Originally posted: March 28, 2017
Updated: November 16, 2020
Tamara, which foods do you feed your family? What do you eat?
How do you avoid Lead in food?
People are ALWAYS asking me what foods we eat and what foods we avoid for our family! I’m going to make this short for now and add to this as things come up in conversations! Bear in mind that – as with eye color – we have the full spectrum of variations in our little family—2 vegans, 2 “mostly vegetarians”, 1 “rabid carnivore”, 1 “goat” (will eat nearly anything)!
- We eat all organic and
- As a family we avoid most animal products (although our youngest loves meat and dairy – much to his vegan father’s consternation!)
- For eggs (when we get them) we try to go with organic, free range, pasture raised (yadda yadda) – because chickens confined to traditional (or even the majority of so-called “cage-free”) high-density factory or commercial barn structures have a higher tendency to encounter and eat lead paint chips, even if they are raised “organic”!
Things we try to avoid entirely:
Our “Never” or “Almost Never” List. Some items are on this list because they are well documented to be high in Lead, others because they are naturally high in calcium and lead bio-mimics calcium and is readily taken up and concentrated via the same natural mechanisms in the plants listed here, and some are on this list because – for other reasons (not necessarily Lead) – we have found them to be unhealthy and not optimal for our family:
- Spinach: I will rarely have spinach when going out to a restaurant, but never feed it to my children. Spinach is high in calcium and if it is grown in soil where there is any trace of Lead it may take up unsafe levels of Lead because Lead bio-mimics calcium in biological structures.
- Himalayan Pink Salt: this has been shown to have high levels of lead by independent 3rd party testing. To read more about the concerns for various types of salt, click here.
- Most Multi-Vitamins: We have not yet found any brands consistently demonstrated to be lead-free by independent third party testing. This includes specifically avoiding calcium supplements for our children. To read more about my concerns for vitamins and supplements, click here.
- Sunflower Seeds: Sunflower seeds have the same issue as spinach. In fact Sunflowers have been used in phytoremediation experiments working to study the efficacy of intentionally using plants to remove Lead from soil. I will very rarely have sunflower seeds and don’t often feed them to my children. We avoid sunflower seed butter and instead stick with almonds, cashews, peanuts and other tree nuts! If we (very very rarely) do have sunflower seeds we make sure to buy organic.
- Bone Broth (not hard to avoid because we keep a vegetarian home). To read more about the concern for Lead in bone broth, click here.
- Most oils: particularly seed oils (because of the potential for them to concentrate Lead), but also olive oil especially if it is exposed to high-heat during cooking (due to potential carcinogenic properties). Unheated high-quality olive or coconut oil used sparingly are our go-to exceptions. I also love Avocado oil, but it is very hard to find organic Avocado oil.
- Peanut butter in plastic jars: you can read more about that concern here.
Things we limit our consumption of :
- Chocolate: If you have seen my film you know that chocolate is one of the most Lead-contaminated foods available. Because it is difficult to find lead-free sources of chocolate; we try to buy single ingredient, USA processed cocoa paste, cocoa nibs or cocoa powder and we make our own chocolate treats.
- Bread and flour products: We limit flour products (not just wheat flour, but all flour) because our kiddos’ digestion is messed up from being Lead poisoned and too much bread has sent Avi to the hospital many times in the past! I have speculated that when he eats flour products his body does not know how to respond to this “pre-processed” food and his gut just seems to shut down and not bother trying to digest anything. As Avi does love bread products (and he is now almost 16 years old and is doing a good job at self-regulating what he eats) we have a strict rule that a serving of bread must be sandwiched between two servings of either fresh raw fruit or fresh raw veggies. For example if he has an apple, and then has a bagel and then that is then followed by a couple of carrots, he does not tend to have the G.I. issues otherwise associated with flour consumption.
- Refined sweeteners: when absolutely needed for some deserts, we use high quality raw organic coconut sugar or sometimes minimally processed organic agave – used sparingly – as our preferred choices. My family owns a honey farm so we sometimes also use honey. Until recently we would also use maple syrup – however in October of 2020 I did a deep dive into the concerns for Lead in maple syrup and specifically learned about the allowable levels of Lead in organic maple syrup and have decided to no longer purchase that for my family. You can read more about the concern for Lead in organic maple syrup on this link.
Here’s a good graph you might want to check out, from our neighbors to the north!
Click to see the full graph and search for your favorite foods and their lead content!
If you would like to support my advocacy work so I can keep writing!
(and sharing consumer goods testing results) please check out this link and this link too! Thank you!
Things we eat on a regular basis (most or all organic)…
…aka -our “Yes” list!:
- Organic Garlic: Fresh, pickled, powdered, granules, roasted, raw – all the ways. Garlic has been shown (in scientific studies) to remove Lead from tissues in biological organisms (animals and humans) – so we try to get as much garlic in to our diets as we can. The kids love it actually. Here’s an article I wrote with more information about garlic and links to the relevant studies.
- Organic Berries! fresh, local, seasonal, organic raspberries, blackberries, marionberries, mulberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc. Last year we started growing our own organic raspberries —yum!
- Organic Cucumbers! (The kids love them sliced with organic red wine vinegar and dill. We avoid balsamic vinegar because it is notoriously high in Lead.)
- Organic Avocados! (usually with organic red wine vinegar filling up the spot where the pit used to be… as a favorite of the kids.)
- Organic GREENS! (Romaine Lettuce, Collards, Kale, and especially Lacinato (“dinosaur”) Kale are favorites (usually raw as a snack or lightly steamed with a sprinkling of homemade organic lemon-tahini sauce)!
- Organic Cherry tomatoes (any type of tomatoes actually—Charlie loves tomatoes sprinkled with Icelandic sea salt!)
- Organic Celery sticks! (Sometimes with peanut butter, sometimes with salt, sometimes with umeboshi paste!)
- Organic fresh, local corn on the cob (also with umeboshi paste instead of butter!)
- Homemade bean salads. (Organic kidney beans, garbanzo beans and red wine vinegar is a favorite of our kids!)
- Homemade bean soups and stews (beans soaked overnight, soak water discarded, pressure-cooked).
- Organic olives: preferably packaged in glass.
- Organic peanut butter: packaged in glass
- Brown Rice, Barley, Oats, Millet, Quinoa, Amaranth and other whole grains (soaked overnight, soak water discarded; pressure-cooked)
- Potatoes: little purple Peruvians, yams and sweet potatoes — they’re yummy and so much healthier!
- Snap peas: our kids love these and gobble up whole bags of them… raw.
- Organic Oranges, Clementines, Mandarins and other tasty little orange fruits!
- Organic Kiwifruit! (The kids would eat a dozen of these every day if they could!)
- Washington State apples (we love Fuji and Honeycrisp in season!)
- Bubbie’s pickles (or Portand’s own MoonBrine!)
- Soymilk (Westsoy Organic, Unsweetened Plain)
- Nori seaweed (our kids LOVE both home-made sushi and also snacking on plain nori!) [& yes we do have concerns about heavy metals and radiation so we limit consumption and make sure kids drink lots of water too.]
- Sea Palm fronds (another favorite snacking seaweed!)
- Chips (we rotate brands and flavors – always organic; no added sugar, preservatives or artificial ingredients)
- Pasta (Tinkyada’ Pasta, Joy Brown Rice pastas and Lotus Foods’ Organic Jade Pearl Rice Ramen are favorites!) we try to have it less often, but with lots of boys it is hard to avoid! *see flour products above.) The thing about pasta is that the boys are less likely to “perpetually self-feed” (as they do with bread – lol!)
- “Real” bagels from time to time [our current favorite in Portland is Joel Bundy’s magnificent, authentic New York-style chewy, boiled-and-baked masterpiece of bagel goodness! (Bundy’s Bagels 1421 SE 33rd Ave., 503-880-8550, bundysbagels.com. ]
- Nuts! Organic pistachios, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts. (Trader Joe’s has a good organic nut selection.)
- Edwards & Sons’ Instant Miso Soup (convenient dry packets – just add boiling water, + sometimes a little extra tofu!)
- Various dried organic fruit & veggies [we have a food dehydrator and this saves a TON when we dehydrate tasty delights – especially things like fresh winter Shitake Mushrooms and summer fruits and berries – for year-round availability and economy!]
- Coconut Bliss Ice Cream (Len and the kids like this, but I hate this stuff!)
As always, thank you for reading! And please let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them in person as soon as I have a moment.
Mother of Lead Poisoned Children
What are your thoughts on specifically grapeseed oil?
I don’t have experience with grapeseed oil, it’s not something I have used in my home. Did you check the chart here Suzanne? Perhaps there is something similar from the Canada food studies? I know the study linked here is just from 2007 and I understand they have done additional studies in subsequent years. Sorry to not have a better answer for you. What do you use grapeseed oil for?
We use it in place of olive oil. We love it! The only thing I think I saw was grapes but I’ll have to look again. https://image.slidesharecdn.com/grapeseedoilfactsheet-121101010416-phpapp02/95/wildtree-grapeseed-oil-fact-sheet-1-638.jpg?cb=1351731893
Alma Osmeni says
I have been reading that carrots and sweet potatoes are some of the most lead contained foods. What is your knowledge on these two veggies? I would love to hear from you!
Do you avoid Swiss chard as well? Is it too similar to spinach WRT lead? I didn’t see it on the list.
I wouldn’t say we avoid it, but it is not something we eat. 🙂
Have you done any testing on elderberries/elderberry syrup?
I never imagined that unprocessed fruits and vegetables or meat contain lead. I am specially surprised about spinach. I always thought it was a healthy green vegetable to feed to my children. Does it matter if the spinach is organic?
Thanks Tamara for the valuable wealth of information you provide in your entire website!!!
Would it be safe to consume greens, even spinach or any other leafy green, if grown in fabric/plastic pots with home-made compost, “organic” soil, rock dust, little Dr. Earth’s fertilizer, little fish liquid fertilizer?
I think if you are growing it yourself in known lead-free soil / pots, etc. then that is a great alternative!
Thank You Tamara for all you do and for answering so many questions, you are helping people and shining light with such strength and your intentions are undisputable the best!!!
I found this article about some store bagged soils
This about fabric pots
🙁 Growing food made us feel independent and safer, but it is so sad that we have to worry even about this stuff
What sort of salt do you recommend using?
Sea salt (not mined salt.)
Barbara R says
sea salt contains microplatic
How about root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoe, radish?
Love those – but wash well and always peel (unless you know soil is lead-free.)
Thanks! I heard that root vegetables can absorb lead in the soil? Not sure if that’s true… also have you tested the green tinted glass bottles that avocado oil is stored/sold in?
Lorinda Rimpau says
What kind of food dehydrator do you have?
Oh that’s a good question Lorinda!
I hate the darn thing because it takes up so much counter space – I am not sure what we did with it (I may have given it away to a friend.) If it is still lurking somewhere in the house I will find it and create a post about it. Thank you for commenting!
What are your thoughts on chia seeds?
What kind of pressure cooker do you use?
I’m surprised that you list most oils as being high in lead. I understand that when you heat them to a high temperature, they become carcinogenic (different oils have different smoke points) and become trans fats, and they can become rancid after a while, but lead? Does sunflower oil contain lead? Does refined sunflower oil have less lead than the unrefined, flavorful type that is used in borscht? I don’t eat sunflower seeds nor sunflower seed butter, but as of now I eat sunflower oil.
That list looks like raisins, apricots, and chewing gum have a lot of lead, more so than a “chocolate bar” or spinach. Or am I reading it wrong?
I’m wondering if people would be making a mistake to just replace spinach with some other leafy green. Maybe they only tested spinach because that is the most common leafy dark green eaten in the West, and so they’re not going to include greens common in recent diaspora communities or that are just plain uncommon like sorrel, molokhia, callaloo, dandelion greens, rapini, beet greens, etc. Maybe they didn’t have the budget to test all those other dark green leafy vegetables. Doesn’t necessarily mean they are low in lead. Maybe some are higher in lead than spinach?
Are you concerned at all with arsenic in brown rice/brown rice flour? Does soaking overnight help eliminate the arsenic amount?
I started using this parboiling method that helped ease my concerns with arsenic in rice.
I also wash my rice with filtered water instead of tap. I wonder though if I should start soaking overnight also.
Roxana Rock says
Wow I give my toddler so much spinach – this is devastating. So grateful for the work you do . Thank you
shannel bartak says
What’s the problem with sunflower seeds? Thanks! 🙂
I was so upset to learn this about sunflower oil as my family has been using it (almost exclusively) for OVER A DECADE in our cooking. We’ve now decided to cut it out completely… But here’s my pressing question.
My beloved cast iron skillet has been seasoned using sunflower seed oil since I bought it (new/unseasoned) a few years ago, and we have also cooked with it using spritzes of sunflower oil to keep it well-seasoned. I’m wondering if it is now contaminated with lead and therefore unsafe to continue using. 🙁
Your guidance on this would be very much appreciated!
PS – I’ve purged my kitchen of anything that is not lead-free and this is something that just recently occurred to me.
Thank you ❤️✨
What is your opinion on commercially grown hemp seeds? My kids have dairy allergies and we try to stay away from all other milks because of phytic acid, so we use hemp milk. From what I’ve seen hemp seeds are usually low unless grown in contaminated soil, which is not usually the case for seeds grown for food use.
Katherine Kehoe says
So do you cook without oil then? We mostly use coconut oil and rarely olive oil (which is of course in a green Bragg’s probably leaded bottle) so I’m unsure what to do for roasting veggies and we use coconut for baking (but we use butter too)? Also do you avoid most spices? I didn’t realize that many of the processing concerns were also for spices, again something we use a lot of. We don’t consume salt except in a few processed food like chips were we avoid pink salt.
Which brand of cacao nibs are you buying?
I just spent hours on Internet and seems like it is hard to find a product which is heavy metal tested.
Thank you in advance for your answer.
Oops!!! Forgot to include the actual link.
Here it is 🙂
Hi Ann 🙂
Check out this article I found a few weeks ago concerning lead in chocolate. I found it to be immensely helpful! Hope you find it useful as well. 🙂
https://enzostable.com/collections/olives. Made with only olives, Jacobsen salt, and water 🙂
https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/soy-alert/what-can-i-drink-instead-of-soy-milk/. Many people do well on 100% A2A2 dairy milk who are unable to consume other dairy products that turn to soymilk. I felt the need to share because of the talk of soymilk…
https://www.glutenfreewatchdog.org/. They tested several rice brands. I encourage you to subscribe to learn more…They used the test from Dartmouth College Center for Environmental Health Sciences Trace element analysis core. They tested several brands. These are the only three that came back : Below the limit of detection of 0.002 ug/g. California White Jasmine Rice
Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice Basmati
Lundberg Organic California White Rice Basmati
https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/cocoa-powders-and-chocolates-sources-of-flavanols/cocoa-flavanols/ Tested several brands of chocolate for heavy metals and cadium levels. My family and I use this brand because of their testing. I encourage you to subscribe to review their finds.https://www.montezumas.co.uk/absolute-black.
htmlhttps://www.azurestandard.com/shop/product/food/pasta/red-lentil/spaghetti-red-lentil-gf/24602?package=PA443 instead of rice pasta… I hope this bless everyone who reads this… Please pray with me to our Father in Heaven for his help to continue to guide all of us for truly safe, nourishing, plus, the right foods for our bodies, family’s health and future in Jesus name we pray…AMEN AMEN AMEN !
hi tamara! first i just want to say how very grateful i am for all the work you’ve done and also how heartbroken i am for everything you and your family have been through. i just discovered your blog today and have learnt quite a lot so far. i am puzzled as to why the issue with heavy metal contaminants is not being tackled more aggressively because it is present in a lot of what we eat and drink and interact with and as such is a clear public health crisis, which unfortunately not many people are aware of. we all expect that what we consume and give our children to consume will be safe but we are being exposed from the most unlikely/innocent sources. i am also astonished by the fact that leaded gasoline and paint are permitted for industrial use and on farms of all places (idk if this is the case in canada where i am tho). as a passionate neuro/psych major, i’ve always recognised lead and other heavy metals as something to be concerned about but recently i’m discovering that exposure is practically inescapable and it’s extremely distressing and sad. all the foods i love so much (chocolate, juice etc.) and have consumed quite a lot of have exposed me to these things and i keep thinking of the potential damages my organs have endured/will endure, especially my brain (nervous system damage is literally my greatest fear in life). i am also extremely worried that should i have children in the future whatever lead is present in my bones will leach out and affect them adversely.
on this post, i wanted to ask if there’s a reason your family includes romaine lettuce and kale in your diets because they are also leafy greens like spinach that’re high in calcium. i also wanted to know whether you pursued any legal action against the contractor that poisoned your family and if you can recommend any sandwich makers/panini presses/waffle makers whose coating is safe. pretty much all the ones i’ve seen have some type of non stick coating so i’m worried about buying. once again thank you so so so so much for all the work you’ve put in the past 16 years. hope you, len and the boys are safe and happy for many years to come.
Linda Byron says
What are the ball jars you use and can l order them.
Any research on air purifiers. Thanks
In the sunflower seed section, you mentioned sticking to tree nuts. Peanuts grow in the ground, don’t they?
You are an angel in my life ! Thanks for all your knowledge and time to inform us. Could you please tell me a juicer brand ? For hard veggies and fruits.
Thank you! I am actually working on that one. I will let you know when I have figured that out!