Even small amounts of lead contamination can impact your baby’s brain development, learning, hearing, and behavior.
Lead causes health issues because it interferes with the function of minerals such as calcium and iron. Calcium is important to developing strong bones, teeth, and nerve function. Iron is vital to ensuring the body gets oxygen and to preventing anemia.
A healthy diet can reduce the amount of lead a child absorbs from the environment and provide the nutrients needed for normal development. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends four to six small meals a day, with an emphasis on foods with calcium, iron, and vitamin C. These nutrients will reduce the amount of lead that can be absorbed.
Calcium can be found in:
- Milk and milk substitutes
- Yogurt (including frozen and yogurt drinks)
- Green, leafy vegetables (such as spinach, which is also a good source of iron and calcium)
Iron is found in:
- Meats such as chicken, pork, and lean beef
- Seafood such as shrimp and scallops
- Peanut butter, pine nuts, and pecans
- Grains, cereals, and breads
- Canned, fresh, or dried beans such as pintos, black, navy, kidney, lima, garbanzo, and lentils
- Eggs (which are also a good source for calcium)
Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as:
- Peppers (green and red)
Cooking vegetables reduces the amount of nutrients (especially vitamin C) so it is healthier to eat vegetables raw. When cooking food, use olive and vegetable oils versus butter and lard for overall wellness.
Fatty foods, such as fried foods, chips, donuts, French fries, and bacon, can cause the body to absorb lead more quickly, so provide them in moderation. Stay away from imported foods, or foods stored in cans soldered closed with lead. Also, avoid Mexican candies that contain tamarind or chili powder as they may contain lead.
When using water for the preparation of formula or for cooking, use cold water. If there is any concern of lead pipes, let the water run cold for a minute before collecting it for cooking. This allows lead dust from the pipes to be flushed away. Finally, do not store, serve, or prepare foods in traditional or decorative pottery, which often contains lead.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, May 2020
- Lead can interfere with the absorption and function of certain minerals.
- Calcium, iron, and vitamin C can all reduce lead absorption in the body.
- Focus on foods containing these nutrients.
- Provide raw veggies!
- Fatty foods can cause the body to absorb lead more quickly, so provide them in moderation.