Some foods are 100% safe as long as they’re not contaminated and eaten fresh of course. On the other hand, some foods praised for their numerous health benefits have related dangers not necessarily linked to excessive consumption.
Apples and stone fruits (peaches, apricots, cherries, plums and pears) are eaten all over the world and everyone knows these fruits are not just healthy, they’re also delicious. Well, the actual fruit is not the problem, it’s the seeds (and the leaves), which contain amygdalin, a cyanogenic compound that our body can turn into cyanide.
A small dose of cyanide from such a fruit can be safely digested. Nevertheless, larger doses can cause very unpleasant symptoms such as vomiting and dizziness followed by increased heart rate, kidney failure and coma for severe cases. Swallowing a whole pit is quite safe though. Just make sure you never eat a broken pit, ingesting just one or two crushed pits could kill you.
Rice contains arsenic, but the amount can vary a lot based on where the plant is grown. Brown rice has the highest content of this toxin while instant rice is at the bottom of the list.
Even if arsenic is present in all types of rice, it would be impossible eat too much rice and poison yourself. However, consistently ingesting even very low doses of arsenic may increase the risk of heart disease and bladder cancer.
Rhubarb makes some excellent deserts but only the stalks are used. Rhubarb’s leaves are rich in oxalic acid and eating them can cause a number of symptoms such as burning feeling in the mouth and throat, vomiting, seizures and kidney failure for severe cases.
One rhubarb leaf won’t kill you, but it’s safer to avoid them and use just the stalks, which are 100% safe.
Uncooked meat and eggs
Basically and kind of red meat, poultry and seafood, along with uncooked eggs have a chance of containing the salmonella bacteria. Salmonella can lead to gastroenteritis, which is not lethal but could cause severe complications like bacteremia (salmonella is present in the blood).
Our immune system’s response to bacteremia can cause sepsis or septic shock.
Green potatoes, especially the ones with sprouts contain solanine, a natural pesticide that’s toxic for us. Solanine poisoning is very dangerous as it can cause diarrhea, vomiting and even cardiac arrest. The good news is you cannot get solanine poisoning except by eating a ridiculous amount of green potatoes.
The best solution is to cut green parts out of potatoes before cooking them and throw away the ones that are completely green.
Phytohaemagglutinin (this one’s a mouthful!) is the name of the toxin contained by red kidney beans. It’s also present in white kidney beans although it’s more concentrated in the red variety. Phytohaemagglutinin poisoning leads to nausea and vomiting followed by diarrhea but it clears up without the need of medical treatment after four to five hours since the first symptoms.
Poisoning with this toxin can occur from eating as little as 5 raw kidney beans, but it usually happens from the consumption of improperly cooked beans. The phytohaemagglutinin toxin is lowered to safe levels when the kidney beans are boiled at 100ºC/ 212ºF for at least 10 minutes. Cooking the beans below that temperature (such as in a slow cooker) can increase the toxin concentration for up to 5 times!
So make sure you boil your beans before you toss them in the slow cooker.