Are there any foods that you love so much, you would be willing to die just to enjoy them? Probably not. But, then again, you may not be aware of how many everyday foods could actually kill you if you consumed too much of them. And we aren’t talking exotic puffer fish, or the leaves of a poisonous tree, or a batch of beef carrying salmonella. We’re talking about everyday food in perfectly normal condition, that could actually be lethal, if you eat just the right amount. Which ones have you eaten today?
It may surprise you to learn that one of the key spices in your pumpkin spice latte has a colorful history of being used as currency, a medicine, an antidepressant, an aphrodisiac, and as an abortifacient. It’s even been used by many over the years in their quest to become inebriated, due to nutmeg’s deliriant effects when taken in large doses. Nutmeg’s use as a recreational drug has fallen out of favor though, likely because the side effects include dizziness, dry mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and an infamous hangover. In fact, take too much nutmeg, and it just might kill you. Though death by nutmeg is extremely rare, there are two reported cases of death in which the subjects had incredibly high levels of myristicin, nutmeg’s most potent ingredient, in their bodies, indicating they had consumed about 14 grams of the spice (though there are many reported cases of people consuming far more and recovering in a matter of days.)
You may love yourself some scorching hot chili peppers, but have you ever thought about whether any of them are hot enough to kill you?
Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers and black pepper, is what gives peppers their heat. In high enough doses it can increase the body’s metabolic rate, and also causes tissue inflammation. Though a high dose could conceivably kill you, the body is far more likely to react by sweating, panting, and vomiting long before the capsaicin achieves fatal results. Sadly, it is children who have much more to fear from high levels of capsaicin. Smithsonian reported on two cases of children dying after eating or inhaling high levels of capsaicin-rich chili powder.
Death by Halloween candy? That’s the deliciously diabolical scenario the American Chemical Society pondered when they sought to determine how much Halloween candy it would take to kill an average sized adult. The answer? About 262 pieces of typical, Halloween-sized treats, or a little over five pounds of sugar. Of course, these fun-sized treats would need to be eaten all at once for the dose of sugar to potentially be toxic, as the body is only capable of breaking down a certain amount of sugar at a time. In case you were thinking of trying this theoretical test for yourself, that’s about 20,000 calories of candy you would need to consume — you are are far more likely to vomit long before you could prove the theory to be correct.
Poppy seed tea
Yet another possible killer that you’re keeping right there in your kitchen cupboard. Poppy seeds, the ones you may use to make your favorite muffins and cakes also have another, more infamous use — they’re used to make heroin and opium. While ingesting normal amounts of the seeds themselves is harmless, the danger lies for those seeking a high by using the seeds to make home-brewed poppy seed tea, which can have perilous levels of the natural morphine and codeine contained within the unwashed seeds.
According to research published in The Journal of Forensic Science, "Although some bulk poppy seeds can be more lethal than others due to the variation in morphine concentrations both between vendors and between harvest dates, it should be noted that regardless of sample, it is possible to obtain lethal doses of morphine from poppy seed tea if moderate volumes of tea are consumed."
Your grandmother may have taught you "waste not, want not" when it came to eating all the food on your plate, but when it comes to the seeds of fruits like apples, cherries, apricots, and peaches, you are best to leave the seeds on your plate.
The seeds of these fruits contain cyanogenic compounds that convert to cyanide in the body. It would take about 143 apple seeds to potentially kill the average adult, or 18 apples. At higher risk are children and pets, who could get sick from a much smaller dose. While your body can process cyanide in very small doses, you may want to think twice before running whole apples in your juicer. While swallowing the seeds whole may provide some protection, seeds that have been pulverized in a juicer or food processor are more likely to produce deadly levels of cyanide in the body.
If you thought the "cinnamon challenge" was just a light-hearted way to see your friends gag and vomit on a spoonful of powdered cinnamon, think again — cinnamon can be deadly.
Cinnamon, when consumed in large quantities, and without a liquid to accompany it, can quickly dry and coat the body’s airways, leading to coughing, choking, gagging, and throat irritation. Inhaling the powdered cinnamon can even lead to pneumonia. In 2012, during the height of the "cinnamon challenge" popularity, America’s 57 poison centers issued a warning to parents about the hazards of the trend. The dangers are even more precarious for young children, and Snopes reported on a case of a 4-year-old boy actually dying after accidentally consuming the cinnamon powder he found in his family’s kitchen.
If you’ve always hated the taste of black licorice, you have no reason to start eating it now.
It turns out that black licorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which can cause potassium levels in the body to fall, resulting in abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, swelling, and even heart failure. People over 40 are at the highest risk, particularly if they have a history of heart issues.
The FDA advises that just two ounces a day of the sweet, black candy could land an adult in the hospital. They go on to say that nobody should eat large amounts of it at a time, and that anyone who has consumed it and experienced symptoms like irregular heart rate or muscle weakness seek help immediately.