HEALTHY LIVING
10/04/2013 12:52 pm ET

7 Everyday Foods That Just Happen To Be Poisonous

Wikimedia

We don't mean to sound alarmist, but some common ingredients have the power to kill you.

Did you know, for instance, that raw lima beans contain linamarin, a compound that, when consumed, decomposes into hydrogen cyanide. We don't need to tell you that cyanide is deadly, though the good news is that cooking them for 10 minutes renders the beans safe.

Raw red kidney beans could potentially be dangerous, too. Uncooked beans contain the poison phytohaemagglutinin, which is also only neutralized by a least 10 minutes of cooking at boiling temperature. Don't cook them a degree below, though -- doing so only intensifies the poison.

But not to worry: If prepared and eaten properly, you'll get all of the benefits from these tasty ingredients (and none of the danger).

Scroll down for more ingredients that you'll want to eat correctly.

  • 7 Red Kidney Beans
    Shutterstock
    Red kidney beans contain the toxin phytohaemagglutinin and must be boiled for at least 10 minutes before consumption. But make sure the water is at boiling temperature; when cooked at temperatures below boiling, the beans' toxicity is multiplied. That means you shouldn't chuck them in the slow cooker unless you've boiled them first. Symptoms include severe nausea and vomiting, which in most cases clear up in a few hours. However, in labs, rats given a diet with only 1 percent raw kidney beans died in just two weeks.
  • 6 Nutmeg
    Shutterstock
    Don't worry, grating a bit of nutmeg over your macaroni gratin won't do you any harm. But consuming large doses could cause myristicin poisoning, which in some cases is fatal. The organic compound myristicin, found in nutmeg, can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness and hallucinations.
  • 5 Ackee
    WikiMedia:
    When unripe, Jamaica's national fruit, the ackee, contains the toxins hypoglycin A and hypoglycin B. In the body, hypoglycin is converted to methylenecyclopropyl acetic acid, which can lead to vomiting, lethargy, unconsciousness, coma and even death. In 2011, ackee killed 23 Jamaicans and sickened 194 over a period of just three months. Don't worry, ackee is totally safe when it's ripe.
  • 4 Lima Beans
    WikiMedia:
    Raw lima beans contain linamarin, which when consumed decomposes into the toxic chemical hydrogen cyanide. Fortunately for lima bean-lovers, cooking the beans for at least 10 minutes renders them safe. Unlike in other parts of the world, Lima beans sold in the U.S. are required to have relatively low cyanide levels. As a result, people don't usually die from eating raw lima beans, but it's theoretically possible if consumed in large quantities. Don't do it!
  • 3 Elderberry
    Shutterstock
    Most uncooked elderberries are poisonous; they contain glycosides that, when metabolized, are converted into cyanide. That's why elderberries are popular in jams, which require they be cooked. Elderberry poisonings are rare, but they do happen: In 1983, eight people were hospitalized with acute gastrointestinal and neurologic symptoms after downing juice made with raw elderberries. They all recovered, though.
  • 2 Bitter Almonds
    WikiMedia:
    Almonds come in two varieties: sweet and bitter. Bitter raw almonds contain substances that break down into cyanide. A 1982 study in the Western Journal of Medicine tells the cautionary tale of a 67-year-old woman who consumed raw bitter almonds and nearly died. Cooking bitter almonds neutralizes the substances. Relax, all commercially-grown almonds in the U.S. are of the "sweet" variety and pose no danger.
  • 1 Blowfish
    Shutterstock
    O.K., this technically isn't an everyday food. But people do eat it on the regular (in some parts of the world), so we think it warrants a spot on this list. Blowfish, or fugu, is famed for the highly lethal amounts of the poison tetrodotox in its organs. When improperly prepared fish is consumed, it can paralyze the muscles of the victim, who asphyxiates while totally conscious. No antidote exists. Not a great way to go.

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