You might have looked over the list of potential answers for today’s trivia question and, if you’re the nervous sort, started contemplating how your food choices might be exposing you to unnecessary radiation and cancer risks. Don’t worry! Not only are the amounts of radiation found in even the most radioactive foods tiny, but all food, being made up of organic materials, is very slightly radioactive due to the different isotopes found in it.
In the case of Brazil nuts, the most naturally radioactive food around, the radioactive compounds are potassium and radium—which it uptakes at a higher rate than other food sources from the soil in which it grows (the soil isn’t more radioactive, mind you, it’s just that Brazil nut trees have a very extensive root system that covers large areas).
How radioactive is a Brazil nut? It emits over 6,600 pCi/kg of radiation (that’s pico-Curies, named in honor of Pierre Curie by his wife and famed radiation researcher Marie Curie, per kg of mass). Not only is that a small amount of radiation, but almost all of it passes harmlessly out of our bodies and further, the nutrients we get from “high” radiation foods like nuts, bananas, and vegetables like carrots and potatoes significantly outweighs any risk we would incur from the tiny level of radiation found in them.