Surviving Summer Series: Chlorine. Top 3 foods for swimmers.


Memorial Day has disappeared in the rearview mirror, folks. We’re neck-deep in swimming pool season (*stifles excited squeal*), so let’s get real about staying healthy as we increase our exposure to America’s sweetheart…chlorine. Chlorination is the most popular method for disinfecting swimming pools in the United States [1], and we’ll leave it at that for now. (Yes, there is a heated debate about the safety and ethics of using chlorine—Get curious, and investigate!)

Many of us have heard about respiratory problems and skin/eye irritation from swimming in chlorinated pools, but researchers are now investigating other associated dysfunctions including liver toxicity and metabolic stress.

While the chlorination process kills the “bad bugs” in our swimming pools, it also forms toxic compounds called disinfection by-products (DBPs). Interest is mounting in the building evidence connecting DBP-exposure to increased liver burden, impaired energy production, cell destruction, altered construction and function of proteins and fats, and unbalancing the body’s acid-base profile [1].

So what can we do? Well, you’re not going to keep me from testing out every single swimming pool in my new neighborhood, so let’s give our bodies some heavy ammunition to counteract the chemical exposure.

  1. Shellfish, especially scallops, mussels, and clams. How perfect is this?! Cravings for shellfish skyrocket during summer months. Maybe our bodies are telling us to head to the ocean for all our warm-weather needs. Shellfish, along with dark poultry meats, contain the amino acid taurine—a potent antioxidant and a suggested key player in the body’s attempt to safely process and eliminate DPBs [1].
  2. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous vegetables, protein-rich foods, allium vegetables (garlic, onions, leeks, chives), and eggs are all sulfur-rich foods that contribute to the body’s ability to detoxify toxic compounds [2]. Our sulfur resources are depleted when the body is faced with the added stress of detoxifying DBPs.
  3. Berries—goji berries, wild blueberries, elderberries, cranberries, and blackberries. Five out of the “Top 10 High Antioxidant Foods List” are berries, so this makes things easy for us when deciding on delish poolside snacks.

So what might a summer vacay meal plan look like? Let’s throw one together now:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs & Brussels sprouts
Mid-morning snack: Whole milk yogurt topped with dried goji berries
Lunch: Finger foods packed in the cooler! Broccoli & cauliflower florets, other chopped veggies, olives, nuts, chilled meats, and your favorite dips.
Mid-afternoon snack: Handful of mix of blueberries & cranberries
Dinner: Scallops sautéed in butter and garlic. Use leftover veggies from lunch for a quick stir-fry on the side.

Now, my friends, dive into this summer season with the confidence that you’ve stocked your body with nutrients to help minimize the risks associated with swimming in chlorinated pools.

Would you like to talk to a nutrition professional about your environmental exposures and how you can minimize your risks?  Call 703-679-7958 or e-mail



[1] Li, J.-H., Wang, Z.-H., Zhu, X.-J., Deng, Z.-H., Cai, C.-X., Qiu, L.-Q., … Lin, Y.-J. (2015). Health Effects from Swimming Training in Chlorinated Pools and the Corresponding Metabolic Stress Pathways. PLoS ONE, 10(3).

[2] Mercola, J. (2011, September 12). Are you getting enough sulfur in your body? Mercola. Retrieved from

[3] Wójcik, O. P., Koenig, K. L., Zeleniuch-Jacquotte, A., Costa, M., & Chen, Y. (2010). The potential protective effects of taurine on coronary heart disease. Atherosclerosis, 208(1), 19.

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