Is Gold Edible? – The Ultimate Guide To Eating Gold

If you’ve scrolled through social media long enough or visited some incredibly high-end restaurants you may have seen food covered in gold leaf. Whilst the image is visually striking it does bring up a lot of questions. Do people actually eat gold? How long have people been eating gold? What happens to your body when you eat gold? How expensive is eating gold? Is edible gold actually a thing? Does edible gold contain real gold? 

Is Gold Edible?

Genuine gold at its purest form is perfectly edible. The reason for this is that high karat and genuine gold is considered biologically inert. As a result, it will pass straight through the digestive system without being absorbed into the human body.

Edible gold will come in either the form of gold flakes or gold sheets. These are just like the ones used for gold gilding. However, when looking for edible gold sheets, it is best to go to specific vendors and buy as pure gold as you can.

Inedible Vs Edible Gold Leaf 

Whilst edible gold sheets do exist, not all gold leaf is considered an edible quality gold leaf. Like with gold leaf used for crafting, edible gold will come in gold leaf sheets. In fact, many loose-leaf and some transfer leaf sheets will be considered edible gold leaves.

However, whilst pure gold leaf is safe to eat, the lower the purity the more risky things get. Lower purity than 24 karat gold leaf will inevitably have impurities. For this reason, edible gold is often purer than even the most expensive jewellery. Despite this, though gold leaf ranging from 22 to 24 karat is considered safe to consume. However, any lower purity may not be safe to consume.

Additionally, whilst edible imitation gold leaf does exist, these are typically made from a combination of copper and zinc. Technically these are perfectly edible and will balance each other out. However, in too high a quantity both copper and zinc can be detrimental to your health.

What Does Edible Gold Taste Like?

Edible gold is indigestible and won’t dissolve in your mouth. As a result, it doesn’t actually taste of anything. Not even metal. In fact, if the gold flakes or gold leaf you have eaten do taste of metal, this is a sign that you may not be eating edible gold leaf. 

However, whilst edible gold doesn’t have a taste, it does have its own texture. This texture is considered to be slightly crunchy by most. However, some people may need a drink to help them swallow the gold leaf.

The History Of Eating Edible Gold

You may have only recently discovered that people will eat gold, however, the practice is actually millennia old. In fact, the practice of consuming gold goes at least as far back to the ancient Egyptians of the second millennium BC.

Ancient Times

Ancient Egyptians believed that consuming gold leaf was a sacred act that would allow them to ingratiate themselves to the gods of the Egyptian pantheon. The apparent reason behind this belief was that in art depicting these Gods, their skin was gold. As such consuming Gold and being buried in Gold sarcophagi was seen as a mark of respect.

More recently, Marco Polo observed gold eating in various eastern cultures. Some would do so for reasons similar to that of the Ancient Egyptians. However, other cultures like the Japanese were more secular when it came to gold consumption. Here it was mainly used for decoration, particularly in more expensive sake bottles. Even here though, it is believed to have originated from the Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Middle Ages And Beyond

By the middle ages, the practice had eventually reached Europe. For roughly four centuries, at great banquets, especially those in Italy, various dishes covered in thin layers of edible gold leaf would be served. 

By the sixteenth century, the practice was so popular that even one religious convent in Venice had become known to make biscuits with gold leaf. Additionally, some doctors for the wealthy would cover medicine in gold to hide the taste.

Some alchemists came to believe that it would work as a miracle cure for various ailments. Meanwhile, independently on the overside of the world, the Native Americans also believed that the consumption of gold would grant mystical powers.

The Modern-Day

After the seventeenth century, there was little evidence of people consuming gold. As such many believe that the practice either fell out of fashion and any mystical or healing properties had been debunked.

However, in the late twentieth century, the practice of eating edible gold made something of a comeback. Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi is credited with repopularising the trend in the early nineteen eighties with his saffron risotto that contained gold leaf. From here the practice spread and now edible gold leaf and edible silver leaf have become popular options for high-end food decoration in the twenty-first century.

How Expensive Is Edible Gold?

Edible gold leaf can vary in price depending on the purity of genuine leaf or if you elect to use imitation leaf. Imitation leaf will definitely be cheaper than the genuine thing. However, it may not be too brilliant for your health in high enough quantities.

We stock edible gold leaf sheets in loose leaf and transfer varieties, along with gold flakes. All of which are 23.75 karat which is incredibly pure gold. However, due to not being 24 karat gold it won’t be nearly as expensive. Despite this, though to buy gold leaf will still be more expensive than most other food decorations. This is simply unavoidable, however, due to this being genuine, high purity gold.

What Happens When You Eat Gold?

Many people are curious about the experience of eating edible gold leaf. Whilst some may elect to get some for a status symbol, others may wonder how it can affect the human body.

Ingesting Gold Leaf

Genuine edible gold lead will as mentioned above not have any taste to it. This is because it impossible for the mouth to dissolve gold of an edible purity. However, it does have a slightly crunchy texture that can excellently complement many a dish. 

For this reason, it is particularly popular for already flavourful dishes. However, particularly thin gold flakes will also often be used in alcoholic cocktails or in high-end candy decorating stores for purely aesthetic purposes.

Digesting Gold Leaf

Due to gold being considered biologically inert, it won’t be absorbed or digested as it goes through the digestive tract. As such real gold of edible purity is perfectly safe to eat as it will just pass through the body. 

Health Benefits Of Eating Gold

Due to being biologically inert, gold is an approved food additive by the European Union. Additionally, it is also considered to be certified kosher.

Despite these facts and the beliefs of certain spiritualists and homoeopaths, the biological inertness of gold means that no beneficial side effects to its consumption are recognised medically.

Negative Side Effects Of Eating Gold

Real gold of edible gold leaf standard is perfectly safe to ingest. As such, gold has been used in tooth crowns for years in addition to being a food decoration. 

However, impurities in lower purity gold may be toxic if consumed. Additionally, certain people may have a hypersensitively to metals. This may lead to allergic reaction symptoms such as rashes or worse if any purity of gold is consumed.

Example Of Foods That Typically Have Gold Leaf Applied

Over the millennia many different types of foods and drinks have been given the gold glimmer treatment. Nowadays, the practice is often exclusively saved for high-end alcohol, cocktails and desserts. However, in theory, edible gold leaf can be applied to any kind of food. 

For centuries floating gold flecks have been included in extremely expensive drinks. A tradition that is also kept alive today by particularly fancy bartenders. They have also been used in candy making or to mask the taste of medicine for the wealthy.

European nobility would also often hold grand banquets during the middle ages where edible gold leaf would commonly be used. Some example dishes include sturgeons, carp, ducks, quails and partridges entirely covered by thin gold leaf sheets. All of which were served at the banquet of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, The Lord of Milan in 1386 at a banquet celebrating his daughter Violante getting married.

In more modern times, gold leaf food will be used as much as often for publicity stunts as it is for fine dining. In twenty eighteen for example Popeyes launched champagne battered and gold flaked chicken wings to celebrate the opening of their three thousandth store. Meanwhile, a restaurant in Australia had a giant gold leaf bun hamburger for sale temporarily.

Final Thoughts

Gold leaf of high purity karat is perfectly safe to eat for most. However, those with hypersensitivity to metal should avoid ingesting it. They and everyone else should also avoid lower purity gold leaf as it will not be safe to consume due to potentially toxic impurities being present. 

Whilst genuine edible gold leaf has no discernible taste, that hasn’t prevented it from having popularity that has endured for millennia. Whether for spiritual, culinary or status reasons, many people to this day partake in edible gold. So if you’re curious why not try some for yourself? 

FAQ

Why Do People Eat Gold?

Gold has been eaten by a wide variety of people for various reasons. For many centuries if not millennia it was seen as a religious practice in Asian countries, along with Ancient Egypt. Additionally, many alchemists, along with some modern-day homoeopaths believe it has many health benefits to offer. However the most enduring and popular reasons though have been to use is at as a status symbol, along with adding a unique crunch to various dishes.

What Happens If You Eat Gold?

Edible gold is biologically inert. This means that it can not be digested or absorbed by the body. As a result of this, it will not have any negative effects unless you have a hypersensitivity to metal.

Is Eating Gold Good For You?

Eating edible gold is neither good nor bad for you. This is because it is considered to be biologically inert, meaning it won’t be absorbed by the body. As a result of this, it will not have any negative effects unless you have a hypersensitivity to metal.

Does Gold Taste Good?

Technically speaking, edible gold should not taste of anything by itself. This is because it is biologically inert meaning that it can neither be dissolved by your saliva nor digested by your body. If it even tastes somewhat metallic then edible gold leaf sheets haven’t been used. This means it will be inedible at best and potentially toxic at worst. 

Whilst it doesn’t have a discernible taste, gold leaf does have a slightly crunchy texture to it. Whether this is a boon depends on how much leaf is used along with the food it is applied to. This is because, in excess, it can be somewhat difficult to swallow without water.

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