Many of us justify our red wine habits by insisting the burgundy elixir is teeming with antioxidants and minerals, but consider this: A new study by researchers at the University of Washington found that American red wines, especially those from Washington state, contain dangerously high levels of arsenic. In fact, of the 65 wines tested, more than 98% had higher levels than the U.S. EPA allows for tap water.
Although we’re used to seeing arsenic operate as an instant killer in old books and movies, the inflicted damage is, in reality, slow and insidious. Repeated intake can result in chronic exposure, which leads first to skin changes, and later to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
But don’t worry—you don’t need to give up your nightly glass of happiness. Experts say variety is the best defense against arsenic poisoning. Don’t drink too much of any one brand or type of wine, and limit your intake of foods that contain low levels of the poison, such as tuna, salmon and cereal.
Most importantly, don’t freak out. Many foods we eat every day—some of the “healthiest” ones on the planet—contain compounds we think of as poisonous, just not in amounts large enough to hurt us. For example, raw, unsoaked kidney beans contain phytohemagglutinin, a compound that leaves cell membranes defenseless against intruders, causing nausea and vomiting. It can’t survive temperatures over 100 degrees, which is why we eat our beans cooked. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts are filled with goitrogens, which can harm the thyroid (causing goiters). And green potatoes—the ones exposed to light—can develop solanine, which can cause gastrointestinal distress, hallucinations and even paralysis.
All of a sudden, a little arsenic isn’t sounding so bad after all...