As we all know, the importance of food preparation is crucial. Rinsing off fruits and veggies is a common practice to clear away pesticides, and thoroughly cooking raw meat is also hugely important.
But what about when food prep is a matter of life and death? Most of us have probably heard of fugu, or the pufferfish, which is a highly poisonous fish that proves fatal when incorrectly prepared.
Frighteningly enough, there are more than a few familiar foods that can kill you if prepared incorrectly.
To keep you informed on all that is (potentially) dangerous, we bring you 10 everyday foods that can turn deadly if not prepared just right.
1. Honey // Sweet, Sweet Danger
It’s a little-known fact, but natural honey contains a poisonous toxin called pyrrolizidine alkaloids. It must go through a pasteurization process after being farmed to eliminate these toxins, but unpasteurized honey is extremely dangerous.
Eating just a teaspoon of unpasteurized honey can lead to headaches, dizziness, weakness and vomiting that can last up to 24 hours. It is possible that more than one teaspoon can kill.
2. Potatoes // Your Favorite Killer Carb
Ordinary potatoes, if consumed at the wrong time, can be dangerous. The leaves, stem, and sprouts of a potato contain glycoalkaloids, a poison found in flowering plants called nightshades, of which a potato is one.
If you leave a potato in poor conditions (as in too moist or bright, or you just let them sit out for too long) they will begin to sprout. It’s suggested to throw these potatoes away, even if you do cut off the shoots, as the poison may be in the potato if too much time has passed.
Scientists claim that a 100-pound person would have to eat 16 ounces of a sprouted potato to get ill, which is approximately one baked potato.
3. Cashews // You’d Be Nuts to Eat This in the Wild
When you see “raw cashews” at the store, know that they are lying to you. Those “raw” cashews have been steamed to remove a chemical called urushiol, which is also found in poison ivy, if that helps paint a picture.
Consuming actual raw cashews can prove fatal, especially for people with an allergy to poison ivy. So if you ever come across cashews in nature for some reason, don’t eat them.
Depending on your sensitivity to poison ivy, as little as a handful of raw cashews could be extremely dangerous to the average consumer.
4. Red Kidney Beans // Best Avoided by the Raw Food Movement
While eating raw foods is considered healthy, some very unhealthy consequences occur when eating certain foods raw. One such food is the red kidney bean.
Red kidney beans contain toxins called lectins, which essentially kill the cells in your stomach. Not so good. The only way to enjoy red kidney beans without this harmful toxin is by preparing them just right: soaking the beans in water for at least five hours before consumption.
Otherwise, eating as much as a half a cup of raw red kidney beans can make you seriously ill.
5. Lima Beans // The Not So Magical Fruit
Red kidney beans aren’t the only dangerous bean out there. Your friendly neighborhood lima bean is not so friendly when you consider it contains a chemical compound called linamarin, which can turn into the chemical hydrogen cyanide.
Of course, you would have to eat a lot of beans to get sick, but like the other items on this list, so long as you cook and drain them thoroughly, all should be good.
6. Rhubarb // A Wrong Bite Could Send You to the Pie in the Sky
Consider this a friendly reminder to monitor how much strawberry rhubarb pie you eat this summer. Why? Well, rhubarb leaves, which you are not supposed to use in baking or cooking, contain oxalic acid, which causes kidney stones.
It would take 11 pounds of leaves to kill you, but much less than that in your rhubarb pie to make you very sick. Be smart, and stick to the stalk.
7. Elderberries // Not Just What your Father Smelled Of
While this one sounds a little exotic, elderberries are commonly used in jams, wines, and teas. All of this is surprising considering their seeds and leaves contain fatal levels of the cyanide-producing glycoside.
If the fruit is not strained correctly or is too unripe when used to make your jam or wine, you could be looking at severe nausea and potential coma, or even death.
It takes only a cup of incorrectly prepared elderberry juice, wine, or tea to result in mild sickness, but you would have to drink up to five glasses to be in life-threatening danger.
8. Cassava // The Danger Lurking in your Bubble Tea
You may not know the word cassava, but you probably know it by another name, tapioca, especially if you are a fan of boba or bubble tea. This root veggie is cultivated in South America and can be quite delicious when prepared correctly.
If prepared incorrectly or eaten raw, however, cassava has this funny little tendency to turn into hydrogen cyanide (who knew this stuff was in so many foods?).
There are two varieties of cassava, sweet and bitter, and the sweet variety is 50 times less deadly with only 20 mg of cyanide per root. But even this less dangerous version, if consumed incorrectly, has enough poison to kill an adult cow on the spot.
9. Cherries // Don’t End Up in the Pits
The pits of cherries, along with plums, peaches, and apricots, contain compounds that our bodies turn into cyanide. But those other fruits happen to have far larger pits, making them harder to accidentally swallow.
The good news is unless you crack open a cherry pit, which is hard enough as is, it is highly unlikely for you to get sick from swallowing them. This fact is good news because it would only take one or two crushed cherry pits to kill you.
10. Ackee // The Deadly National Fruit of Jamaica
This fruit, native to Jamaica, is an island favorite — in fact, the ackee is the beloved national fruit of Jamaica! However, it can become one of the world’s deadliest foods if not prepared correctly.
First of all, only the yellow parts of the ackee should be consumed, and those yellow bits have to be cooked just right for the fruit to be edible. Even more important when preparing the ackee is timing.
Eating even a bite of the fruit when it’s too ripe or not ripe enough can result in “Jamaican vomiting sickness,” which causes seizures and fatal hypoglycemia.