Top 20 Foods That Can Literally Kill You
Top 20 Foods That Can Literally Kill You

Top 20 Foods That Can Literally Kill You

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp, Michael Wynands
Don't you put it in your mouth! For this list, we're looking at foods that could prove fatal if incorrectly prepared, consumed in excess, or simply… eaten. Our countdown includes Cinnamon, Lima Beans, Taro, Potato, Elderberry, and more!

Top 20 Foods That Can Kill You

Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Foods That Can Kill You.

For this list, we’re looking at foods that could prove fatal if incorrectly prepared, consumed in excess, or simply… eaten. It's also worth noting that we’re excluding common allergens and are instead looking at foods with a more universal power to be deadly.

Which of these foods do you avoid? Let us know in the comments!

#20: Stone Fruit Seeds

If you've ever read a mystery novel, watched a detective procedural or learned about the fall of the Third Reich then you've surely heard of cyanide. But, the danger is closer than it seems. In addition to being unpleasantly hard to eat, the pits and seeds of cherries, peaches, plums, apricots and apples all contain amygdalin, a compound that, when it enters the body, produces cyanide. To be fair, a few apple seeds aren’t going to send a person to the ER, but a few cherry stones could – and have. So maybe it's best to spit the pits, no matter how unglamorous it seems.

#19: Cinnamon

This savory spice can make a dish, but too much of it can make for an unfortunate death. Cinnamon itself isn’t inherently dangerous for any chemical reasons. No conventional amount of cinnamon in your baking or hot cocoa is fatal. The cinnamon challenge however, carries significant health risks. Once that spoonful of cinnamon coats the mouth, it eliminates all moisture, making it impossible to swallow. That might be funny on camera, but the body’s reaction is to inhale, which can result not only in choking, but also serious damage to the lungs too. So maybe let’s just save it for the apple pie recipe, okay?

#18: Unpasteurized Honey

Historically used by numerous cultures both as a sweetening agent and for medicinal purposes, honey was actually considered to be the Food of the Gods in Ancient Greece. Though history might be on its side, the old-school approach to honey - leaving it unpasteurized - can be deadly. Raw honey can result in botulism in infants. In adults and children alike, in certain regions of the world, the sweet stuff comes with the risk of “mad honey disease” - due to the fact that the bees are sourcing nectar from certain toxic plants. If the concentration of grayanotoxins is high enough, intoxication or even death can occur.

#17: Rhubarb

In a pie, mixed with strawberries, there’s nothing better than some chopped up pieces of rhubarb stalk. But if throwing out the leaves seems wasteful to you, this is one of the rare cases where a salad is the wrong choice. Unfortunately, the leaves of the rhubarb plant contain oxalic acid - a substance that is poisonous to humans. Admittedly, the stalks contain it as well - but the concentrations are significantly lower. One would likely have to start a rhubarb leaf diet for the poisoning to reach toxic levels, but smaller servings can still lead to serious health risks and illness.

#16: Kidney Beans

Looking for a crunchy snack? Look elsewhere. Raw food diets are trendy, but when it comes to these legumes, cooking is a must! Though a great source of protein and fiber, kidney beans also pack a whole lot of phytohemagglutinin, a substance that is toxic to humans. To be fair, this compound can be found in many types of beans, but few boast such high concentrations as the kidney bean. In order to be consumed safely, kidney beans should first be soaked, and then boiled for at least 10 minutes time. Though sources disagree, it’s also recommended that you not cook them in a slow cooker.

#15: Nutmeg

Another spice, another cause for concern. Unlike with cinnamon however, the danger of nutmeg is inherent to the substance, not as a result of online challenges. In low doses, nutmeg poses no risk. But historically, it has been consumed raw in large quantities for its psychoactive properties. The effects can last for days on end and have mostly been described as extremely unpleasant. As with any toxic substance, if too much is consumed, the results can be fatal. But for however risky nutmeg is for we humans, it's even worse for our canine companions.

#14: Lima Beans

Beans may be the musical fruit, but if you eat these bad boys raw, that may be the least of your worries. When consumed uncooked, certain chemicals in lima beans break down to become the toxic chemical known as hydrogen cyanide. Much like with kidney beans, it’s crucial that you boil them for at least 10 minutes time before ingesting these legumes. Within the United States, only lima beans with low level toxicity can be grown, but regardless… better to play it safe than invite the grim reaper over for supper.

#13: Raw Cashews

You can buy raw peanuts at a health food store, but not raw cashews or, at least, not real raw cashews - and that’s a good thing. The shell that protects cashews contains anacardic acid, which is similar to urushiol - the substance in poison ivy that elicits such a strong reaction. Even when shelled and washed, this severe irritant remains on the nut. The only way to actually ensure safe consumption is by roasting the nut, or, for those who prefer a “raw” feeling, boiling or steaming it. But if enough actual raw cashews are consumed, the results can be fatal.

#12: Unpasteurized Milk

In a world where seemingly everything is mass produced by conglomerates and mega corporations, it can be very easy to distrust a lot of what winds up in the refrigerator or pantry. The general mentality seems to be “the less processed… the better,” and for the most part, that motto holds true. But when it comes to pasteurizing milk - things get a little more complicated. In some studies, drinking unpasteurized milk has been associated with a decrease in allergies and delivers arguably higher nutritional value. But… it also comes with the risk of E. Coli, salmonella and listeria - any of which could prove fatal.

#11: Sausage

They might be delicious on the barbecue, in a pasta sauce or on pizza, but sausages come with significant risk, at least in certain areas of the world. In 2013, a study from France found that 1 in 4 processed sausages were infected with hepatitis E. In 2017, a similar situation made headlines in the United Kingdom when HEV was found in sausages. In developed nations, hepatitis E is rarely fatal - but it poses deadly risks to pregnant women and those with already compromised immune systems. Time to start buying the good, unprocessed meat.

#10: Taro

Likely first found in Southeast Asia, the thick stems, leaves and leaf-stems of this plant are often used and eaten as vegetables. The taro is a root crop with light purple stems that are cooked in various ways, and can be used both in main meals and in desserts. However, when raw, you should stay far far away from this plant. Why? It contains a toxic chemical compound called calcium oxalate, which, when consumed, can lead to kidney stones, and in extreme cases, death. So if you want to be safe, roast, boil or bake it – but if you want to be even more prudent about it, try adding a bit of baking soda or drinking a glass of milk when you’ve got a taro craving to satisfy.

#9: Ghost Pepper

Are you one of those people that hates putting Tabasco sauce on food because it makes things too spicy? Multiply that flavor by exactly 401.5, and you have the intensity of the ghost pepper. Also known by names like bhut jolokia and ghost chili, this hybrid pepper is one of the world’s hottest foods, and it is definitely not advised that you eat too many of them. While consuming a few at a time is fine (albeit, a little rough on your mouth), eating too much at once can result in severe stomach issues, as well as seizures and heart attacks, which could obviously result in a painful death.

#8: Egg

As cool as Rocky Balboa makes it look, take our word for it and never eat raw eggs. Not only are they slimy and disgusting, but, like uncooked meat, eating raw eggs can result in salmonella poisoning, which is definitely not a fun experience. Furthermore, the consumption of uncooked eggs can result in severe diarrhea and vomiting, which can quickly lead to dehydration and death if such symptoms are not looked after. And if you have a weak immune system, then even more serious complications can occur. It’s just not a good idea, period.

#7: Ackee

Native to West Africa, the ackee is a fruit that is popular on the Caribbean islands, especially Jamaica. So if you’re ever on vacation, it’s probably better for you to stay clear of this seemingly tropical fruit. The inedible and un-ripened parts of an ackee contain the powerful and fatal toxins hypoglycin A and B, which, when consumed, can lead to very low glucose levels and hypoglycemia as well as what’s known as Jamaican vomiting sickness. In extreme cases, it can even cause seizures and death! The fruit is so dangerous that importing canned ackee was temporarily limited in America, so it’s likely that you may have never even seen or heard of it before.

#6: Sannakji

You might not recognize this by looking at it, but sannakji hoe is actually a popular snack in Korea. And what is it exactly, you ask? It’s live octopus. That’s right, this small underwater organism with 8 arms is STILL alive, as in still slithering around on the plate when it’s served. That means that when you consume sannakji, you are taking the risk of having the suction cups on its arms sticking to an esophagus on the way down, which can lead to choking and even death. Many reports have been made of people dying while eating Sannakji, which begs the question: why do they still serve it?

#5: Mushroom

There really are a wide variety of mushrooms. There’s the delicious, edible type that have been eaten for centuries, there’s the type that makes you see pretty colors, and then there’s the poisonous type that can painfully kill you if you consume them. Poisonous mushrooms can take a varying amount of time to take effect, but generally consumption leads to kidney, liver, or respiratory failure, depending on what kind of fungi you’ve eaten. Just be especially careful if you pick them in the wild, as some of them look quite similar to the edible ones. While stomach problems are the most common consequences of mushroom poisoning, death is not out of the question either.

#4: Elderberry

Growing in both the Northern Hemisphere as well as South America and Oceania, the sambucus may look delicious, but eating them can be extremely hazardous to your health. Various parts of the plant, such as the leaves and seeds, as well as the berries themselves contain cyanide-inducing glycoside. So, when eaten uncooked and ingested into the human body, these parts then produce – you guessed it – cyanide. Essentially, eating large amounts of raw elderberries is like swallowing a cyanide pill. Needless to say, it won’t turn out well for you.

#3: Pufferfish / Blowfish

One of the more famous examples of a deadly food, the blowfish is known worldwide for its toxicity and harmful effects. The organs of the blowfish, also known by names like the pufferfish, and fugu in Japan, are extremely poisonous because they contain a highly toxic neurotoxin called Tetrodotoxin. So if you eat those parts and are poisoned, this can quickly lead to paralysis - while you’re still conscious - and eventual death. That’s why it is actually illegal for the Emperor of Japan to consume it. Only chefs who have undergone years of training are allowed to prepare and serve the fish as a delicacy in restaurants, and we’re glad of that at least.

#2: Almond

Almonds are so potentially dangerous when consumed that the U.S. Department of Agriculture made it mandatory for the seeds of the almond tree to go through a special heat treatment and pasteurization as of 2007. This is done to avoid infection by salmonella. However, we should also explain that there are different types of almonds, such as the sweet and bitter kinds – and it’s the bitter ones that you need to be careful of. Why? They are much higher in cyanide than the sweet ones (which barely have any)! Certain cultures used to use bitter almond extract medicinally, but even minuscule doses can prove fatal, especially in children. They are even illegal to sell or buy in New Zealand due to their potential danger. Fortunately, bitter almonds in general consumption are rarely found, since the sweet kinds are what’s sold in stores.

#1: Potato

Everyone’s favorite side dish, especially when you’re having meat, potatoes are generally safe if eaten correctly and in time. But when they turn green, stay away. Potatoes produce a glycoalkaloid called solanine, and just as this natural poison deters predators, it also deters humans, as it is toxic. An average grown male would only have to consume roughly one pound of green potatoes to become fatally poisoned, although we’re not sure why anyone would want to consume green potatoes in the first place.

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