Naturally Occurring Poisons in Everyday Foods

People spend a lot of time worrying about the toxicity of processed foods and pesticides on produce. The trend in organic farming has led people to rethink what they put in their bodies. The hidden dangers that occur naturally in common foods, however, are less known. Some of these are dangerous enough to be fatal. Seeds and potassium rich foods contain things like cyanide and radiation. You may be surprised how many of these you have hanging out in your kitchen right now.


Cherries are worth mentioning due to the fact that they seem to harbor the most amount of toxicity. The danger lies in the pits of the cherry. It is common to accidentally swallow a seed now and then when eating fruits. They are usually tiny and no one gives it much of a thought. When it comes to cherries, however, caution should be taken. Cherry pits contain cyanogenic compounds. These compounds are turned into cyanide by the human body after they are ingested. Swallowing an intact pit is not near as dangerous as actually chewing one up. Crushed pits contain enough cyanogenic compound to cause death in an adult when only one or two are eaten. Other fruits with cyanogenic compounds in the seeds are peaches, plums, and apricots.


Bananas are well-known for their potassium content. This is usually considered a healthy part of your diet. The potassium is linked to another ingredient, however. Radiation is a natural part of most foods because organic material contains carbon. Carbon is present, naturally, as a combination of isotopes. Carbon-14 is radioactive, and included in this mixture. You don’t need to stop eating bananas, however. The potassium is a necessary nutrient for your body. Your body can process a low amount of radiation. While bananas are fine to eat, it should be noted that they are capable of setting of radiation alarms at airports. You may want to choose a different snack when travelling. Lima beans, carrots, and some meats also contain radiation. Brazil nuts are one of the highest radioactive foods. 


Rice has arsenic in it. Rice in grown in the state of Texas is especially laden with the poison. Arsenic is most widely known as rat poison. Large amounts can cause vertigo, stomach pain, and vomiting. Brown rice is known to contain more arsenic than white rice, as well. It is unlikely that a deadly poisoning would happen from consuming regular servings of rice, however, exposure over time can lead to some serious health issues. Arsenic is linked to bladder cancer and heart disease. Other plant foods that contain arsenic may have less because they are not grown in the same way. Rice is completely submerged in water and absorbs more contaminants from the soil and water than plants grown above ground. Many varieties of nuts contain As(III) and As(V). These are highly toxic forms of arsenic. Arsenic can also be found in seaweed, tuna, and other seafood.

New health trends have caused people to look at how their food is made and where is comes from. Many contaminants, however, come from the soil and water. These issues cannot be solved by simply reducing pesticide application. Radiation and cyanogenic compounds occur in nature and have nothing to do with contaminants. It is important to be aware of what is in your food. It is common to be unaware of the toxins in fruit seeds, for example. More education and proper warnings may help the public be more cautious of what they consume. Most foods contain limited amounts of toxins and our bodies process them without daily symptoms. Immediate fatality and long-term illness, however, are possible in some situations. Long-term illness are also a possibility. Take the time to learn what is in your food.

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