Some celebrities swear by a raw food diet, and it’s certainly true that consuming fresh veggies like carrots, broccoli, and cucumbers is way better than snacking on processed potato chips. But that doesn’t mean you should eat everything raw.
Certain foods need to be cooked to taste good, while others can be dangerous when they’re consumed raw. Keep this list handy the next time you’re prepping a salad or planning a raw food diet. These are the foods you should always cook before eating.
Lots of veggies taste delicious raw, but you’re unlikely to find slices of uncooked potato in your crudité tray. That’s because raw potatoes contain a toxic compound called solanine, which could make you very sick.
Most potatoes don’t have enough solanine to kill a human, but green potatoes or any that are starting to sprout have high solanine content, which can cause symptoms including stomach pain, headache, and paralysis. You should avoid green potatoes even when they’re cooked for this reason.
At the very least, consuming raw potatoes causes severe gas and bloating — and they don’t even taste good. Try roasting, mashing, boiling, or frying your potatoes for a delicious starch that won’t poison you.
Next: The fruit is fine; the seeds are not.
2. Pits or seeds of apples, mangos, peaches, pears, and apricots
An apple seed or two won’t kill you, but eating these fruit parts on a regular basis just might.
The fruit seeds and pits of apples, mangos, peaches, pears, and apricots contain a chemical known as amygdalin, which can turn into cyanide. And while you’d need to ingest tons of them to suffer the effects of poisoning, it’s best to avoid consumption when you can.
Next: The leaves of this root will poison you.
3. Rhubarb leaves
Rhubarb root is poisonous when raw. The leaves are incredibly dangerous no matter what.
Rhubarb leaves contain a toxin called oxalic acid which can cause serious kidney damage or even death. Symptoms of the poisoning include difficulty breathing, burning in your mouth or throat, nausea, vomiting, eye pain, stomach pain, and red urine. A small amount can make you very ill and eating ten pounds will almost certainly kill you.
Next: Skip these on your salad.
Uncooked sprouts can host a whole crop of potentially harmful bacteria, including salmonella, E. coli, and listeria. You should always purchase sprouts from places you trust, and anyone with compromised immune systems, such as pregnant women, children, and elderly folks, should avoid sprouts to be on the safe side.
Next: This fiber-packed root can cause kidney stones.
The taro root has more fiber than a potato and also has plenty of potassium, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin E, and trace minerals. They’re considered a superfood starch — but don’t eat them raw.
Taro contains the compound calcium oxalate, which makes your mouth feel numb when you eat it and can even make you feel like you’re choking if you consume too much. It can also cause kidney stones.
Cooking taro reduces the occurrence of this compound and turns taro into an edible, nutritious treat. Just be sure to wear gloves when you’re handling this root raw, as it can irritate your skin when you touch it.
Next: This veggie contains cyanide when you eat it raw.
You may know cassava by one of its aliases; this popular vegetable also goes by the name arrowroot, manioc, tapioca, kassave, mandioca, and yuca (though it’s not the same as yucca, which you can’t eat). But no matter what you call it, don’t eat this veggie raw.
This South American plant grows in humid climates and provides tons of essential nutrients. But uncooked cassava also has compounds that turn into hydrogen cyanide inside your body. Frighteningly, this interferes with your body’s ability to use oxygen and can cause you to literally drown on dry land.
You can eat the root and leaves of the cassava so long as you cook them properly. Peel the cassava and make your own healthier version of potato chips or fries or boil them like potatoes. The leaves can also be boiled and enjoyed as a side dish.
Next: This looks like spinach, but you should never eat it raw.
This Mexican shrub’s leaves have a similar taste and nutritional value as spinach, but unlike spinach, it’s very dangerous to consume raw.
Hydrogen cyanide lurks in chaya, which can cause death by oxygen deprivation if you consume too much. To prepare this leafy treat, simply boil the leaves for at least 20 minutes and don’t inhale the fumes or steam.
One important note: don’t use an aluminum pan to prepare your chaya. This unfortunate combination causes explosive diarrhea.
Next: Walter White would love these beans raw.
8. Castor beans
Castor oil can be used for a variety of medical reasons, like easing constipation or even inducing labor. And while it’s fine to consume castor oil, you should never, ever eat raw castor beans.
Castor beans contain high concentrations of a harmful lectin called ricin — the same ricin poison you may remember from the show Breaking Bad. It’s easy to distill ricin from castor beans. In fact, a Texas actress tried to poison President Obama and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg with castor beans in 2013.
Even cooked castor beans aren’t considered safe to eat. The oil is safe because ricin is water soluble, so it won’t stay in the processed castor oil as long as it’s prepared properly.
Next: This protein source shouldn’t be eaten raw.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein, but swallowing them whole (and raw) like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast won’t do you any favors — and it could make you sick.
It’s the same refrain you’ve heard in the kitchen since you were little: eating unbaked cookie dough that has raw eggs in it could give you salmonella, which is responsible for around a million cases of food poisoning every year. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stool, chills, and fever,
There’s some debate over whether raw eggs are safe to eat or not. It’s true that people with compromised immune systems — including children, pregnant women, and the elderly — are more likely to contract the disease. But still, it seems safer to cook eggs before consuming, just in case.
Next: These taste terrible when they’re raw.
Plucking a raw olive from a tree and eating it won’t hurt you, but you probably won’t love the taste of it.
Unprocessed olives contain high concentrations of oleuropein, which makes them taste bitter. It turns out that oleuropein has some heart and brain health benefits and the only food-based source of it seems to be olives. Still, rather than suffering through raw olives, you can just buy the supplements to reap all the potential benefits.
Next: The poisonous versions of these are identical to the safe ones.
11. Wild mushrooms
Mushrooms are tricky — while some wild varieties can be consumed raw, others are poisonous or can cause gastrointestinal distress if they’re not properly prepared. And it’s not a gamble worth making, because the poisonous ones could kill you.
Cooking mushrooms breaks down the harmful compounds and makes most mushrooms edible for consumption.
Next: This meat can kill you if it’s not properly prepared.
There’s a good reason you should never order your pork “rare.”
Pork carries two parasites: trichinosis and pork tapeworm. The former can live in your small intestines after you eat tainted meat, causing a whole host of issues like nausea and vomiting to start. After about a week, the parasites will reproduce and disperse their babies into your bloodstream, causing muscle pain or pinkeye. Severe cases of trichinosis can even lead to death.
Other meats that harbor this parasite include raw bear, cougar, wolf, fox, and walrus. So take caution when you’re dining on these raw meats out in the wild.
Next: A subtle distinction can mean the difference between life and death.
13. Bitter almonds
Fans of almonds, take note: you don’t want to mistake bitter and sweet varieties.
Bitter almonds are more popular in Europe, but you can still find them in some specialty grocery stores such as Whole Foods. Like many other dangerous raw foods, they contain enough hydrogen cyanide to prove problematic.
Kids who eat too many raw bitter almonds could potentially die. Adults are more likely to experience symptoms like dizziness, headache, vomiting, and convulsions, depending on how many they eat. If you like chowing down on raw nuts, stick to the sweet variety, and leave the bitter almonds to the professional chefs.
Next: Prepare these correctly to avoid getting sick.
14. Kidney beans
Raw beans contain lectins which can make you sick when you don’t cook them properly. Phytohenagglutinin — the lectin found in red kidney beans — can be harmful in high doses. The more you eat, the more likely you are to suffer gastrointestinal issues like nausea and vomiting. Eat too many and you could even wind up in the hospital.
But it’s an easy enough problem to solve. Simply soak your kidney beans for at least five hours and then boil them on the stove to avoid poisoning symptoms.
Next: This trendy raw pick isn’t worth the risk.
15. Raw milk
Unpasteurized milk is trendy, especially among those seeking a more natural diet. But raw milk could make you very sick.
Pasteurization kills bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, and listeria and it doesn’t reduce the milk’s nutritional value. And since children are the most likely to get sick from drinking raw milk, it seems safest to leave this trend behind and always choose pasteurized milk instead.
Read more: The Most Deadly Foods People Actually Eat
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