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20 Foods You Shouldn’t Eat Raw

With the raw food diet trend going strong, we wonder if all food should be consumed this way. Turns out, this is not the case. In fact, some food is actually bad for our health if it’s not processed or cooked first. There are some foods that may be consumed raw but caution ought to be taken while doing so.

Bright Side thinks that we ought to know which foods should not be eaten raw so that we can do justice to both the food and our body.

1. Milk

Fresh milk is believed to be the best kind of milk for the body, but fresh does not mean straight from the cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, or camel. Raw milk, or unpasteurized milk, can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or kill you. It can also cause serious infections, like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli. Studies by the CDC show that outbreaks from raw milk continue to threaten people’s health.

2. Kale

It is common knowledge that kale is one of the world’s healthiest foods. However, eating a very large amount of raw kale could lead to hormonal irregularities that lead to fluctuations in blood sugar, weight, and overall metabolic health. You could experience a swelling of the thyroid or a goiter as a result.

3. Eggs

Though eating raw eggs is more common in countries like Japan and Korea, it was popularized by a scene in Rocky where the boxer drank raw eggs. A myth that raw eggs are a healthier option than cooked eggs is debunked by a small study which found that the absorption of protein is higher in cooked eggs (90%) than in raw eggs (50%). There have been outbreaks of salmonella infections due to contaminated egg shells. Even so, you can still eat Hollandaise sauce as long as you use pasteurized eggs, says The US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

4. Almonds

Almonds make a nutritious snack, offering a bounty of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. However, commonly thought of as nuts, these seeds also contain naturally occurring cyanide — the very ingredient often used in Agatha Christie’s books as murder “weapon.” Eating as little as 4 to 5 bitter almonds could cause light-headedness, nausea, and abdominal cramping, according to a case study. While these raw bitter almonds are illegal in America, they are still legal in some countries.

5. Elderberries

Elderberries contain antioxidants, and are believed to relieve colds, fight the flu, and boost the immune system. But eating or drinking raw elderberries or another toxic part of the plant can lead to nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and stupor, according to a report. Luckily, the toxic substances found in the berries can be safely removed by cooking them.

6. Flour

Eating a spoonful of raw dough or batter, especially if it is cookie dough, is hard to resist, but not only would you be at risk of getting a salmonella infection because of the raw egg, you might also be at risk due to the E. coli in flour. In 2016, an outbreak of E. coli infections linked to raw flour made 63 people sick. Since the bacteria are killed when food made with flour is cooked, you need to control your urges until the oven kills the bacteria for you.

7. Brussels sprouts

Moms like to say, “Eat your Brussels sprouts!” for good reasons — they are high in nutrients and rich in antioxidants. While Brussels sprouts can be eaten raw and should not be overcooked, they should not be eaten raw if you suffer from hypothyroidism since they are one of the possible toxicants in thyroid dysfunction.

8. Apples

They say “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but the tragic downfall of Snow White was a bite from an apple. Granted Snow White’s apple was poisonous, and yours likely aren’t, but care needs to be taken when biting into raw apples. Accidentally chewing on apple seeds which contain amygdalin will release cyanide. Although you might need to consume about 40 apple cores to receive a fatal dose, the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) says that even a small amount of cyanide can be dangerous and advises against eating apple seeds.

9. Cashew nuts

Cashew nuts are not only a delicious snack, but they reduce bad cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart attack, and help maintain a healthy weight. Raw cashews, though, contain urushiol, a toxic substance found in poison ivy which comes from the same botanical family as the cashew nut tree. Just touching it can trigger a skin reaction in some people.

10. Tuna

When you think about sushi or ahi poke, you look forward to eating the freshest of raw tuna. While you can eat raw tuna, you might face the risk of a foodborne illness if the raw tuna was not kept away from raw meats or other raw fish. Raw tuna also has a very high mercury content, which can have toxic effects on cardiovascular and central nervous systems. A study also found that the amount of bioaccessible mercury was 40-60% lower in cooked fish, than in raw fish.

11. Sprouts

Sprouts are one of the easiest plants to grow and they are rich in nutrients. Consuming raw sprouts, however, could cause food poisoning with symptoms like stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting appearing 1-8 days after eating the sprouts. Raw or lightly cooked sprouts have led to outbreaks of foodborne illness.

12. Tomatoes

Although tomatoes can be eaten raw, a study by Cornell University scientists showed that the antioxidant activity of cooked tomatoes is higher than in uncooked tomatoes. This suggests that to get more benefits out of tomatoes, they should be cooked before eating. Tomatoes ranked number 10 as one of the vegetables with pesticide residue, so they should be washed first. The stems, leaves, and unripe tomatoes are poisonous and should not be eaten.

13. Lima beans

Lima beans contain linamarin, which produces cyanide when consumed raw. Fortunately, when cooked, the cyanide level is reduced until the lima beans become safe to eat. In America, the lima beans that are sold in stores are required to have low cyanide levels, but in some countries there is no such requirement.

14. Potatoes

It might not be common to eat raw potatoes, but kids might bite into them like apples. Potatoes contain antinutrients which can interfere with your body’s digestion and absorption of nutrients. Cooking potatoes can reduce lectin, one of the antinutrients by 50%-60%. Glycoalkaloids in potatoes can cause drowsiness, itchiness, increased sensitivity, and digestive issues in high amounts and can be reduced by peeling and cooking the potatoes.

15. Chicken

There’s a reason why Gordon Ramsay flipped every time he was served raw chicken — it’s poisonous. Unlike beef, eating raw chicken can result in serious illnesses because it contains salmonella, campylobacter, or both, which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. A study noted that poultry was the most common food in outbreaks during 1998-2012. The CDC says that chicken should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F.

16. Mushrooms

Raw mushrooms contain agaritine which has a cancerous effect in the bladder of mice. While it appears that the risk to humans is much lower, at about 2 cases per 100,000 lives, to get the nutrients from mushrooms that could reduce the risk of cancer, it is best to first cook the mushrooms. Cooking mushrooms can also decrease the mercury contamination of a mushroom meal.

17. Red kidney beans

Kidney beans contain toxins called Phytohemagglutinin (kidney bean lectin) which may cause diarrhea, acute gastroenteritis, severe nausea, and vomiting after eating as few as 4 or 5 raw red kidney beans. The FDA says that red kidney beans that have been soaked for 5 hours should be boiled for at least 10 minutes to be safe for consumption.

18. Rhubarb leaves

You can technically eat rhubarb raw, as long as you leave the leaves out of the picture. While rhubarb stalk is nutritious and was used for medicinal purposes in ancient China, its leaves are poisonous and should not be eaten raw or cooked. They contain oxalic acid which may cause diarrhea, red-colored urine, nausea, and vomiting.

19. Olive

Unlike most foods in this article, olives should not be eaten raw because they are inedible, not because they can make you sick or kill you. Raw olives are extremely bitter and if you made the mistake of picking one and popping it straight into your mouth when walking amongst the olive trees in Tuscany, chances are you would just gag and spit it out.

20. Honey

Raw honey may contain spores of the bacteria Clostridium botulinum which is especially harmful to babies, children under the age of one, and pregnant women. It may cause botulism poisoning with side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Consequently this may cause life-threatening paralysis.

Do you consume any of these foods raw? Are there any other raw foods not on this list that are hazardous to our health?