National Poison Prevention Week is designated as the third week in March every year to highlight the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them. Here are 10 foods that can be toxic.
What are Natural Toxins?
Natural toxins are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by living organisms. These toxins are not harmful to the organisms themselves but they may be toxic to other creatures, including humans, when eaten.
10 Food that Can be Toxic
Apple seeds also have cyanide, so throwing back a handful as a snack isn’t smart. Luckily, apple seeds have a protective coating that keeps the cyanide from entering your system if you accidentally eat them. But it’s good to be cautious. Even in small doses, cyanide can cause rapid breathing, seizures, and possibly death.
Nutmeg adds a nice, nutty flavor when you add it in small amounts to baked goods. But eaten by the spoonful, it can cause big problems to your system. Even as little as 2 teaspoons can be toxic to your body because of myristicin, an oil that can cause hallucinations, drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and seizures.
The leaves, sprouts, and underground stems (tubers) of potatoes contain a toxic substance called glycoalkaloid. Glycoalkaloids make a potato look green when it’s exposed to light, gets damaged, or ages. Eating potatoes with a high glycoalkaloid content can cause nausea, diarrhea, confusion, headaches, and death.
Both types of almonds — bitter and sweet — have amygdalin, a chemical compound that can turn into cyanide, but bitter almonds have the highest levels by far. Sweet almonds are safe to snack on, but eating untreated bitter almonds can cause cramps, nausea, and diarrhea.
They may be great on pizza, but beware of certain mushrooms in the wild. Two types are particularly harmful — the death cap (Amanita phalloides), and the destroying angel (Amanita virosa). Eating these wild mushrooms can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting, dehydration, intense thirst, liver failure, coma, and death.
Just like raw cashews, the skin, bark, and leaves of mangoes contain urushiol, the toxin in poison ivy. If you’re allergic to poison ivy, especially if that allergy is a bad one, biting into a mango can cause a severe reaction with swelling, rash, and even problems breathing.
Cinnamon can provide several health benefits, including lower blood sugar and reduced cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
However, cinnamon also contains a compound called coumarin, which is toxic when consumed in excess.
Two of the most common types of cinnamon are Cassia and Ceylon. Ceylon cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a tree in Sri Lanka known as Cinnamomum zeylanicum. It is sometimes referred to as “true cinnamon.”
Cassia cinnamon comes from the bark of a tree known as Cinnamomum cassia that grows in China. It is less expensive than Ceylon cinnamon and accounts for about 90% of the cinnamon imported into the US and Europe .
Cassia cinnamon contains much higher levels of coumarin, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer and liver damage at high doses.
The safety limit for coumarin in food is 0.9 mg/lb (2 mg/kg)
The danger in tuna is the mercury that the fish absorbs. Once in your body, mercury will either pass through your kidneys, or travel to your brain and supposedly drive you insane. The FDA recommends children and pregnant women do not consume tuna at all. While it’s unlikely that eating a massive amount of tuna in one sitting will kill you, it’s a good idea to monitor your weekly intake.
Unpasteurized honey often contains grayanotoxin. That can lead to dizziness, weakness, excessive sweating, nausea, and vomiting that last for 24 hours. Typically just one tablespoon of concentrated grayanotoxin can cause the symptoms above. Consuming multiple tablespoons would be a bad idea.
Raw cashews you find in a supermarket are not actually raw, as they’ve been steamed to remove the urushiol, a chemical also found in poison ivy. This chemical can cause the same effect as poison ivy, or poison oak. High levels of urushiol can supposedly prove fatal. People who are allergic to poison ivy are likely to have a fatal allergic reaction to eating actual raw cashews.
These are a few toxins you need to watch out for & avoid.
How can I minimize the health risk from natural toxins?
When it comes to natural toxins it is important to note that they can be present in a variety of different crops and foodstuff. In a usual balanced, healthy diet, the levels of natural toxins are well below the threshold for acute and chronic toxicity.
To minimize the health risk from natural toxins in food, people are advised to:
- not assume that if something is ‘natural’ it is automatically safe;
- throw away bruised, damaged or discoloured food, and in particular mouldy foods;
- throw away any food that does not smell or taste fresh, or has an unusual taste; and
- only eat mushrooms or other wild plants that have definitively been identified as nonpoisonous.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.