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These Healthy Foods May Actually Be Toxic

  • Category: LiveSmart
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  • Written By: Baldwin
Magnifying glass looking at groceries

There may be poisonous substances hiding in your fridge or pantry. Look out for these.

It's rare that people are poisoned from the food they eat. Unless you happen to eat something found in nature, like a poisonous mushroom, or the food has spoiled (which can cause food poisoning), it's usually safe to assume that if a food has made it to your kitchen table, fridge or pantry by way of a grocery store, it's relatively safe to eat.

That's why you might be surprised to find out that some seemingly healthy foods have components that are poisonous and may make you sick. They typically only pose a danger if consumed in large quantities, but it's helpful to know about these substances so you can take extra precautions to keep you and your family safe.

Here are 5 "healthy" foods that may be toxic:

  • Raw kidney beans. Although it's unlikely you'll consume dry kidney beans without first soaking and boiling them, here's a good reason to make sure you don't. Raw kidney beans contain lectins, which are a toxin. Consuming as few as 4 – 5 raw beans can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach upset. As long as you soak the beans (at least 12 hours) and then boil them (at least 10 minutes), you'll destroy the lectins. Don't skip eating beans because of this, however. They contain loads of fiber and good-for-you-nutrients. If you want to be extra-safe, just eat canned beans, which are already cooked.
  • Overripe potatoes. If your potatoes have been sitting around long enough to have a greenish hue, it's time to toss them in the trash. The green color comes from solanine, which is mildly toxic. Although it won't kill you (unless you eat a lot of it), solanine can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, upset stomach, and occasionally, fever.
  • Rhubarb leaves. Rhubarb is a plant with vibrant red stalks that are edible (and nutritious). But don't be fooled into thinking the green leaves are also good for you, like other leafy greens. In fact, they contain high levels of oxalic acid, which can be poisonous if consumed in large doses. High levels of oxalic acid can cause kidney failure and even death.
  • Apple seeds. We've all likely swallowed an apple seed or two, and doing so in small quantities is no big deal. But the seeds contain amygdalin, a compound that produces cyanide. If you were to eat a large number of apple seeds, it could cause vomiting, fainting, kidney failure, coma and death.
  • Tomato leaves. The leaves of this vibrant and nutrient-rich fruit (yes, tomatoes are a fruit!) contain solanine. This is the same toxic substance you may find in potatoes that turn green. If you nibble a small leaf or two, you'll be fine. But don't eat tomato leaves regularly or consume a large quantity of them. It could make you sick or may even be dangerous.
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Date Last Reviewed: January 18, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Jane Schwartz, RDN, CLT

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