Some foods we eat all the time and that are considered beneficial to our health can actually be poisonous. Did you know, for example, that red kidney beans need to be cooked in boiling water for over 10 minutes to remove the poisonous phytohaemagglutinin?
Phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) is a lectin found in plants, especially legumes. It is found in the highest concentrations in uncooked red kidney beans and white kidney beans and in lower quantities in many other types of beans. PHA has a number of physiological effects and in high doses, it is a toxin which can cause poisoning in some animals and humans. The consumption of raw or improperly prepared kidney beans presents the biggest danger. The danger can be reduced by boiling for at least 30 minutes at 100°C. Insufficient cooking, such as in a slow cooker at 80°C, however, can increase this danger.
Poisoning can be induced from as few as five raw beans, and symptoms occur within three hours, beginning with nausea, then vomiting, which can be severe and sustained, followed by diarrhea. Recovery occurs within four or five hours of onset, usually without the need for any medical intervention.
Nutmeg is toxic if eaten in a large amount, resulting in headaches, nausea, dizziness and, possibly, hallucinations. In fact, any spice, such as rosemary and oregano, can result in hyperactivity.
Brazil Nuts can be dangerous. They contain Selenium and large quantities of it can be poisonous. Selenium is a mineral found in the soil and naturally appears in water and some foods. While we only need a very small amount, it's important for metabolism.
Good natural food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts and walnuts, many fresh and saltwater fish, like tuna, cod, red snapper, and herring, beef and poultry and grains.
But, there are risks with selenium.
Taken in normal doses there are usually no side effects, but an overdose may cause bad breath, fever, and nausea, as well as liver, kidney and heart problems. High enough and it could cause death.
Selenium may also interact with medicines and supplements, such as antacids, chemotherapy drugs, corticosteroids, niacin, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, and birth control pills.
Selenium supplements should be avoided by people with a high risk of skin cancer. In addition, a study by the National Cancer Institute shows that men who already have high concentrations of selenium nearly double their risk of aggressive prostate cancer if they take selenium supplements.
Another study found that people who took 200 micrograms a day of selenium were 50 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Therefore, the recommended number of Brazil nuts should not exceed three a day.
Apricots, plums and cherries are OK, but their seeds contain a poison from the cyanide family. Notice that sometimes there is a warning sticker on different foods like jams, spreads, milk products and so on stating “Might contain seeds”. It is not recommended to crack, swallow or chew these seeds.
Potatoes with green spots usually means they are picked early and contain a poison, solanine, that does not wear off even when cooking and baking. Experts say that its not always helpful to take off the green spots and it’s better to not use any potatoes with green spots on them.
Solanine is a poison found in species of the nightshade family, which includes potatoes. It can occur in any part of the plant, including the leaves, fruit, and tubers. Solanine is a pesticide-like substance and it is one of the plant's natural defenses.
Symptoms of solanine poisoning are gastrointestinal and neurological disorders including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, burning of the throat, cardiac dysrhythmia, nightmare, headache and dizziness. In severe cases, hallucinations, loss of sensation, paralysis, fever, jaundice, dilated pupils, hypothermia and death have been reported.
Ingestion of solanine even in moderate amounts can cause death. Symptoms usually occur 8 to 12 hours after ingestion, but may occur within 30 minutes.
Dried fruits are offered as a health snack, but they go through the process of industrial drying that includes using sulfur and potassium sorbate. Eating large amounts of sulfur might cause a sensitive stomach and other digestive problems.
Rhubarb is a good source of magnesium and dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, potassium and manganese. It is also low in saturated fat and sodium, and very low in cholesterol, but it's leaves are poisonous.
It's usually sold in bunches, with the leaves trimmed off. And it's a good thing. The leaves contain poisonous substances, including oxalic acid which is a nephrotoxic and corrosive acid that is present in many plants as well as anthraquinone glycosides, another toxic substance, and it's believed the combination of the two is what makes them poisonous.
The symptoms are breathing difficulty, burning in the mouth and throat, coma, diarrhea, eye pain red colored urine, seizures, stomach pain, weakness and vomiting.
Poisoning from rhubarb leaves is serious and requires immediate medical help. Do NOT make a person vomit if they have eaten the leaves and if the skin and eyes have been touched by the leaves, flush with lots of water.
Raw honey can also be toxic. You may come down with a case of food poisoning after eating raw honey because it is a potential source of botulism spores. Symptoms of food poisoning from botulism include stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever. In adults, these symptoms are generally initially more uncomfortable than dangerous, but can become life-threatening if they are left untreated. In babies, whose immune systems are still weak, botulism is very serious and requires immediate medical attention. Babies under one year old should never be given honey and everyone should eat pasteurized honey.