Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Natural radioactive foods

Everything we come across in our daily lives have natural radioactivity. Annually, we are exposed to about 2 millisievert of naturally occurring radiation via the ground we walk on, the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we eat. It is something that cannot be avoided. The traces of radioactive substances are present in all foods. “Radioactive” does not mean the food items are harmful. The radioactive content in the food items are still small than the radiation encountered in our daily life. The amount of radiation in foods does not cause any serious health risk. Radioactive foods are totally safe for consumption. Here is a look at some everyday foods that are naturally radioactive.

Natural radioactive foods

Potassium 40 (40K) and radium 226 (226Ra) are the two radioactive elements found in radioactive foods. The radiation availablein these foods is measured according to amount of potassium and radium contained in them. The unit of radiation is pCi (picocurie). A picocurie is one trillionth of 1 curie.

Natural radioactive foods

Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts are the most naturally radioactive food. They have about thousand times more radioactive compared to other radioactive foods. The radioactive concentration in Brazil nuts is 1,000 to 7,000 pCi/kg of 226Ra and 5,600pCi/kg of potassium-40. The roots of the tree have high concentrations of radium. The roots bore deep into the soil so they absorb unusual amounts of radium which gets transported into the nuts. Thus, it makes the nuts radioactive. The body does not retain radium contained in these nuts. As a result, Brazil nuts do not cause any health risk.

Bananas are powerhouse of vital nutrients. We all know bananas are loaded with potassium, a mix of isotopes (including potassium-40). The radioactive content in bananas is 1 pCi/kg of 226Ra and 3,520 pCi/kg of potassium-40. Around 520 picocuries is contained by an average banana. Consuming 1 banana will expose us to around 0.1 ╬╝Sv or 0.0000001 Sievert of radiation. This is known as the Banana Equivalent Dose (BED).

White Potatoes
White potatoes are loved by almost everyone, regardless of age. They are rich in nutrients such as potassium, vitamin C, folic acid, fiber and immune boosting flavonoids. They also contain a significant amount of naturally occurring radioactive substance. They have 1 to 2.5 pCi/kg of 226Ra and 3,400 pCi/kg of potassium-40.

Carrots are extremely high in potassium. High levels of potassium and radium produce naturally occurring radiation in carrots. The radioactive concentration in carrots is 0.6 to 2 pCi/kg of 226Ra and 3,400 pCi/kg of potassium-40 similar to potatoes.

Red Meat
Red meat includes small amount of radiation. Like bananas, white potatoes and carrots, the main culprit in red meat is potassium. The radioactive content in red meat is 0.5 pCi/kg of 226Ra and 3,000 pCi/kg of potassium-40.

Raw Lima Beans
Raw lima beans also have naturally occurring radioactive materials. They are rich in the same metallic element (potassium) causing radioactivity in red meat. The radioactive concentration in raw lima beans is 2 to 5 pCi/kg of 226Ra and 4,640 pCi/kg of potassium-40. The beans provide many health benefits.

Low Sodium Salt
The low sodium salt is a great alternative to salt. It provides the same salty taste without the excess sodium. It is produced from potassium chloride rather than sodium. Therefore, it contains about 3,000 pCi/kg of potassium-40.

Drinking Water
The list of natural radioactive foods also includes drinking water. The radioactive elements get transferred into water from the rain, soil and roots of the plants. The radioactive concentration in drinking water is 0 to 0.17 pCi/kg of 226Ra.

Beer is probably the least radioactive food as it does not contains radium. However, it contains a small amount of the isotope potassium-40: about 390 pCi/kg.


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