If you were to select an item of food from your fridge or cupboard and noticed it had developed mold, you would no doubt toss it away immediately. After all, it’s common knowledge that ingesting moldy food can cause disease because the mold invades weakened areas of the body.
However, you may not be aware of an even more acute exposure to toxic mold brought on by the mycotoxins hiding in everyday foods.
Mycotoxins are the chemical compounds produced by fungi found in crops, and when they are ingested by humans, they can cause mycotoxicosis, or the poisoning of the body due to exposure to toxic mold. Mycotoxicosis in humans can result in many adverse health effects, including neurological disorders.
There are four common types of mycotoxins that can be present in food, and these are aflatoxins, fumonisin B1 (FB1), ochratoxin A (OTA), and T-2. Any human food can become contaminated with mycotoxins, but mycotoxins are most commonly found in these 14 foods:
Barley can become a source of T-2 while still a planted crop or while it’s in storage. While proper harvest and storage techniques have dramatically decreased the risk of mycotoxin exposure, T-2 is a natural food contaminant and could be unavoidable.
Made from barley, beer can be a source of low levels of mycotoxins, especially OTA, that develop during the steeping, germination, and kilning processes.
Cereal can be a product of grain, rice, or barley, making it susceptible to all four sources of mycotoxin poisoning. Mycotoxins typically are not destroyed during the food processing, so they are able to affect the finished product.
Dark chocolate can be a source of OTA because it is made from cacao beans left in the sun longer to ferment and develop their flavor. Raw chocolate, however, is immune to mycotoxins because it undergoes a special method of processing.
No one likes to think of their coffee containing mycotoxins, especially a type like OTA, but the drying process of the beans can leave the coffee susceptible. The good news is that the levels of mycotoxins are typically very minute.
Mycotoxins in maize are a common concern. Drought-distressed corn growing in high humidity can become vulnerable to FB1 and aflatoxin.
Cattle can be exposed to mycotoxins through feed and transfer mycotoxins such as OTA into their milk, resulting in mycotoxicosis in humans due to the many forms of dairy consumption, including milk, yogurt, and cheese (including cottage and cream cheeses).
Fungi that can contaminate grapes on the vine include the black Aspergilli, Aspergillus carbonarius, and A. niger, which can transfer OTA into grape products such as grape juice, wine, and dried fruit.
The occurrence of mycotoxins such as OTA in rice tends to be much lower than that of wheat or corn, but the global tradition of rice as a staple food increases the risk of toxic effects of mycotoxins in humans.
Spices cultivated in tropic and subtropic regions can be exposed to mycotoxins such as OTA. Aflatoxins are also likely to affect spices such as nutmeg, ginger, mustard, paprika, black pepper, and coriander.
Similar to cattle, pigs can ingest mycotoxins through feed and environment, with OTA being the most common mycotoxin found in pork products.
Poultry can also ingest mycotoxins such as OTA through the raw materials they consume. In fact, it’s important to always check the quality of the animal proteins you purchase to ensure the adage “you are what you eat” doesn’t result in mycotoxicosis.
Wheat can be vulnerable to T-2 and other mycotoxins while on the stalk and if not stored properly. Though, keep in mind that T-2 can also occur naturally in the crop.
It wouldn’t be fair to label any of the above as “mold foods to avoid” since mycotoxicosis in humans is not guaranteed, but I encourage you to limit your daily intake and, if you grow your own food, be wary of the presence of mycotoxins in corn and other crops.
Please feel free to contact Sage Nutrition and Healing Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, today at 303.503.5969 and schedule a time to speak with me about what foods contain mold and how you can cultivate a mold free diet that protects you from mycotoxin poisoning.