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!
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