The world of fruit is filled with such an amazing variety of colors and succulent flavors, it’s hard to resist a good piece of fruit. This might be why it’s so hard to believe that some of these fruits could be dangerous and potentially harm you. Here are the Top 10 Fruits That Can Kill!
OK – first things first, almonds are not really nuts, but rather, they are drupes, a stone fruit. Now that that’s out of the way, many people might be surprised to see one of the most popular snacks in the world on a list of foods that could potentially poison you. The humble almond actually contains cyanide, and the amount depends on whether it is a sweet or bitter almond or whether it’s consumed raw or soaked and roasted. Even the typical sweet almonds you find at the supermarket contain trace amounts of cyanide, only not enough to poison, But their cousin, the bitter almond, is considered unsafe to eat and were banned from cultivation in the US until recently since they can lead to cyanide poisoning. But don’t freak out next time you’re face to face with a bag of almonds at the supermarket: you would have to eat about fifteen hundred almonds in one sitting to start feeling sick, and most people would probably get sick of the taste before that happens. Cyanide works rapidly, so you would know pretty fast if you were poisoned. Dizziness, nausea, rapid heart rate, and heavy breathing might be the first signs you should take a breather from that bag of almonds you’ve been snacking on all day. And overall, the health benefits of almonds are well-documented and well outweigh any potential risks, so feel free to snack away without fear.
Winterberries look pretty enough, and the bright red color makes them look like so many other types of edible berries consumed by people. But, don’t be fooled by their beauty; winterberries are known to be dangerous for humans. Found throughout the eastern USA, winterberries are a great food for certain wildlife immune to its toxins. Humans, however, should take note before trying one of these berries. They contain an alkaloid, which acts much like caffeine, and though people might be tempted to switch their coffee for a winterberry when discovering the similarity, the effects can be adverse and lead to a high pulse rate, nausea, dizziness, and low blood pressure. Eating massive quantities of this plant can also lead to potential fatalities, much like people who ingest too much caffeine, which can lead to heart attacks and palpitations. Children especially, and those who are not as tolerant to caffeine as adults, should avoid eating these pretty-looking berries. Thankfully, its reputation is well known, and landscapers generally keep these plants out of reach from kids, dogs, or anybody who might be susceptible to the harmful effects of the winterberry. So, think twice before deciding to clip some of these berries to put in a pie.
Something so common as a cherry can’t be dangerous – can it? Well, it’s never so simple when it comes to fruit. Even if many people throughout the world have enjoyed cherries on their own, cooked into pies, or made into jams and compotes, there’s a reason everybody spits out the pits. It’s because our ancestors probably tried to eat them and then became violently sick afterward. The stone found inside the cherries is toxic to humans and many animals, so try not to gnaw on the pit after eating the delicious cherry. If the stone is chewed or bit into, it produces hydrogen cyanide, a poison typically found within many of these dangerous fruits. So, if you find yourself accidentally munching on the whole cherry, you might want to stop immediately, especially if you start feeling dizzy, sick, or confused – the first signs of cyanide poisoning. And if you dare to ramp up the number of pits eaten, it can lead to shortness of breath, increased blood pressure, and eventually death. Yes, that amazing-looking cherry in your grandma’s pie might actually kill you, but don’t let it take away from indulging in a big nice slice of every now and then, as long as it’s made properly. It’s firmly believed that cherry pies are among the best things for the human soul, possibly ever. While lapsing into a food coma after eating a whole pie is not as dangerous as munching on the pits, it’s probably not the best idea either.
7. Yellow Star Fruit
Star fruit is fairly common these days in supermarkets and have plenty of nutritional benefits to write home about. They are high in fiber and vitamin C, low in calories, and the reasonable amount of sugar inside of them is balanced out with the acidity, making it a semi-tart, healthy fruit. You can even enjoy the skin of these star-shaped delicacies. But, they can also cause issues for some, especially if you suffer from kidney problems. The star fruit has a high amount of oxalates, which, while not the most dangerous thing on this list, can lead to kidney damage and kidney stones. If your kidneys are already in a less than perfect state, eating too much of this fruit can cause seizures and even death in some rare cases. So, while it might be unusual to consult a doctor before choosing which fruit to buy on your usual grocery run, in the case of Yellow Star Fruit, it might be a good idea to make sure your body can handle it before indulging. The fruit is otherwise quite popular around Asia, South America, Micronesia, and the Caribbean and is cultivated in tropical regions of the world, which is why you might find them in the exotic fruit section of your local grocer. But there’s nothing adventurous or exotic about getting unwanted kidney stones, so it’s important to beware of this fruit if you have certain pre-existing conditions.
6. Elderberry Plant
Elderberry juice is considered by some to be a magical elixir and a fountain of youth full of antioxidants. However, the plant itself is also quite poisonous, as it contains a cyanide-inducing glycoside in the roots, stems, leaves, and seeds. If you consume enough of it, cyanide can build up slowly in the bloodstream and can lead to horrific symptoms such as vomiting and eventually death. Though most people who consume elderberry don’t munch on the stems and leaves, the poison also exists in the berries, which humans do consume pretty regularly. But, if the berry is cooked through and properly, at a certain regulated temperature, the poison can be eliminated and then can be adapted and used for a variety of different recipes. In ancient times, the Elderberry had many medicinal and homeopathic uses; it has a history of being used to treat fever and rheumatism. The Egyptians even used it as an anti-aging face mask and used it to heal burned skin. Today, it is found as a natural supplement, used to treat cold and flu symptoms, or as a sweet ingredient in pies, chutney, jams, and to make elderberry wine. They are also generally considered nutritious – just make sure you know what you’re doing when preparing them and follow your old camp counselor’s advice. Don’t just eat whatever berry you see hanging from a tree or plant – just because it looks delicious doesn’t mean it’s totally edible!
5. Apricot Kernel
Apricots are beloved worldwide, but very few people know that located deep within the fruit is a dangerous and poisonous kernel. By deep inside the fruit, we mean even further than the pit. To get to the poison kernel, one has to break into the pit and extract the small kernel inside, which looks somewhat like an almond. These kernels are the source of the poison, which, when ingested by humans, releases a substance called Amygdalin which is converted into cyanide in the body and can kill you quickly if enough of them are eaten. Nobody really bothers trying to eat the pit of an apricot, let alone breaking it open to extract the kernel, so they do not come with warnings exactly. The problem, though, arises because of the kernel’s other reputation. Pseudo-scientists have claimed that the kernel can cure disease and has many other medicinal benefits. There are countries where the seeds are commonly eaten as they’re often marketed as an alternative, homeopathic medicine, even though research has not proven any such benefits. The US started to ban the import and sale of Amygdalin, as did the EU, so the dangers have been diminished – for now – as plenty of misinformation about this kernel propagates online. In the case of the apricot – just stick to the apricot flesh. It’s delicious enough without having to go out of your way to hammer through to the pit and potentially harm yourself!
4. European Spindle
The European Spindle is a tree found commonly throughout Europe, often in places where people walk or hike, like alongside roads and in forests. The berries found on it are quite attractive, causing many people to think that they are edible, and they munch on them as a pick-me-up. But this is a really bad idea. The spindle is filled with many poisons, specifically glycoside poisons, which can cause terrible side effects like uncontrollable vomiting, dizziness, hallucinations, kidney failure, and ultimately death. The symptoms also take a long time to present themselves, which means many people who ingest the berries unwittingly are not aware that they ate the berries in the first place. But, like many toxic plants, other uses were found for it. It has also been used as an oil to treat parasites, lice, and ticks. So, there is a versatility to be found in many of these fruits, which, yes, can cause harm but also help in certain situations, as long as they are handled correctly.
3. Pangium Edule Plant
Otherwise known as ‘football fruit,’ the Pangium Edule plant develops hunky brown fruit, which is used in many Southeast Asian dishes. But like many of these other fruits, we have to wonder how many people accidentally poisoned themselves before figuring out that they needed to treat the fruit in a certain way before consuming it. In the case of Pangium Edule, the leaves and seeds contain a high amount of gynocardin, a glucoside that forms the toxin known as prussic acid, otherwise known as hydrogen cyanide. However, the toxic element can be eliminated with the correct treatment. Washing, soaking, or roasting prior to consumption can decrease the toxin, rendering it edible. If treated correctly, even the previously toxic seeds can be consumed without worry. The plant is mainly distributed throughout Indonesia, though it is becoming rarer and rarer, especially in the regions of Java and Sumatra, where it is thought to originate from. And despite its notorious reputation as a poisoner, the plant has many herbal medicinal benefits too and is used widely throughout Indonesia for health purposes. Oil made from the seeds is used as a disinfectant and even for food storage and preservation. The edible portions of the plant are highly nutritious and considered a great source of vitamin C and iron. So, a takeaway might be that, sometimes, even the dangerous plants have their benefits!
2. Ackee Fruit
The Blighia Sapida, also known as the ackee or ankye fruit, belongs to the same family of fruit as the lychee and is the national fruit of Jamaica. It is renowned for being delicious and unique to look at, but it also comes with a warning. The Ackee fruit can kill you if not prepared or ripened properly and has been known to cause the terror-inducing ‘Jamaican Vomiting Sickness’. Ouch, that doesn’t sound fun. The fruit contains the toxin hypoglycin A and hypoglycin B, also known as ‘soapberry toxins,’ and the poison resides mainly in the seeds and arils. The toxins vary depending on the time of year the fruit is picked and how much sun exposure it has had, but it’s a fruit that you wouldn’t want to risk eating incorrectly. You never really know if what you’re eating will have a lethal dose, but it’s especially toxic when the fruit is unripe. Otherwise, nothing should deter you from trying this delicious fruit, as they are found in some of the best Jamaican, Caribbean, and West African cuisine. The heartwood from the tree is even used for construction. Plus, it’s so fragrant; it’s also used in popular colognes and laundering agents. Talk about a dangerous but versatile fruit!
Manchineel’s dangerous origins come built into the name, as it’s more commonly known as Poison Guava. In fact, the Manchineel tree this Guava comes from is so dangerous and poisonous that it is not recommended that you touch, eat, or even inhale the air around it. Yes, it has the unfortunate reputation of being America’s deadliest tree. It’s particularly dangerous because the tree and the fruit look so benign and edible and totally beautiful. However, munching on one would be a terrible idea. So terrible that Spanish explorers called it la manzanilla de la Muerte, which translates to ‘the little apple of death”. It’s one of the rare fruits on this list that have not only deadly seeds and flesh, but the entire plant it derives from is just as deadly. And it’s not a quick death either. Blisters develop around the mouth as breathing labors: it’s slow going if you become poisoned by one of these little green monsters. Much of this comes from the phorbol found within the sap, an irritant, as well as many other toxins, which, when combined, can be lethal. There have been accounts of people unwittingly eating the fruit, and although described as sweet and delicious, the accidental taste-testers spent many hours with their throats burning and found it very hard to swallow or breathe. And don’t even try to rub your eyes to brush the tears away – if your fingers have just touched the fruit, you’re likely to blind yourself too. So, this is one fruit you don’t even want to try to mess with – just avoid it altogether, or else!