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1/19/22, 9:12 AM
7 High-Nickel Foods to Avoid
Foods High in Nickel
Why You Should Eat Less Nickel
Foods With Nickel
Nickel-Free Alternatives
Nickel is a silver-white metal found naturally in the environment and known for its strength
and resistance to heat and corrosion. While manufacturers often use it with other metals in
items like jewelry, coins, and keys, you can find small amounts of nickel in many foods,
including certain grains, fruits, vegetables, chocolate, tea, and much more.
While nickel is present in a variety of food items and materials, it can cause an immune
response in certain people. For those with a nickel allergy, eating foods containing nickel
can cause symptoms like rashes or stomach aches.
Why You Should Eat Less Nickel
Approximately 8% to 19% of the population in Europe has a nickel allergy {Contact
Dermatitis: “Nickel allergy and allergic contact dermatitis: A clinical review of immunology,
epidemiology, exposure, and treatment.”}. This is usually a reaction to physical touch, like
touching a piece of equipment made of nickel. However, other people react to nickel
introduced through their diet. Even in low doses, their skin can still react in a similar manner.
This skin allergy produces contact dermatitis, which includes symptoms like redness,
irritation, inflammation, or rashes on the skin.
In others, the reaction goes beyond skin irritation. Symptoms can include headache,
stomachache, and respiratory symptoms. This is more commonly known as Systemic
Nickel Allergy Syndrome (SNAS).
Doctors also link this sensitivity to nickel to experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia, chronic
fatigue, and other chronic diseases.
However, it's important to keep in mind that those without nickel sensitivity should be safe
to consume moderate levels of nickel in foods. Before you eat a food that is high in nickel,
consider eating another food first. Taking in nickel on an empty stomach can increase the
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7 High-Nickel Foods to Avoid
Foods With Nickel
The level of nickel in foods depends on the plant species and the nickel in the content of the
soil. In the case of seafood, it depends on the aquatic environment. However, some sources
of food are known to contain more nickel than others. Here are a few high-nickel foods to
1. Flower and Grains
Studies have shown that wheat flour contains 12.70 milligrams per kilogram. Other types of
grain have also been found to contain high levels of nickel, including:
• Oats
• Buckwheat
• Whole wheat
• Wheat germ
• Multi-grain breads and cereals
• Unpolished brown rice
2. Seeds
Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and alfalfa seeds are known to contain a moderate
amount of nickel. However, not everyone will be sensitive to these seeds, so it’s best to eat
in moderation.
3. Seafood
Seafood and shellfish, including shrimp, mussels, and crawfish, contain high amounts of
nickel. A study found that some types of fish contain 0.08 milligrams of nickel. People with
a nickel allergy should avoid fish, as nickel amounts vary by type and may be hard to track.
4. Legumes
Certain types of legumes contain high levels of nickel, including:
• Chickpeas
• Lentils
• Peanuts
• Soybeans (and other soy products, including tofu)
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7 High-Nickel Foods to Avoid
5. Vegetables
Research shows that green vegetables contain 0.11 milligrams of nickel compared to other
vegetables with a nickel content of 0.09. While not all vegetables contain amounts of nickel,
the following vegetables should be avoided or eaten in moderation:
• Peak
• Leeks
• Cabbage
• Kale
• Spinach
• Lettuce
• Bean sprouts
6. Fruits
You can eat most fruits safely due to their trace amounts of nickel. However, figs,
pineapples, prunes, and raspberries are more likely to trigger a reaction in people with an
7. Chocolate
The fat in cocoa beans can increase the potential reaction with nickel. Studies have shown
that the high nickel content in cocoa is irrespective of the nickel content of the soil. Avoid
chocolate and cocoa drinks. If you do eat chocolate, look for low-fat varieties of milk
Nickel-Free Alternatives
If you’re reactive to foods containing nickel or you’re experiencing flare-ups, your doctor may
recommend a low-nickel diet. These are some alternative foods with little to no nickel.
1. Corn
Instead of wheat-based foods, corn alternatives have only slight traces of nickel. Foods like
cornmeal, corn tortillas, cornflakes, or cornstarch can safely replace wheat or grains.
2. Meats
All non-seafood meats contain low amounts of nickel, including beef, chicken, sausage,
ham, and kidney. In general, poultry contains 0.04 milligrams of nickel per kilogram. These
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7 High-Nickel Foods to Avoid
are all great alternatives to shellfish and seafood to get your daily amount of protein without
risking a reaction to nickel.
3. Fruits
Most fruits, including pears, strawberries, apples, grapes, and most berries, are safe to eat
on a low-nickel diet. However, eat raspberries and bananas in moderation.
4. Polished Rice
For rice and rice-based products, look for polished rice instead of unpolished. Rice is
considered “polished” when the husk, bran, and germ are removed. White rice is typically
polished and safe to eat.
5. Root Vegetables
Root vegetables—like potatoes, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and onions—contain only
trace amounts of nickel and are safe to eat for those with sensitivities.
WebMD Medical Reference
Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 05, 2020
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
The Clinical and Aesthetic Journal of Dermatology: "Diet and Dermatitis: Food Triggers."
Contact Dermatitis Journal: "Systemic Contact Dermatitis After Oral Exposure to Nickel: a Review with a Modified Meta-analysis."
Contact Dermatitis: “Nickel allergy and allergic contact dermatitis: A clinical review of immunology, epidemiology, exposure, and treatment.”
Disease-a-Month: "Contact Allergy: alternatives for the 2007 North American contact dermatitis group (NACDG) Standard Screening Tray."
Indian Journal of Dermatology: “Low Nickel Diet in Dermatology.”
International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology: "Systemic Nickel Allergy Syndrome: Epidemiological Data from Four Italian Allergy Units."
Neuro Endocrinol Lett.: "Mercury and nickel allergy: risk factors in fatigue and autoimmunity."