6 Foods High in Arsenic

Arsenic overload is a global health problem that affects millions of people[1]. It’s one of the most widespread environmental toxins[2], and as the world becomes more polluted, arsenic toxicity is a growing concern. There are even a number of foods that are high in arsenic…

Most of us are exposed to small amounts of arsenic every day[1]. Over time, arsenic can build up, causing a variety of health problems.

Years of low-level, chronic arsenic exposure can contribute to[3]:

  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems associated with aging
  • Impaired cardiovascular and circulatory function
  • Unbalanced blood sugar levels
  • Skin, lung, and bladder issues
  • Infertility and other reproductive issues

The majority of arsenic you absorb comes from diet[2]. One of the problems with arsenic is that it stores easily in water and soil. From there, plants pull arsenic into their roots, and it enters our food.

This article covers six foods that are especially high in arsenic, as well as what you can do to detox arsenic and protect yourself from future exposure. 

Here Are the 6 Foods High in Arsenic

1. Rice

Rice is one of the most common sources of dietary arsenic[4]. 

Rice plants are particularly good at absorbing arsenic from the soil, which causes high levels to accumulate by the time the plants are ready for harvest. They also grow in standing water, and a lot of the world’s rice comes from Asia, which has some of the worst arsenic-contaminated water in the world[5]. 

As a result, rice often contains high levels of arsenic, especially when it comes from Asia. 

To minimize your arsenic exposure:

  • Choose white over brown rice – the arsenic is mostly concentrated in the bran, or outer hull of the rice
  • Choose organic over conventional rice – organic rice has less arsenic
  • Choose rice grown in the US over rice from Asia and India. 
  • Choose rice grown in California over rice grown in southern US – the south has more arsenic in the soil and thus has been found to be more contaminated than rice grown in California.  
  • Soak the rice for a few hours and rinse it well before cooking – this can reduce arsenic content by up to 45%[6]. 

2. Brown Rice Syrup

Brown rice syrup is a common sweetener in many processed foods, as well as in baby formula (which you’ll read more about below). It’s often marketed as a healthier alternative to sugar or corn syrup.

In reality, brown rice syrup is one of the more toxic sweeteners you can use. The fact that it’s made from rice puts it at high risk for arsenic contamination[7]. 

Brown rice syrup often contains more arsenic than plain rice[8]. It’s an extract, so it takes a lot of rice to make a small amount of brown rice syrup. As a result, arsenic concentrates in the syrup.

Avoid brown rice syrup at all costs. Sweeten with plain sugar or a natural alternative sweetener like monk fruit instead. 

3. Shellfish

Environmental arsenic settles in water, and as the world gets more polluted, the arsenic burden in seafood is increasing[9]. 

Shellfish are the most prone to absorbing arsenic. A 2011 study found a strong correlation between shellfish intake and arsenic toxicity in U.S. citizens[10].

To decrease your arsenic exposure, avoid the following shellfish:

  • Oysters
  • Mussels
  • Scallops
  • Lobster

Note that mussels are especially high in inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic[11].

4. Seaweed

Seaweed also absorbs arsenic from ocean water. 

In seaweed, arsenic gets stored as arsenosugar — sugar with an arsenic molecule attached. When you eat seaweed, your body breaks down the arsenosugar, distributing a variety of arsenic metabolites throughout your system[12].

Hijiki seaweed, a brown-black seaweed that’s common in Japanese seaweed salad, is the most contaminated type of seaweed[13]. It contains large amounts of inorganic arsenic, making it significantly more toxic than other species.

Green and red seaweeds are lower in arsenic. However, they contain small amounts of cadmium and lead, two other heavy metals[14].

Eat green and red seaweed in moderation, and avoid brown-black seaweed entirely. It’s a significant source of dietary arsenic. 

5. Baby Formula

Arsenic is particularly dangerous for children because it impairs brain development. Children exposed to arsenic have lower IQ and show deficits in language, spatial reasoning, and other cognitive skills[15].

Unfortunately, baby formula is a hidden source of arsenic that many parents overlook.

A 2015 study found that formula-fed children have 5.5 times higher arsenic exposure than breast-fed infants[16].

The study also concluded that baby formula accounted for about 70% of arsenic exposure in the children tested. 

Always breastfeed your children if you can. If that isn’t an option, avoid formulas that contain rice or brown rice syrup — both have high risk of arsenic contamination[17,18].

6. Chickens and Eggs

Two arsenic-based drugs — roxarsone and nitarsone — are common additives in chicken feed.

A 2017 study found that chickens given arsenic-containing feed had higher levels of arsenic in their meat[23]. The same study found that people who ate more chicken had higher urinary arsenic levels, suggesting that they were exposed to arsenic in chicken meat.

To avoid arsenic, choose organic chicken. Organic standards prevent the use of arsenic additives, so organic chickens don’t have the same arsenic contamination[20].

How to Support Arsenic Excretion

When you ingest arsenic, your body stores it in your liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs[21]. It can last for years, gradually building up and causing health problems over time[3,22].

That’s why I created Ageless AF. The specific form of silica in Ageless AF –  orthosilicic acid – is incredibly effective at supporting your body’s natural ability trap and gently eliminate the toxins and other impurities that can infiltrate your body (including those in the foods we discussed above).

Ageless AF is gentle on the system and also works to keep a range of trivalentmetals – including arsenic, along with thallium, aluminium,  bismuth, tin, and cesium – out of the body so that you can maintain normal health. Learn more about Ageless AF here.

Click Here for References+

  1. Ratnaike, Ranjit Nihal. “Acute and chronic arsenic toxicity.” Postgraduate medical journal 79.933 (2003): 391-396. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1742758/
  2. Hughes, Michael F., et al. “Arsenic exposure and toxicology: a historical perspective.” Toxicological Sciences 123.2 (2011): 305-332. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21750349/
  3. Hong, Young-Seoub, Ki-Hoon Song, and Jin-Yong Chung. “Health effects of chronic arsenic exposure.” Journal of preventive medicine and public health 47.5 (2014): 245. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4186552/
  4. Davis, Matthew A., et al. “Assessment of human dietary exposure to arsenic through rice.” Science of the Total Environment 586 (2017): 1237-1244. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5502079/
  5. Mukherjee, Amitava, et al. “Arsenic contamination in groundwater: a global perspective with emphasis on the Asian scenario.” Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition (2006): 142-163. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17195556/
  6. Raab, Andrea, et al. “Cooking rice in a high water to rice ratio reduces inorganic arsenic content.” Journal of Environmental Monitoring 11.1 (2009): 41-44. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19137137/
  7. Holtcamp, Wendee. “Suspect sweetener: arsenic detected in organic brown rice syrup.” (2012): a204-a204. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3346801/
  8. Jackson, Brian P., et al. “Arsenic, organic foods, and brown rice syrup.” Environmental health perspectives 120.5 (2012): 623-626. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22336149/
  9. Mania, Monika, et al. “Total and inorganic arsenic in fish, seafood and seaweeds-exposure assessment.” Roczniki Państwowego Zakładu Higieny 66.3 (2015). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26400115/
  10. Navas-Acien, Ana, et al. “Seafood intake and urine concentrations of total arsenic, dimethylarsinate and arsenobetaine in the US population.” Environmental research 111.1 (2011): 110-118. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21093857/
  11. Sloth, Jens J., and Kåre Julshamn. “Survey of total and inorganic arsenic content in blue mussels (Mytilus edulis L.) from Norwegian fiords: revelation of unusual high levels of inorganic arsenic.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 56.4 (2008): 1269-1273. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18237128/
  12. Taylor, Vivien F., et al. “Distinct arsenic metabolites following seaweed consumption in humans.” Scientific reports 7.1 (2017): 1-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5478658/
  13. Rose, Martin, et al. “Arsenic in seaweed—forms, concentration and dietary exposure.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 45.7 (2007): 1263-1267. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17336439/
  14. Chen, Qing, et al. “Distribution of metals and metalloids in dried seaweeds and health risk to population in southeastern China.” Scientific reports 8.1 (2018): 1-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5824826/
  15. Tyler, Christina R., and Andrea M. Allan. “The effects of arsenic exposure on neurological and cognitive dysfunction in human and rodent studies: a review.” Current environmental health reports 1.2 (2014): 132-147. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4026128/
  16. Carignan, Courtney C., et al. “Estimated exposure to arsenic in breastfed and formula-fed infants in a United States cohort.” Environmental health perspectives 123.5 (2015): 500-506. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25707031/
  17. Davis, Matthew A., et al. “Assessment of human dietary exposure to arsenic through rice.” Science of the Total Environment 586 (2017): 1237-1244. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5502079/
  18. Jackson, Brian P., et al. “Arsenic, organic foods, and brown rice syrup.” Environmental health perspectives 120.5 (2012): 623-626. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22336149/
  19. Nigra, Anne E., et al. “Poultry consumption and arsenic exposure in the US population.” Environmental health perspectives 125.3 (2017): 370-377. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5332189/ 
  20. Nachman, Keeve E., et al. “Roxarsone, inorganic arsenic, and other arsenic species in chicken: a US-based market basket sample.” Environmental Health Perspectives 121.7 (2013): 818-824. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23694900/
  21. Singh, Amrit Pal, Rajesh Kumar Goel, and Tajpreet Kaur. “Mechanisms pertaining to arsenic toxicity.” Toxicology international 18.2 (2011): 87. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183630/
  22. Jan, Arif Tasleem, et al. “Heavy metals and human health: mechanistic insight into toxicity and counter defense system of antioxidants.” International journal of molecular sciences 16.12 (2015): 29592-29630. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4691126/
  23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5332189/

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Wendy Myers, FDN-P, is a heavy metals detox expert, functional diagnostic nutritionist and founder of Myersdetox.com. Discover her Myers Detox Protocol and enjoy freedom from fatigue and brain fog with heavy metal detox. Wendy is also the creator of the Mitochondria Detox , the only supplement kit on the market that helps you to remove toxic metals that cause fatigue.