Skip to content

7 Surprising Foods That Might Contain Mold Toxins, According To A Functional Medicine Expert

William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.
July 23, 2021
William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.
Functional Medicine Practitioner
By William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.
Functional Medicine Practitioner
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine practitioner with a certification in natural medicine and a doctor of chiropractic degree.
Image by SKC / Stocksy
July 23, 2021
We carefully vet all products and services featured on mindbodygreen using our commerce guidelines. Our selections are never influenced by the commissions earned from our links.

When you think of reasons you should avoid particular foods, certain factors likely come to mind, including food intolerances, pesticides, or GMOs. For most patients in my telehealth functional medicine center, mold is usually not on their list. But mycotoxins—toxic compounds produced from mold—in food are worth paying attention to and may be a hidden trigger for ongoing symptoms and chronic health problems.

Why is mold problematic?

Let's back up for a second. Mold is a fungus that exists anywhere there is moisture; so basically, it's everywhere—in the air and vents, under the floor, and in your walls and carpet. Some mold is OK, but when you're exposed to too much toxic mold that releases mycotoxins or mold toxins1 (such as stachybotrys, aspergillus, fusarium, and citrinin), it can trigger inflammation. It's also worth noting that mycotoxins aren't the kind of mold you see growing on expired yogurt or forgotten leftovers; they're not actually visible to the naked eye.

It's important to know that some people are more sensitive to mold than others. Most people have healthy detox and methylation pathways to clear out mold, but some people, especially people with a family history of autoimmune issues, may have more of a challenge flushing them out.

In my experience working with patients, I've found mycotoxin exposure can trigger inflammatory issues and mimic symptoms of other health problems (think chronic fatigue), which means a lot of people miss this piece of their health puzzle. While I often recommend that my patients test for mold in their home, car, or workplace, I sometimes find that diet is a major factor—particularly when a person's home test comes back clean. 

And sure enough, when I dive a little deeper into their health history and run urine and blood mycotoxin labs (note: these aren't yet recognized by the CDC, but I've found them useful in my work), they often reveal a diet high in mycotoxins. So, if any of the above applies to you, you've hit a health plateau, or you'd just like to be particularly cautious about what you eat—consider proceeding with a bit of caution when it comes to these potentially moldy foods.

Potentially moldy foods in your diet:



You may be surprised to learn that coffee beans can contain mycotoxin content2. I'm sorry to say, but chances are the coffee you are drinking on a daily basis is not tested for mold—including your beloved beverage from that specialty coffee chain.

What to do: Since mycotoxins in coffee beans aren't destroyed during the roasting process, when choosing a brew, I recommend looking for brands that test for mycotoxins to ensure they are free from mold contamination. My personal favorites are Purity Coffee and Bulletproof.



Rice is a staple in many cultural dishes and is commonly used in place of wheat in a variety of gluten-free substitutes. Although rice is extremely versatile and generally well tolerated, it is also one of the foods that may be contaminated with mycotoxins.

What to do: To minimize your exposure, choose organic brands of rice and rice-based products whenever possible. 


Dried fruit

Dried fruit is more likely to harbor mold3 because of its moisture content. Popular types of dried fruit include raisins, apricots, dates, and figs.

What to do: If you're concerned your body isn't feeling its healthiest, consider skipping dried fruit, and opt for fresh or frozen berries.



High in healthy fats and protein, nuts make a great snack for all kinds of nutrient-conscious eaters. But some nuts (particularly peanuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, and walnuts) are also more likely to contain mold.

What to do: I generally advise opting for raw organic chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and pecans, which tend to be the lowest mold. The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends buying your nuts as fresh as possible4 and discarding any that look moldy, discolored, or shriveled.

For peanut butter lovers like me, I recommend opting for a blend with Valencia peanuts5 that are grown in a dry region, where mold is less likely to grow.

If you want to be extra cautious with your nut consumption, consider soaking and dehydrating them before eating, as this helps to break down the mycotoxins and neutralize their effects. 


Processed meats

Certain cured meats can contain mycotoxins from the animals being fed with mold-contaminated feed2 or through mold growth on the final product.

What to do: I recommend always choosing salt-cured meat to inhibit the growth of any mold. Also, look for organic, grass-fed meat whenever possible to ensure the animals weren't fed moldy feed.



Through my work, I've found certain alcohols6 can contain levels of mycotoxins—particularly whiskey, brandy, beer7, and red wine.

What to do: Of course, the occasional drink shouldn't be an issue. But if you'd like to play it safer, I advise sticking to white wine and tequila when choosing what to sip on a night out, as these have the lowest levels of mold toxicity. As for red wine fans, I recommend looking for organic, biodynamic wine from Europe, where they tend to have stricter guidelines that test for many kinds of common molds.



Tortilla chips, popcorn, corn on the cob, corn syrup, cornstarch...the list of foods made with or derived from corn is endless. However, this jack-of-all-trades crop is susceptible to mold growth8.

What to do: I recommend limiting your corn intake to only organic, whole food sources and avoid any products made from conventional corn, if possible.

The takeaway.

It's important to be cognizant of mycotoxin exposure—both in your external and internal environment. In my experience, the above foods can have an impact, particularly for people who are extra sensitive to mold toxins. That said, maintaining a healthy, diverse diet4 can be very helpful—not only for mitigating mycotoxin exposure but also for supporting overall nutrition.

Do you know what 3 health food myths are keeping you sick? Removing them from your diet is key for calming inflammation, healing your gut, and ditching fatigue & poor digestion for good. Register now for functional medicine expert Will Cole’s FREE webinar!
William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C. author page.
William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.
Functional Medicine Practitioner

Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian,The Inflammation Spectrum, and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.