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- Although there are some foods that are perfectly fine to eat raw, there are other foods that experts warn you should avoid.
- Pumpkin seeds in their shells are hard to digest.
- Raw flour in cookie dough and cake batter can give you food poisoning.
- Raw eggplant can cause an allergic reaction.
Some foods are safe to eat raw. For example, carrots can be consumed right out of the bag, and butternut squash and spinach can be tossed into smoothies. Other foods, however, should never be eaten raw because they can be difficult to digest or contain toxins that can make you sick.
INSIDER has compiled a list of 16 foods you should never eat raw.
Raw potatoes can irritate your gastrointestinal system.
Potatoes are starches that, when eaten raw, can cause bloating and other gastrointestinal issues, Gabby Geerts, a registered dietitian at Green Chef, told INSIDER. Raw potatoes can also develop dangerous toxins when stored in warm places. Therefore, potatoes should be cooked in order to break down the difficult starches and make them easier to digest.
Raw oysters can be dangerous for those with compromised immune systems.
“While not an immediate and definite cause of toxicity, raw oysters are a high risk of foodborne illness food,” Moren told INSIDER. According to Moreno, anyone at risk for immunosuppression, pregnant women, and young children should not eat raw oysters under any circumstances.
Drinking unpasteurized milk can be dangerous to your health.
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Raw milk has not been sterilized, which means there’s a chance it contains E. coli or salmonella, “typically from the cow’s udders,” Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, told INSIDER.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1993 through 2012, there were 1,909 illnesses and 144 hospitalizations linked to raw milk consumption. Though typically milk you buy in a store has been sterilized with heat to kill harmful pathogens and other bacteria, some states allow the sale of unpasteurized bottles, so make sure you’re aware of what you’re buying.
Eating raw flour in any capacity can make you sick.
Glatter told INSIDER that consuming raw flour – including the raw flour mixed into cookie dough or cake batter – can potentially make you sick by upsetting your stomach.
“Uncooked flour in the dough or batter could contain E. coli, which if not baked under high temperatures, may lead to nausea vomiting or diarrhea,” he said.
Eating raw kidney beans can lead to symptoms similar to food poisoning.
Raw kidney beans contain the substance phytohemagglutinin, which is a toxic plant protein especially found in red kidney beans. Consuming phytohemagglutinin can lead to “nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,” or a combination of the three otherwise known as “gastroenteritis,” aka the stomach flu, Glatter explained.
Bitter almonds can be deadly despite their remedial reputation.
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Glatter told INSIDER that while bitter almonds have been said to treat coughs, muscle spasms, and/or general pain, there are no concrete studies to suggest this, so you’re better off taking these claims as folklore.
“Uncooked or unprocessed bitter almonds contain hydrocyanic acid, which if ingested in high enough quantities could be toxic and potentially deadly,” he said. “As few as seven-10 bitter almonds could potentially be lethal in a child, and 12-70 have been reported to be deadly in an adult.”
Raw eggplant can cause a number of issues.
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According to the Permaculture Research Institute, one raw eggplant contains roughly 11 milligrams of solanine, an alkaloid that in larger quantities can be toxic.
Although you’d have to eat a significant amount of raw eggplant for the effects to be lethal, Glatter said eating raw eggplant can still lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Glatter said “to avoid any risk,” he highly suggests cooking it well.
Hot dogs should always be cooked through before eating.
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While hot dogs are typically pre-cooked, it’s in your best interest to cook them through once more before eating.
“[Pre-cooked hot dogs] can still harbor listeria, which can only be killed by heat,” Glatter said. Therefore, “it’s best to thoroughly cook them to avoid any possibility of food poisoning.”
Consuming raw or undercooked poultry can lead to food poisoning.
There are two main types of bacteria that put you at a high risk of food poisoning from poultry meats: campylobacter and salmonella.
“These bacteria typically contaminate fresh poultry during slaughtering,” Glatter explained. If present, they’ll stay present until they are cooked as the heating process generally kills the bacteria.
Lima beans should also never be consumed raw.
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Like kidney beans, lima beans should always be thoroughly cooked before consumption.
While kidney beans contain traces of phytohemagglutinin, lima beans contain cyanogenic glycosides, or natural plant toxins, which are meant to protect the plants “by releasing a deadly chemical when chewed raw,” Geerts told INSIDER. As a result, when eaten in large quantities, lima beans can be deadly.
Raw mushrooms are hard to digest properly.
Mushrooms contain a compound called chitin, which is very difficult for the body to digest. Chitin is broken down in the cooking process, enabling digestion and nutrient absorption.
Raw green beans can cause stomach issues.
While raw green beans aren’t necessarily poisonous, Geerts pointed out that, when uncooked, “they can contain higher levels of lectin,” a protein that binds into sugar.
Lectin can cause digestive issues, however, if you blanch green beans – boil them followed by submerging them in cold water – Geerts said you can make them safer to consume by lowering the level of lectin.
Raw eggs can carry salmonella.
“In order to ensure the [salmonella bacteria] has been killed, eggs need to be cooked to a safe temperature (145 degrees F),” Geerts told INSIDER. “If a recipe calls for raw egg, use pasteurized eggs or an egg product.”
Raw yuca can cause food poisoning.
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Steven Segar, one of Thumbtack’s highest-rated chefs, told INSIDER growing up in Latin America, he learned from a young age that yuca needs to be cooked through before eating it because the plant contains traces of cyanide.
“More specifically, yuca contains chemicals that will release cyanide when consumed raw,” Segar explained. “Although the potency is not strong enough to kill you, it can make you very sick and is especially harmful to children and some animals.”
Sprouts can be swarming with bacteria.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, bacteria can seep into the seeds of sprouts before they’ve even grown to fruition. If this occurs, the bacteria can be very difficult to wash out and can cause illness if eaten.
The Center from Disease Control reported that from November 26, 2015 to April 7, 2016, 26 people across 12 states contracted salmonella in connection with alfalfa sprouts. As a result, some restaurants have made sprouts optional or eliminated them entirely. After an outbreak linked to sprouts in 2012, Jimmy John’s officially took the topping of its menu. Today it’s available as an optional topping at select locations.