One pediatrician in Flint, Michigan has a suggestion for residents looking to protect themselves and their kids from the effects of lead in their water, in addition to not drinking or cooking with the tap water: Tweak your diet.

"Diets high in iron, calcium or vitamin C can limit the absorption of lead in your body and promote its excretion," Mona Hanna-Attisha, MD, told NPR. Hanna-Attisha is the doctor whose study found that twice as many kids had elevated lead levels in their blood after Flint switched its water source.

Related: Boil Water Advisory? Here’s What to Do

The diet idea isn’t quite news. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers a brochure called “ Fight Lead Poisoning with a Healthy Diet.” It focuses on the same three nutrients and includes kid-friendly recipes.

According to the brochure, iron and calcium reduce lead absorption, and vitamin C helps iron-rich foods protect the body from lead.

Here’s a list of good sources of each nutrient.


  • Liver
  • Lean red meats
  • Turkey
  • Iron-fortified cereals
  • Dried fruits (raisins, prunes)
  • Oysters, clams and mussels
  • Canned sardines in oil
  • Dried beans

Related: 3 Healthy School Snack Recipes


  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Green leafy vegetables (including spinach, kale, collard greens)
  • Canned salmon

Related: 5 Tasty Ways to Eat More Yogurt

Vitamin C

  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Grapefruit
  • Tomatoes
  • Red bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Kiwifruit
  • Cantaloupe, mango and papaya

An empty stomach absorbs more lead. Feeding your child healthy meals and snacks each day will help his or her body to absorb less lead according to many sources.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers this sample menu for a lead-protective diet:

  • Breakfast: Iron-fortified cereal made with low-fat or fat-free milk and topped with raisins
  • Snack: Orange slices
  • Lunch: Lean hamburger on an iron-fortified bun with red bell pepper strips
  • Snack: Low-fat or fat-free yogurt topped with fruit
  • Dinner: Chicken with brown rice, a spinach salad and a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk
  • Snack: Peanut butter on whole-grain crackers

Lead poisoning in children can interfere with growth and development. Even low levels of lead in the body can lead to a lower IQ, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Related: 5 Ways to Avoid Lead Poisoning in Kids

CDC says at least 4 million households have children living in them who are being exposed to high levels of lead. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified, it notes.

Until recently, kids were said to have a blood lead “level of concern” if they had 10 or more micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood. Experts now use 5 micrograms per deciliter to identify children with blood lead levels that are much higher than most kids’.

Children can be given a blood test to measure the level of lead in their blood. According to CDC, the tests are covered by Medicaid and most private health insurance. Your child’s doctor can help you decide if he needs a lead test.

Find out here how to check your tap water for lead.

Sources of lead other than tainted water include lead-based paint and the dust from peeling lead-based paint, which are the most widespread sources of lead exposure in children.

Like this article? Share it with friends by clicking the Facebook or Twitter button below. And don't forget to visit our Facebook page!

Marianne has been producing content that informs and inspires for more than 20 years, with a deep focus on bringing readers accurate, actionable advice and helping them live healthier, safer lives. Before launching SafeBee, she was executive editor of Sharecare, the health website and social network. Previously, she developed more than two dozen illustrated consumer health books for Reader’s Digest. Her writing has appeared in numerous outlets including Arthritis Today and WebMD. Her favorite safety tip: Know the purpose of every medication you take and under what circumstances you can stop taking it.