7 Foods You Should Never Eat Raw

by | Updated: March 27th, 2019 | Read time: 4 minutes

Ever thought about eating raw? The raw food diet is popping up more and more. You may have seen items like raw juices and raw dairy products. When reviewing both cooked and raw fruits and vegetables, studies have shown that plant-based diets can reduce body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and diabetes markers (14). It’s true that raw vegetables can be part of a well-balanced, plant-based diet. But before you jump the gun on going raw, read up on these seven potentially poisonous foods that cause harm if eaten uncooked…or if eaten at all.

Rhubarb Leaves on Wood: One of 7 Poisonous Foods if Eating Raw | Vitacost.com/blog

1. Potatoes

Potatoes contain a natural pesticide, solanine. The typical amount of solanine in a potato isn’t enough to do any harm. However when potatoes are exposed to light, they may turn green, indicating that the solanine content has multiplied. Eating a green potato can lead to headache, nausea, vomiting and digestive issues. It’s one thing to eat and drink more greens, but you can pass on green potatoes. To help keep solanine content low, store potatoes in a cool, dark place. (1, 2, 3, 4)

2. Rhubarb Leaves

The rhubarb stalk can be consumed without any hesitation. Its leaves, on the other hand, contain high levels of oxalic acid. Too much oxalic acid can decrease bone growth and lead to kidney stones, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and even a coma. Unfortunately, cooking doesn’t reduce the amount of oxalic acid. So when you want to enjoy some rhubarb pie or rhubarb jam, just stick to the stalk. (4)

3. Elderberries

These fully ripened little berries pack a powerful nutrition punch, but steer clear of their leaves, twigs and un-ripened fruits. Within the foliage surrounding the ripe berries are alkaloids and glucosides that can produce hydrocyanic acid (yes, cyanide).  On one occasion recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), elderberry juice that was made by pressing ripe berries along with their twigs and leaves gave eight people nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and weakness. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy elderberries on a raw-foods diet. Just be sure the berries are fully ripened and that you’re ONLY eating the fruit of the elderberry plant. (5,6 7)

4. Raw Red Kidney Beans

Fully cooked red kidney beans are a great vegetarian protein and full of fiber. Eating them raw or undercooked, however, could leave you with extreme nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Raw red kidney beans contain toxic levels of a type of lectin called phytohaemagglutinin. Dry beans should be soaked in water for at least five hours, and then boiled in fresh water for at least 30 minutes before they are safe to eat. If you don’t have that kind of time, low-sodium canned kidney beans are a great, non-toxic replacement. (8)

5. Apple Seeds

Wait, doesn’t an apple a day keep the doctor away? Well, it’s certainly helpful. The apple skin and flesh is low in calories and full of vitamin C and fiber. If you’re eating apple seeds though, you may want to keep that doc a little closer. Chewing the cyanogenic glycosides in those apple seeds can produce cyanide (yet, again). It would take more than one apple’s worth of seeds to do any harm, but it’s best to avoid cyanide whenever possible. (4)

6. Raw Milk

Milk will always stand as a great source of calcium and protein. The majority of milk in grocery stores has been pasteurized, meaning it has been heated to kill harmful bacteria, such as listeria, salmonella and E.coli. A trending type of milk, raw milk, is animal milk that has not been pasteurized. Since raw milk still contains these harmful bacteria, the CDC has found that it’s 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness outbreaks than pasteurized milk – 150 times!

Studies analyzed by the FDA have found that raw milk has no beneficial effect on lactose intolerance, osteoporosis, asthma and allergies, nor does it have any immune health benefit when compared to its pasteurized counterpart. Diarrhea, abdominal cramping and vomiting are only the mild symptoms of a raw milk foodborne illness. Moral of the story: pasteurized milk is a safe choice. (9, 10, 11)

7. Raw Lima Beans

As if their reputation wasn’t bad enough, chomping on some raw lima beans can release their hydrocyanic acid (cyanide, again). The natural cyanogenic glycosides that can form cyanide in plants, such as lima beans, act as part of the plant’s natural defense system from predators. Fortunately, cooking lima beans allows you to get all the fiber, vitamins and minerals they have to offer without worrying about their little plot to poison.