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10 Healthy Foods That Can Actually Poison You

10 Healthy Foods That Can Poison You

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Earlier this summer, news that kale might contain dangerous levels of thallium, a heavy metal with toxic affects, threw the Internet into a panic. Not kale! We love it (even if men don’t fully understand it). Beyonce loves it

Luckily, this myth was quickly debunked. Most kale probably doesn’t contain enough thallium to get you sick. But the idea that vegetables and some fruits can actually poison you isn’t a new one. (Even Spinach Can Give You Food Poisoning.) The veggies here all contain toxic compounds. Whether or not eating them can harm your health is another story though, says Sarah Krieger, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For most of them, you’d have to eat a lot—sometimes even more than seems humanly possible—to actually get sick. So before you clear out your pantry, get the real scoop. 

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Raw Cabbage

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This and other uncooked cruciferous veggies contain goitrogenic substances, which may impair thyroid function, leading to issues like fatigue and weight gain. For most people, though, cabbage is probably safe to eat (and, in fact, something You’re Not Using But Should Be). Problems could occur if you already have thyroid issues or don’t get enough iodine, which is essential for thyroid function. In that case, you may want to ask your doctor if it makes sense to avoid eating it in the raw form.

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White Potatoes

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You know how every so often, you get a French fry or chip that’s got a greenish tinge? Turns out, you’re better off avoiding it. All potatoes contain at least solanine, a toxin that causes nausea and headaches, says Krieger. But green ones contain more of the chemical. You’d have to eat a big, green baked potato to ingest enough to get sick, according to research from the University of Nebraska, but still, better safe than sorry. Cut any green spots out before cooking, and steer clear of greenish bites when eating out.

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Tomatoes

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Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family, which also includes belladonna, an infamously poisonous plant. Tomatoes, like their deadly cousins, contain toxins solanine and tomatine, which are potentially fatal. But the contaminants are only found in tomatoes leaves and stems, and you’d have to eat a lot of them to actually get sick—some say as much as a pound. So don’t make a tomato greens salad, and you should be safe. 

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Rhubarb

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While rhubarb stalks are tasty, the leaves are seriously toxic. They contain oxalic acid, which can cause kidney damage, explains Krieger. Other symptoms include breathing difficulty, gastrointestinal upset, and stomach pain. Stick to the stems (you know—the edible, tasty, pink-ish parts); if you or someone you know accidentally eats the leaves, the NIH recommends calling poison control ASAP. 

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Apples

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Unless you subscribe to the “boss method” of eating an apple, chances are you avoid the core. That’s a good thing, since apple seeds contain amygdalin, a compound that breaks down into the poison cyanide when digested. 

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Stone Fruits

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Hopefully, it goes without saying that you should avoid munching on the pits in apricots, cherries, peaches, and other stone fruits. But just in case, here’s why: Like apples, the pits contain amygdalin, and eating them can lead to cyanide poisoning. Swallowing them whole is not that big a deal, but once they’re broken down, the toxins can leak out. So stay away from crushed seeds!

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Mushrooms

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This one you’ve probably heard before. But with foraging becoming more and more popular, it bears reminding: Every year, people get seriously sick and even die from eating the wrong type of mushrooms. Krieger recommends sticking to grocery store fungi. If you’re interested in picking your own in the wild, make sure to do so under the guidance of a professional. And triple-check your bounty before digging in. (When you’re ready to cook, try these amazing Crispy Mushrooms.) 

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Kidney Beans

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Beans contain a toxic protein called phytohaemagglutinin, which is known to trigger GI upset and pain. Luckily, soaking the beans for about five hours then boiling them for at least 30 minutes is enough to destroy the toxins, according to the FDA. But don’t try to cook raw kidney beans in a slow cooker; temps don’t get high enough to kill the offending proteins, and you only need to eat just four or five beans to be affected. (Canned beans are totally safe.)

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Elderberries

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“Raw elderberries contain trace amounts of cyanide,” says Krieger. Other parts of the plant (like the leaves, stems, and roots) are thought to contain glycoside, which is broken down into the poison cyanide. There’s at least one case of people getting sick after drinking a juice made from the berries, leaves, and branches—but all eventually recovered. But when just the black berry is cooked, it’s delish—and may contain immune-boosting properties

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Almonds

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There are the sweet almonds you know and love (and drink—though there may not be as many in your almond milk as you think). Then there are bitter almonds, which are toxic, says Krieger. And while it's hard to accidentally buy the bitter kind—the nuts you see in most stores are sweet—“some people seek out bitter almonds as supplement for supposed health beenfits. Use caution!” she warns. Raw, unpasteurized bitter almonds are also available online—albeit with a legal disclaimer.

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