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To Eat or Not to Eat? Friendly Foods that Can Attack.

4 mins

“Is it safe to eat?” This seems a very reasonable question with a childishly simple answer. Guess again. Perhaps you've heard the saying "too much of a good thing"?

Table of Contents

“Is it safe to eat?” This very reasonable question can yield some surprisingly unreasonable answers. Some of the stuff that we assume is plain-vanilla healthy … well it IS .

Until you start quaffing it in abundance, or under the wrong circumstances. But potatoes?!

Here are some healthy foodstuffs which — when improperly imbibed — may turn toxic on you. Pay close attention.

The last thing you want is to clutch your midsection, rise from your seat and scream “MY GUTS ARE ON FIRE!” at the rehearsal dinner. It tends to upset the future in-laws.

Yup — Potatoes

Of course when you think “potato” you think of excessive vomiting and cardiac arrest. No? Well guess what?

 Possibly you’ve heard that greenish potatoes are to be avoided. This is an understatement. The green comes from solanine, a sort of natural pesticide produced by potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants — three of the least likely vegetal thugs you can imagine. The plants produce the toxin to ward off those animals and insects that would otherwise eat them.

 Potatoes left in sunlight trigger a biosynthesis of solanine, which leads to gastrointestinal distress, stomach lesions, diarrhea, and other symptoms you wouldn’t want to experience in mixed company. At the cellular level, solanine may be working its way into your mitochondria and maladjusting your cell’s apoptosis - its regulated demise. Mess with that and things go south quickly. Don’t take a chance on green taters.

Apple Seeds

For those readers who are big fans of Johnny Appleseed, this entry may be upsetting. When we were kids, some of us speculated on the playground that swallowing an apple seed could make an apple tree take root in the stomach, resulting in all kinds of mayhem.

Fortunately the problem is not to do with a tree tearing through your shirt — but it is to do with cyanide.

Thanks to spy movies, cyanide may be one of the most name-recognized poisons around. But in apple seeds?

Yes. They contain cyanide, and eating 200 appleseeds could be sufficient to affect your breathing. “200 appleseeds?! What kind of a nut would eat 200 apple seeds?” I know, I know. Just giving you the brute facts.

Red Kidney Beans

As you’d guessed, red kidney beans contain a toxin called phytohaemagglutinin. The first symptom of phytohaemagglutinin poisoning?

Your panic as you try in vain to pronounce it over the phone to the Poison Control Center.

Bottom line — boil kidney beans for AT LEAST 10 minutes before eating to neutralize the phythum…to neutralize the phygumaggin…to neutralize that toxin we’ve been talking about.
Otherwise you're looking at a spell of extreme nausea and endless repeats of what has been called The Technicolor Yawn. You know it as vomiting.

Star Fruit

If you’re the sort of person who has star fruit laying around, you may already have issues. Kidding. Star fruit plays heck with your kidneys (and this right on the heels of kidney beans!) and if your kidneys are compromised at all stay away. When star fruit induces nephrotoxicity, it manifests as acute kidney injury (AKI).


What could go wrong? It’s a freaking mango! Answer: plenty! Are you familiar with Poison Ivy and the havoc it can wreak? Welcome to Mango Hell. The skin of the mango contains urushiol, poison ivy’s trigger-happy toxin. If you have an allergy to urushiol, your mango experience will not be a good one. Even if you don’t have such an allergy, eating lots and lots of mangoes means ingesting lots and lots of urushiol. You wanna roll those die?


Sure; sprinkle nutmeg delicately over your Brussels sprouts and prepare for ecstasy. But eat a spoonful of nutmeg and you are playing with fire — in the form of myristicin. Like solanine (the sneaky stuff in green potatoes), myristicin is a naturally occurring insecticide that is cytotoxic to living cells.

It also has some chemical acquaintance with MDMA. In improper amounts, myristicin can cause disorientation, stupor, and an uncomfortable stimulation of the central nervous system.

This in turn can lead to intense hallucinations, time dilation, disorientation, weak pulse, and unbearable anxiety. Even mild nutmeg intoxication brings on nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, shock, and even death. Stick with the dusting of your Brussels sprouts.

Raw Cashews

Store-bought cashews appear to be, and are sometime even billed as, raw nuts. They’re not. Prior to packaging they’re steamed to remove a little something called — wait for it — our old friend urushiol.

Urushiol is the poison ivy - related toxin that can cause a severe allergic reaction if you are predisposed to that allergy. Raw cashews? Avoid them.


Did Popeye the Sailor Man really open a can of spinach by using his pipe as an acetylene torch? That's a yes. As much as he loved spinach, though, Popeye knew better than to eat seven pounds of the stuff in a given day.

Why? Being a studied spinach enthusiast, he surely knew that spinach is high in oxalic acid.

Too much oxalic acid and you get nasty side effects like kidney stones, abdominal pain, tremors, and vomiting. Researchers have determined that a 145 lb person (for instance) would need to eat 7.3 lbs of spinach to really be endangered by the effects. Or as Popeye might sing:


I’m Popeye the Sailor Man

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man

I’ll surely be finished

If I eats too much spinach,

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man. (toot toot)

Life of Surprises

Fun fact! The homeliest comfort foods can do us harm if we eat them unwisely. While plants are the miracle life form that allows animals to basically ingest the energy of the sun — it’s important to remember that plants are alive, too. As such they have their own fussy survivalist agendas. All they ask is that we do our homework, eat them sensibly, and know our limits. Is that asking so much? Now, pass the greenery — NOT THE POTATOES, YOU FOOL!!




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