These Ten Everyday Foods Can Be Surprisingly Toxic
For instance: did you know that even a few tablespoons of nutmeg could send you into psychosis, or that eating the wrong kind of almond could kill you? If you want to stay safe, you better read up!
1. CinnamonWhen consumed in proper amounts, cinnamon can do everything from help boost your weight loss to protect you from dementia. Unfortunately, cassia cinnamon, the most commonly used variety, contains a not-insignificant amount of a toxin called coumarin, which can cause liver damage and increase your cancer risk if overconsumed.
Startlingly, these effects begin to kick in at doses as low as a teaspoon a day! The good news for cinnamon fiends is that they can avoid these effects and still indulge by buying the more expensive but far less toxic ceylon cinnamon.
2. FishThough most of the fish we eat aren't inherently toxic, we've certainly made them that way! Mercury, a heavy metal that has infiltrated our water supplies, can cause serious developmental problems in children and permanent brain and kidney damage in adults, among other serious symptoms.
Since mercury concentrations tend to increase as fish move up the food chain, you can avoid your risk of mercury poisoning by eating smaller sea creatures like shrimp and scallops and staying away from big guys like sharks and mackerels. If you've got to go for the tuna, stick to light, and note that the varieties of it served in restaurants tend to have more mercury than the supermarket version!
3. Brazil NutsSelenium is a mineral our body needs for things like proper thyroid function, DNA production, and protection from damage caused by infections or free radicals. However, an overdose of selenium can cause selenosis, a disease that can cause symptoms like fatigue, hair loss, discolored teeth or nails, and neurological problems. Severe selenosis could even lead to difficulty breathing, kidney failure, or a heart attack!
To avoid this calamity, adults should avoid consuming more than 400 micrograms of selenium a day, while they should aim to consume at least 55 grams to avoid deficiency. Now, the problem with Brazil nuts is that each one could contain up to 90 micrograms. So you'd get your entire fill of selenium from just one, and as few as five could put you over the line!
What could possibly be dangerous about this tasty, old-fashioned spice? It turns out: quite a lot! Nutmeg contains a chemical called myristicin, which is quite toxic. Symptoms of myristicin poisoning include headaches, nausea, dizziness, confusion, hallucination, and seizures.
Though a pinch or so dispersed into a baked good is unlikely to do you harm, these effects may kick in after you consume as little as a spoonful of nutmeg. It's also worth nothing that, because of nutmeg's hallucinogenic effects, some people have actually tried getting high on it, which is a seriously bad idea.
You may indeed hallucinate on nutmeg, but you may also experience a "nutmeg psychosis" with unpleasant symptoms like anxiety and a feeling of impending doom. Though nutmeg-related fatalities have thus far only been reported in children, it still probably isn't worth the risk!
Little do many people know, but there are more than one type of almond. There are sweet almonds, the kind usually grown and eaten in the US, and the more sinister bitter almonds. These bitter almonds contain large amounts of amygdalin, which your body can convert to the deadly toxin cyanide.
One can still eat bitter almonds after they've been processed correctly, but you definitely shouldn't go about eating unfamiliar almonds straight from the Prunus dulcis plant. Eating as few as seven raw bitter almonds could cause symptoms like dizziness, weakness, and rapid heart rate, and a handful could very well kill you!
6. CashewsCurious why you never come across unshelled cashews at the supermarket? It's actually because cashew shells contain urushiol, the chemical that gives poison ivy its itchy, inflammatory effect.
Cashews sold commercially are steamed or roasted to remove any lingering traces of urushiol. Good thing, since consuming urushiol can lead to serious, systemic reactions rather than just a surface itch! If you happen to have a poison ivy allergy the risk of fatality may be even higher.Sensing a nutty theme here?
7. PotatoesThough potatoes are prohibited on Phase 2 and 3 of the 123diet due to their high carbohydrate content, it turns out potato-eaters have a lot more to worry about. As a potato ripens, it turns green, a process that increases its concentration of a glycoalkaloid called solanine.
If ingested, solanine can lead to upset stomach, headaches, diarrhea, confusion, or even coma and death. If your potato starts to go green and especially if it starts to sprout, the safest course of action is to throw it out!
8. Leafy GreensDon't get us wrong: leafy greens like kale and spinach are some of the healthiest foods you can eat! However, they do happen to contain an anti-nutrient called oxalate, which can cause kidney stones and UTI-like bladder pain if it builds up in the body. Higher oxalate levels have also been associated with thyroid problems, depression, digestive problems, and even breast cancer.
Though moderate consumption of leafy greens shouldn't lead to these issues in healthy people, people who are deficient in other minerals (like calcium and iron) that usually bind with oxalate and allow it to leave the body may be at risk.
9. Fruit PitsThe dangerous amygdalin you might find in bitter almonds can also be found in apple seeds and in cherry, peach and apricot pits! Though swallowed pits or seeds may pass through your digestive system intact, these toxins can be released if they are crushed or chewed.
Luckily, the amount of this compound is so low in apple seeds that it would probably take eating a cup of them to risk cyanide poisoning. However, peach and apricot pits are far more toxic; children may experience symptoms after eating only two!
10. BeansCooked beans can have amazing health benefits, but don't even think about eating any of them raw! Most beans contain anti-nutrients called lectins, which can cause gastrointestinal distress if not neutralized by cooking.
Kidney beans in particular contain phytohemagglutinin, which can lead to severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In extreme cases, this has required hospitalization to prevent dehydration. Raw lima beans also contain another cyanide-producer, called linamarin.
To stay safe, boil your beans for at least fifteen minutes before you move on to any other method of cooking them. On the bright side, canned beans should be fine already!
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