levels over the safe limit and fish eaters had eleven times more mercury that people who rarely ate.

Just before our non-fish eaters jubilate, in 2013 scientist measured the level of Lead (Pb) in chicken broth (chicken stock) and it had high Lead (Pb) concentrations in it. Food and Drug Administration also identified that rice absorbs arsenic from the soil when farmers plant and also from the irrigation water and regular tap water at times. Arsenic poisoning is linked with some of the worst cases of brain, kidney and heart diseases.

A common factor for all these heavy metals are how pregnant women, children and infants are susceptible when exposed to them. The presence of POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) in fatty tissues in meat and fish cause dementia, diabetes and various heart diseases. Lack of knowledge by a lot of farmers in Nigeria has led them spraying pesticides on vegetable crops, fruits and their farmlands to prevent pests from eating their crops but these pesticides remain on the crops and the chain continues.

In some cases, farm animals feed on these crops and pass it to humans when we feed on them and in the case of fruits we eat them directly. Rinsing of fruits and vegetables cannot prevent the presence of heavy metals, they only reduce the load and guide against particulate matter.

In a previous article I mentioned how plastic bottles contained Bisphenol and we should limit our intake of bottled water. However, this is not just applicable to plastic bottles alone, canned foods as well, when incorrectly manufactured, can cause gastrointestinal irritation and upsets.

This should not stop us from eating the food we enjoy or stop us from taking vegetables and fruits. It is only a wake up call to be conscious of what we eat and where we buy it from. One important fact is that every person has been exposed to heavy metals throughout their lives, usually on a daily basis; one way or another leading to the accumulation of heavy metals in the body. The important thing is the continuous accumulation slowly poisons the body, damaging the organs and weakens the immune system, often a major cause of cancer much later on in life. Some other health effects of heavy metals are: memory loss, depression, fatigue, inflammation in the digestive tract, insomnia, loss of libido, migraines and so on.

The silver lining of this situation we find ourselves in is that we are now aware and there are ways of avoiding ingesting heavy metals, or keeping them at minimal levels.

1. Buy your food items from known organic stores and markets.

2. Boil meat, chicken and other food stuff properly.

3. Eat simple foods that help to detoxify the body; examples are ginger, Moringa leaves and seed, bitter leaf, lemon water, Aloe Vera leaf juice and green tea. For our “keto” lovers, juice fasting works just fine.

4. If it tastes weird, don’t eat it. Throw it away. Better to be safe than sorry.

5. Discard old metal cookware (old aluminum pots). In most cases the metals begin to wear off and leach into the food after a while.

Photo Credit: © Kadettmann | Dreamstime.com

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