Kitchen Shrink: Pedal to the metal – Let’s do some spring cleaning


The only heavy metals you should be gushing over are the rock bands Led Zeppelin, Def Lepppard, and Metallica. Many heavy metals, even the ones necessary for metabolic function, can be toxic if taken in excess, others in just miniscule amounts, and can cause an assortment of problems from fatigue, headaches, and brittle hair to gastrointestinal disorders, brain fog, hearing loss, and worse. The real bad boys include lead, aluminum, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. Since April’s National Poetry Month, please indulge my lyrical contribution for the many ways these harmful heavy metals can invade our bodies:

Catharine Kaufman
(Copyright of Catharine Kaufman)

Plastics, ceramics, lipsticks, glittery cosmetics

Lacquer for nails, pesky chem trails

Paints, pipes, pots, and pans

And don’t forget BPA-lined cans

Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides

Flatware, hair care, housewares, varnish on tables and chairs

Fiddling with keys and all sorts of batteries

Deodorants and deck sealants

98.6 on old-timey thermometer sticks

Childhood fillings in teeth with gobs of mercury beneath

Seafood and larger fishes, served on hand-painted dishes

Water, water everywhere--drink from a tap if you dare!

Steer clear of these dangers, fill your pantry with healthful delights, and do some detox to rid the heavy metals skulking inside. Here’s how:

The Murderous Mob

Beware of bioaccumulation when toxic chemicals pile up in older, larger organisms, especially mercury in marine life. So, toss back (or limit) shark, swordfish, orange roughy, tilefish, yellowfin, and bigeye tuna, and watch out for inorganic arsenic lurking in mussels and other bivalves. Opt for smaller fish with relatively low levels of mercury and high levels of heart- and brain-boosting omega-3’s like sardines, herring, mackerel, sablefish, anchovies, bonito, and wild salmon species, such as, Sockeye, Coho, and King (Chinook). As for treacherous land foods, surprisingly rice grains, mostly brown varieties, tend to absorb measurable amounts of arsenic from the soil (even when organically grown). Consumer reports have picked white basmati rice from California and India, along with domestically grown sushi rice for safest choices. While bone broths have been touted by paleo advocates and top chefs, studies have indicated that marrow stores heavy metals like lead, which leaches into the broth during cooking. Alas, assorted alcoholic beverages, particularly beers and wines may contain trace amounts of arsenic, cadmium, and lead from the water filtration process. Standing advice for these potential menaces--moderation. Finally, where possible, swap out aluminum cookware for stainless steel and glass.

The Life-Saving Angels

Fill your produce drawers with local, seasonal, and organic gems like spring’s glorious bounty of asparagus, apricots, snap peas, fava beans, scallions, dark leafy greens and tender lettuces, broccoli rabe, pineapples, strawberries, and rhubarb. Choose organic, free-range eggs and chicken, grass-fed beef, and a slew of prebiotic and probiotic warriors to keep the gut happy and humming with easily digestible and refreshing goat kefir, spicy kimchi, sour dills, and chicory root.

The Clean-up Crew

Ridding the body of heavy metals is called chelation, derived from the Greek for “claw” as ancient healers noticed certain herbs and foods had the ability to tear at stubborn toxins, and eliminate them through the digestive tract:

—Cilantro’s bright green leaves have a fresh, citrusy tang to some, and a soapy repulsiveness to others who should sacrifice their taste buds as this polarizing herb is a super chelator. Best eaten raw for the most oomph, blend in vinaigrettes, smoothies, salsas, or toss in a classic Middle Eastern tabouleh salad (recipe below).

—Deep, ruby-hued dulse seaweed harvested from the north Atlantic waters, a rich store of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, seeks out and scours the body of mercury.

—Spirulina, a bluish-green alga readily found in powdered form, will help cleanse your digestive tract and boost liver filtration.

—The wild blueberry, a gustatory hero that yanks heavy metals from the brain, enhances memory and cognitive functions.

—Dandelion leaves, which add a zip to salads, soups, and sautés, ratchet up circulation, pulling heavy metals from the blood. While the root is usually ground as a tea to detox assorted vital organs.

—The lip-puckering lemon packed with vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids flushes out toxins, and cranks up liver function, immunity, and digestion. Try a few swigs of minty lemon hibiscus water for an invigorating elixir.

—Raw garlic loaded with allicin, a potent sulfur compound, tweaks liver enzyme production for clearing out toxins from the digestive tract. Tender spring garlic without the one-two punch of its older sibling has arrived, but only for a short season—so grab it while it’s good and plenty. Other “stinky” foods like onions, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts will also do the trick.

—Attention meat eaters! Amino acids put the shoulder to the wheel when removing heavy metals and boosting liver function. This year Easter collides with Passover week, making traditional roasted lamb an ideal celebratory and chelating delicacy for both holiday tables. Choose tender, pink-fleshed spring lamb imported from Kiwi Land, where animals are pasture-raised and free of growth hormones.

—Other honorable mentions include the magical mung bean, like a sponge absorbs toxins from the intestinal lining, sassy ginger root helps eliminate heavy metals by kidney support, and grassy green tea leaves rich in catechins keep the liver lively. A special shout-out to Brazil nuts that replenish important trace minerals like selenium and zinc that may be lost during chelation.

Enjoy this chelating tabouleh bursting with fresh flavors of spring like a poem in your mouth!

(Catharine Kaufman)

Spring Tabouleh Salad

-2-cups vegetable stock

-2-teaspoons dried orange peel

-1-cup bulgur or cracked wheat

-½-cup crumbled feta

-2-tablespoons minced scallions, white part only

-¼-cup minced cilantro leaves

-¼-cup minced mint leaves

-¼-cup minced Italian parsley leaves

-3-tablespoons lemon juice

-2-tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

-to taste sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

(Catharine Kaufman)

-Bring stock and orange peel to boil in medium saucepan. Turn off heat. Stir in bulgur. Cover 20 minutes. Fluff with fork. Fold in remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.

— Recipe courtesy of Chef Bernard Guillas