5 Common Foods You Didn't Know Were Poisonous
Many plants and organisms have their own self defence systems to prevent against being devoured by predators. For example, the Opossum plays dead when threatened. Much is the same with plants. Plants are living, and naturally would rather stay alive than be digested in the stomachs of humans and animals. Some plants simply contain substances that don't bode well with the human body. As a result, many of the foods and plants that we know and love do in fact have these mechanisms in place. Usually the foods are made safe by industrial processes before they arrive at our mouths, but its interesting to see that Apples aren't actually all as pleasant as the majority seem to believe.
An example of a seemingly harmless fruit being potentially dangerous, is the Banana. Eating around 20 bananas in a given period can bring you well over your RDA of potassium (radioactive material in Bananas) - this can cause cardiac arrest and arrhythmias.
So now for the top 5 most common foods we eat that are actually poisonous.
That's right! An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but too many could actually bring the doctor running back (well - if you eat the seeds that is..).
Apple seeds contain cyanide in very small dosage, and thankfully there isn't enough in one apple to make you sick. However, around a quart of apple seeds (about 1 litre) is actually enough to kill a fully grown man. It would take a long time to eat all of these however, so it probably doesn't pose much of a threat to your life. It's also okay to accidentally eat the occasional seed, it happens to everyone. I'd stay away from any kind of whole apple eating competition though.
The Kidney bean or common bean contains a toxic compound known as phytohaemagglutinin. (Don't ask me how to say that). It's a lectin that is present in many types of bean, however it is particularly prominent in red kidney beans. Primary symptoms of the phytohaemagglutinin are nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, which usually occur after 1-3 hours of ingestion.
The toxic compound can be deactivated by cooking the beans at 100 C however many that are sold commercially are already prepared to be safe for consumption. Eating around 4-5 raw kidney beans however, can cause the symptoms to occur which can last for a few hours. When cooking beans, they must be cooked at 100C as beans cooked at around 80C can be up to 5 times more toxic.
Tom-ar-toe or Tom-ay-toe
The leaves and stem of the fruit (or vegetable, whichever side you pick to the never-ending debate) contain Glycoalkaloids which you may have read about before here. The chemical can cause extreme stomach upsets and nervousness when ingested, however the stem and leaf are still often used to enhance flavour in cooking, although they must be removed before eating the dish. You might be wondering how this is safe, but cooking in this way doesn't actually allow enough poison out of the stem and leaves to do any damage, but can still make a great difference to the flavour.
The real trouble with tomatoes is how to actually pronounce the name..
Not to worry! Using nutmeg in cooking is extremely safe. However ingestion of raw nutmeg can have quite the opposite effects to 'adding a little flavour'. The seed contains a naturally occurring insecticide known as Myristicin. It produces neurological symptoms in people that eat it raw and some of the symptoms include hallucinogenic effects, bloodshot eyes, visual distortions and memory disturbances. The intoxicating effects of the Myristicin can cause the consumer to reach a physical state between waking and dreaming, and while euphoria is reported, so is nausea.
The effects can last up to 24 hours, however can take over 5 hours to kick in. Kids have even gone to the extent of using the spice to get high at home.
As you many have already read in my 5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Potatoes Hub, potatoes contain Glycoalkaloids. If a potato is left long enough it will turn green as the concentration of this toxic compound increases. The toxin affects the nervous system and can cause headaches, diarrhoea, cramps and confusion. In some very severe cases it has been known to cause coma and death. Cultivated potatoes are usually removed of the toxin, and poisoning from these is very rare, as the most toxic part of the plants are in the fruit and stem which are removed when being manufactured.
If you'd like to know more about the potato, please check out this hub
Hopefully this information hasn't made you too uneasy about eating the food you love. Rest assured that poisoning from these foods happens extremely rarely and the effects will not be life threatening. The food that is prepared commercially is specially manufactured to ensure the safety of the consumer and you are at little to no risk of harm, unless like the mindless kids in the video, purposefully put yourself at risk for recreational purposes.
Sometimes it is amazing to think that we regularly consume things that contain substances that can be ever so harmful to us. It is debatable whether it is better to know such things and be constantly paranoid, or remain completely ignorantly blissful. Regardless, hopefully this information has been interesting to you.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more, please feel free to check out:
5 Badass Bugs - Scariest Insects on Earth
© 2012 George Lancaster