Humans are one of the few creatures on this planet who have the capability of ignoring our basic survival instinct. We jump out of perfectly good airplanes — something that still sets off alarms in the most veteran skydivers — and we push ourselves to the edge of death and back with physical demands on our bodies that defy reason with activities like ultra-marathons in the desert, living in microgravity, and setting the world record for holding one’s breath under water.
Yet as contradictory as it sounds, testing these limits is probably what makes us feel the most human or the most attuned to nature and our own potential — particularly when it comes to soaring above the skies, jumping eight feet in the air… and eating the most bizarre, even dangerous, dishes set in front of us on the dinner table.
What are some of the deadliest foods the world has ever seen? Poisonous or harmful by design, not accident, and something that has us questioning our sanity when we choose to take a bite?
1. Fruit Seeds
Like apples, cherry pits contain a type of hydrogen cyanide called prussic acid. Don’t go eating a cup of ground pits, or peach and apricot pits for that matter.
Rhubarb leaves contain oxalic acid, which causes kidney stones. It’ll take 11 pounds of leaves to be fatal, but much less to make you seriously ill.
Nutmeg is actually a hallucinogenic. Yes, you can trip on it, but it’s said that eating just 0.2 oz of nutmeg could lead to convulsions, and 0.3 oz could lead to seizures. Eating one whole will supposedly lead to a type of “nutmeg psychosis,” which includes a sense of impending doom.
Glycoalkaloids, also found in nightshade, can be found in the leaves, stems, and sprouts of potatoes. It can also build up in the potato if it’s left too long, especially in the light. Eating glycoalkaloids will lead to cramping, diarrhea, confused headaches, or even coma and death. It’s said that just 3 to 6 mg per kilogram of body weight could be fatal. Avoid potatoes with a greenish tinge.
There are two variations of almonds, sweet almonds and bitter almonds. The bitter ones supposedly contain relatively large amounts of hydrogen cyanide. It’s said that even eating just 7 – 10 raw bitter almonds can cause problems for adults, and could be fatal for children.
6. Raw Honey
Because it doesn’t go through the pasteurization process in which harmful toxins are killed, unpasteurized honey often contains grayanotoxin. That can lead to dizziness, weakness, excessive sweating, nausea, and vomiting that last for 24 hours. Typically just one tablespoon of concentrated grayanotoxin can cause the symptoms above. Consuming multiple tablespoons would be a bad idea.
The stems and leaves of tomatoes contain alkali poisons that can cause stomach agitation. Unripe green tomatoes have been said to have the same effect. You would need to consume vast quantities for it to be fatal. Not exactly high-risk, but you might avoid eating tomato leaves.
The danger in tuna is the mercury that the fish absorbs. Once in your body, mercury will either pass through your kidneys, or travel to your brain and supposedly drive you insane. The FDA recommends children and pregnant women do not consume tuna at all. While it’s unlikely that eating a massive amount of tuna in one sitting will kill you, it’s a good idea to monitor your weekly intake. Click here to visit the Environmental Working Group’s tuna calculator to see how much is recommended.
The leaves and roots of cassava are surprisingly rich in cyanide. By this point, we may as well wish cyanide were the most delicious, sumptuous substance on the planet if we had to die to enjoy a bite… there is not much in the way of flavor, though. Cassava is a tropical vegetable originally from South America, but has gained popularity in Africa, particularly for its juice, which can be fermented to produce a drink called piwarry.
Raw cashews you might find in a supermarket are not actually raw, as they’ve been steamed to remove the urushiol, a chemical also found in poison ivy. This chemical can cause the same effect as poison ivy, or poison oak. High levels of urushiol can supposedly prove fatal. People who are allergic to poison ivy are likely to have a fatal allergic reaction to eating actual raw cashews.