These Popular Foods Can Actually Kill You

“The dose makes the poison” is a common adage, and that goes for a lot of what we put in our bodies. You might find them at the grocery store without any warning label, but certain everyday foods have the potential to kill a person. Consume these foods in the wrong way, and you could be in some serious trouble.

Apples

An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but inside these nutritious powerhouses lies poison fit for an evil queen. According to Healthline, apple seeds “contain amygdalin, a substance that releases cyanide when it comes into contact with human digestive enzymes.” Cyanide, of course, is a deadly poison that can cause serious symptoms, including dizziness, rapid breathing, convulsions and death.

But don’t get too worked up if you swallow a few apple seeds by accident. For one, you’d likely need to chew the seeds well to release the amygdalin into your body. And you’d have to eat roughly 200 seeds to produce a fatal dose. Still, it’s best to consider this part of the apple inedible.

Cashews

Wooden bowl of cashews with more cashews scattered around

Cashews are a popular nut — though they’re technically a seed — with a bit of a dangerous side. They’re part of the same family as mangoes, poison ivy and pistachios. And they can harm your body just like poison ivy can. “Raw cashews contain urushiol, a resin that is toxic if ingested and can cause rashes or burns if it contacts the skin,” according to UC Davis Integrative Medicine. Consequently, cashews are shelled and undergo a roasting or steaming process to make them safe to eat. After that, they’re simply excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.

Cherries

Like apple seeds, stone fruit pits — cherries, peaches, plums, etc. — contain amygdalin, which can convert to cyanide in your body. And a Lancashire man recently became a cautionary tale of what could happen when you eat the pits. He was admitted to the hospital with a headache and lethargy after he cracked open just three cherry pits and ate what was inside, the BBC reports. Still, his case is extremely rare, and you’re probably more in danger of choking on a pit than experiencing cyanide poisoning.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon sticks and powder

Cinnamon long has been touted for its health benefits. It’s full of antioxidants, fights inflammation and lowers blood sugar, among other effects. But as our adage goes, there is a dose that could make it poisonous.

Cassia, or “regular,” cinnamon contains the compound coumarin, according to Healthline. Too much coumarin can result in liver damage, mouth sores and low blood sugar, and it can increase your cancer risk. It also can cause breathing difficulties. This came to light during the “cinnamon challenge” several years ago, in which participants attempted to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon within a minute without drinking anything. The moral of the story is to enjoy cinnamon within reason, and you’ll be just fine.

Nutmeg

The teamwork of cinnamon and nutmeg in pumpkin spice may intoxicate many of us, but there’s another more dangerous way nutmeg can make you high. “People who have taken larger doses of nutmeg have experienced nausea, dry mouth, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, agitation and hallucinations,” according to WebMD. “Other serious side effects have included death.” Thankfully, the amount we put into our pumpkin spice lattes and pies should do nothing more than add delicious flavor.

Potatoes

The average American eats 126 pounds of potatoes per year, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. And though they do contain important nutrients, there are better choices out there — especially because potatoes can carry a toxic compound.

When exposed to light, potatoes produce solanine, which can cause vomiting, headaches, breathing problems and even death, according to Healthline. A telltale sign of a dangerous potato is the presence of green pigment — chlorophyll — which also shows up in light exposure.

Although removing the green spots does help to reduce the solanine, the flesh still might contain enough to make you sick. Therefore, if a potato is very green or has a bitter taste, it’s wise to throw it out. And always store potatoes in a cool, dark place to inhibit solanine production.

Rice

White rice in bowl

Rice is an incredibly versatile food and a diet staple in many cultures. It contains vitamins and minerals, including manganese, selenium, iron, copper, niacin and folate. But it also might have a toxic element: arsenic.

Although a tiny amount of arsenic is in almost everything we eat, rice “is the single biggest food source of inorganic arsenic, which is the more toxic form,” according to Healthline. A high dose of arsenic can cause death, but more common issues associated with dietary arsenic include cancer, heart disease and impaired brain function.

While this is cause for concern, you can take steps to make rice safer to eat. Washing and cooking the rice with clean water has proven to be an effective way to reduce the arsenic content, according to Healthline. Also, brown rice often contains more arsenic than white, so don’t consume brown in excess. Ultimately, the best precaution you can take is varying your diet to limit overexposure.

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Main image credit: Tatyana Berkovich/Thinkstock

107 comments

Sue L
Sue L17 days ago

So we should be eating a variety of grains. Potatoes and rice are staples of many people's diets. Sounds like we should change things up up a bit for nutrition's sake.

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Sue L
Sue L18 days ago

If a food is going to kill me, it had better be chocolate lol!

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Sue L
Sue L19 days ago

Why even list cashews since nobody eats them raw?

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Sue L
Sue L20 days ago

Death is the Pits hahaha.

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beba h
beba h20 days ago

Talking about the apple seeds, isn't cyanide in apricot seeds which is what some people take to help treat cancer?

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Sue L
Sue L21 days ago

I like to read cozy mysteries (the ones without blood and gore where the murder takes place off page). They have lots of punny titles and I'm thinking I need to write a book called Death by Nutmeg lol.

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Kathy G
Kathy G21 days ago

Thank you

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Kathy G
Kathy G21 days ago

Thank you

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Janis K
Janis K21 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Ruth S
Ruth S21 days ago

Thanks.

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