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Sources of Acrylamide: List of Foods High in Acrylamide

Are you looking for a list of foods that are high in acrylamide, a chemical compound that has been shown to induce cancer in rats and that is classified as a probable human carcinogen? Below, we've listed 10 common foods that are known to be particularly high in acrylamide. For each food, a low acrylamide alternative is given.

Note, however, that from an overall nutritional and health point of view the alternative may not be any better than the actual food listed. For example, milk chocolate – which is low in acrylamide – is thought to be much worse from an overall health point of view than dark chocolate, despite the fact that dark chocolate typically contain higher levels of acrylamide.

1. French Fries

According to data provided by the FDA, French fries are the single biggest dietary contributor to an average American's acrylamide load. It has been estimated that French fries account for nearly a quarter of all the acrylamide in our diets. But beware: switching to roasted or baked potatoes will not shield you from acrylamide, either. Both roasting and baking trigger the process that leads to the formation of acrylamide in potatoes. Steamed and boiled potatoes, in contrast, do not contain significant levels of this suspected human carcinogen.

Alternatives: Boiled, steamed and mashed potatoes

2. Prune Juice

Next up on our list of foods high in acrylamide is prune juice. Although prunes and prune juice do offer some interesting health benefits (see Health Benefits of Prunes), prune juice ranks relatively high on the acrylamide index. However, as most people do not consume prune juice on a regular basis, it is not a major contributor to the overall acrylamide load of Western consumers.

Alternatives: Freshly pressed fruit juice

3. Some Cereals

Breakfast cereals, such as corn flakes and all-bran flakes, are a major source of acrylamide in an average American's diet. It has been estimated that 12% of the acrylamide in modern diets come from cereals. However, there are huge differences between brands, products, and even samples. Consequently, it is difficult to estimate exactly how much acrylamide your breakfast cereal contained today. Therefore, if you are trying to follow a low-acrylamide diet and want to be on the safe side, it is best to go for breakfast alternatives that are known to contain no or little acrylamide such as porridge made from steel-cut oats.

Alternatives: Oatmeal made from steel-cut oats

4. Some Breads

Some breads, especially crispbread and toasted bread, contain significant levels of acrylamide, and it has been estimated that bread accounts for a fifth of an average American's dietary exposure to the toxin. To reduce your intake of acrylamide from bread, remove the crust before you eat your bread (especially if the crust seems exceptionally dark), and if you bake your bread yourself, use recipes that call for low baking temperatures. For even more ideas, check out the article Acrylamide Levels in Bread & How to Reduce Those Levels.

Alternatives: Bread with crust removed

Foods high in acrylamide

5. Toasted Nuts & Peanut Butter

Some toasted and roasted nuts – such as many roasted almonds and peanuts – have been found to be a significant source of acrylamide. As most pea nut butters are made from roasted peanuts, also peanut butter tends to be high in acrylamide. If you are looking for a healthy alternative to roasted nuts, simply go for their raw counterparts. In addition to being virtually free of acrylamide, raw un-salted nuts won't damage your heart with excess salt.

Alternatives: Raw, un-salted nuts

6. Canned Black Olives

Recently, also canned black olives have been shown to contain significant levels of acrylamide due to the pasteurization methods used in the canning process of black olives. California black ripe olives, for example, have been shown to contain 200-2000 ng/g of acrylamide. These levels are substantially higher than in many other well-known sources of acrylamide, such as French fries (100-1300 ng/g). However, the acrylamide levels found in canned green-ripe olives – whether Spanish-style or Greek-style – have been significantly lower.

Alternatives: Green olives

7. Potato Chips

Potato chips – or crisps if you grew up in England – are one of the major sources of acrylamide in the American diet. An estimated 11% of an average person's exposure to acrylamide from foods has been attributed to potato chips alone. Also other types of chips, such as corn chips, are a significant source of acrylamide (see Acrylamide in Chips: Potato vs Tortilla (Corn) Chips).

Alternatives: Bite-sized pieces of fresh vegetables (great for dipping)

8. Cookies and Crackers

Biscuits, cookies and crackers are yet another significant source of acrylamide in modern diets. Together, they account for a whopping 13% of an average American's exposure to dietary acrylamide. If you bake cookies at home, you can reduce the acrylamide content of your cookies by using recipes that use a relatively low baking temperature and by making sure that the surface color of the cookies is as light as possible when you take them out of the oven.

Alternatives: Home-made cookies baked at low temperatures

9. Coffee

Brewed coffee accounts for about 6% of an average American dietary exposure to acrylamide. However, in countries where people drink more coffee and where the consumption of other foods high in acrylamide foods (such as French fries) is comparatively low, the share of coffee as a dietary source of acrylamide can be significant. For example, a 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated coffee to be the biggest source of acrylamide in Swedish women's diets (54% of overall acrylamide intake). For details, take a look at the in-depth article Acrylamide in Coffee.

Alternatives: Tea; herbal infusions

10. Cocoa

Cocoa beans are roasted to develop the characteristic chocolate flavor. During the roasting process, however, they are prone to developing high amounts of acrylamide. Although the FDA detected no acrylamide in their sample of Droste cocoa, other brands of cocoa showed significant levels. Hershey's European Style Dutch Processed Cocoa contained 58 ppb of acrylamide, Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa mix had 316 ppb, and Hershey's Original Cocoa Formula had a whopping 909 ppb. It is worth noting, however, that in many chocolate products – such as milk chocolate bars — the portion of actual cocoa (and thus acrylamide) can be very low.

Alternatives: Milk chocolate

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