We often consider raw vegetables, seeds, and seafood as the healthiest options because they contain heaps of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acid. What we don’t know is that some of these foods also contain toxins that can be potentially deadly. Have a look at the list that WeGoRo made for you to check how many of these points you didn’t know.
Also known as yuca or manioc, cassava is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. But be aware that improper preparation of cassava can leave enough residual cyanide to cause acute cyanide intoxication, partial paralysis, or even death.
Shrimp are grown on farms, and that’s a fact. To prevent spreading infections, diseases, and parasites, farmers pump the animals’ feed with antibiotics and fill the waters with pesticides and fungicides. Large amounts of chemical additives, including chlorine, are also added to this destructive cocktail to maintain the overcrowded population.
Don’t panic! In general, the potato is a completely safe vegetable. Though if you leave potatoes in overly moist or bright conditions or let them sit out for too long they will begin to sprout. And those sprouts actually contain toxic compounds known as glycoalkaloids. Even if you do cut off the sprouts, you should throw the whole tuber away as the poison may be in the potato itself if too much time has passed.
Bitter varieties of this seed (not nuts) contain higher amounts of cyanide than sweet almonds. Extract of bitter almond was once used medicinally, but even in small doses the effects are severe or lethal, especially in children; the cyanide must be removed before consumption. That’s why all commercially grown almonds sold as food in the United States are sweet varieties.
Bamboo shoots are used in numerous Asian dishes and broths. We don’t think that you crunch fresh bamboo very often, but we want you to know that raw bamboo shoots contain cyanogenic glycosides, the same toxins contained in cassava. These toxins must be destroyed by thorough cooking, and, for this reason, fresh bamboo shoots are often boiled before being used in other ways.
The act of collecting mushrooms is known as mushroom hunting or simply "mushrooming." Doesn’t it sound cute? But be aware that there is no single trait by which all toxic mushrooms can be identified nor one by which all edible mushrooms can be identified. In addition, due to the propensity of mushrooms to absorb heavy metals, including those that are radioactive, European mushrooms may, to date, include toxicity from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. We also recommend not picking them along roads or near factories.
Molds are usually visible, but the toxins produced by molds and other fungi — mycotoxins — are invisible and can penetrate food. So you’d better not cut off the moldy part but throw the whole piece away. Special cheeses like brie or Danish blue are safe to eat because the molds have been deliberately introduced. However, if mold grows on cheese where it’s not supposed to, you shouldn’t eat it.
Though rhubarb is often sold with leaves, its stalks are the only edible part. Once, during World War I, the leaves were mistakenly recommended as a food source in Britain, which led to people being poisoned. Cooking the leaves with baking soda can make them even more poisonous by starting the reaction between soda and acids.
Fugu dishes are one of the most celebrated but notorious dishes in Japanese cuisine. Fugu fish must be carefully prepared to remove toxic parts and to avoid contaminating the meat. Therefore, chefs go through 3 years of training and have to obtain a special license to be allowed to serve it.
Raw beans contain a harmful tasteless toxin, lectin, that must be removed by cooking. Red and kidney beans are particularly toxic, but other types also pose risks of food poisoning. Bad news for those who prefer slow-cooking: cooking beans without bringing them to the boil may not destroy toxins. We recommend boiling them for at least 10 minutes as undercooked beans may be even more toxic than raw ones.
There are several useful tips here to help you reduce the risk of poisoning. Don’t assume that if something is "natural" it automatically means it’s safe. Always prepare and cook your food properly. And the most important thing is to share this information and add your points in the comments so we can include them next time!
Preview photo credit REUTERS/Stringer