On the surface, some of these foods don't seem like a big threat to our health. We go through so much food on a weekly basis that it's hard to keep track of the less-obvious items out there that could make us sick if ill-prepared. When you're preparing dinner, knowing which foods are potentially harmful to us and loved ones is something that spares any sickness.

1. Kidney Beans

close up shot of red kidney beans

A hearty chili recipe just isn't complete without a can of kidney beans. They sure can make or break a recipe, but when they're on their own you really shouldn't consume them. In fact, eating raw kidney beans can be toxic and the FDA published a report stating undercooked or raw kidney beans can cause diarrhea and severe vomiting. They wrote that kidney beans contain a protein naturally present in many plants. But when it reaches high levels, namely in kidney beans, the protein potentially acts as a toxin.

To avoid this, they suggest keeping away from slow cookers when cooking as they don't get nearly hot enough to properly rid of any toxins. Instead, they say to soak the beans for at least five hours, drain them, and boil the beans in fresh water for at least half an hour.

2. Lima Beans

5 green lima beans on a white background

Kidney beans aren't the only ones on the hit list. Lima beans are detrimental to a person's health, too, if they're not cooked thoroughly. According to National Geographic, lima beans contain "cyanogenic glycosides, sugar-bound compounds that are harmless until cellular disruption---brought about by chewing---releases an enzyme that chops the molecule in two, generating deadly hydrogen cyanide."

So, suffice to say, you should always cook your lima beans thoroughly. Studies have shown that autoclaving (high-pressure steaming used to sterilize foods and tools) them for at least 20 minutes eliminates the majority of harmful properties the bean may have. Soak them overnight and rinse them 2-3 times before cooking them.

3. Castor Beans

castor beans on a blue background

We're not done with beans yet. Castor beans are particularly dangerous to consume raw. Studies have shown that these guys contain ricin, which is one of the most toxic substances as we know it. Depending on how many you eat, the results could easily be fatal (and there isn't even a known treatment for ricin poisoning).

Castor oil (which is made from extracting oil from castor bean seeds) does have some serious benefits, though, and has often been used to treat constipation and induce labor. However, to avoid the obvious ill-effects, you'll want to ensure that you never chew and swallow them, as the chewing is what releases the ricin.

4. Bitter Almonds

overhead shot of almonds in a jar

We've been told before that almonds are a superfood loaded with nutrients and vitamins. While that's true, the almonds we're thinking of are sweet almonds. Bitter almonds are a whole new ball game and when they're not cooked properly, they can kill you. Studies have shown that "a wide range of cyanide concentrations in commonly available bitter almonds." Given this fact, bitter almonds aren't really sold in North America in their raw state.

To ensure you're safely consuming them, you'll need to boil or bake them. Though, you're much better sticking with the sweet almond.

5. Potatoes

close up shot of yellow potatoes

We sure love them at dinner time, but eating raw potatoes is a bad idea. Healthline reports that potatoes contain a chemical compound called glycoalkaloids, and when it's consumed the result could be toxic for humans. Studies have shown that when humans undergo a glycoalkaloid overload, it's common to experience drowsiness, nausea, and abdominal pain. Not only that, but raw potatoes also don't pack as many nutrients as cooked ones do.

Depending on your recipe, it's best to cook your potatoes straight through to avoid any chemicals getting into your system.

6. Wild Mushrooms

wild white mushrooms

We imagine you're not plucking mushrooms right out of the ground and eating them, but it's still worth mentioning how unsafe that would be. The majority of mushrooms out there need to be cooked before eaten, though there are some that are eaten raw. Even if you see raw mushrooms on a menu or in a recipe somewhere, they should still be cooked to kill any toxins. Mushrooms do contain a natural toxin called agaritine, and it was proven to have carcinogenic effects on mice in various studies.

Mushrooms can lead to abdominal pain and gastrointestinal complications if consumed raw. Cooking times will vary on a recipe-to-recipe basis, so just make sure you're following the instructions to a tee.

7. Certain Types Of Meat

raw meat on a cutting board

This sounds obvious right off the bat, but there seems to be some confusion surrounding specific types of meat. Some people enjoy their steaks to be blue in the middle, while others prefer the tougher texture of well-done. Though beef is a meat whose doneness can be played around with, pork and chicken need to be cooked properly, period.

Eating raw pork can lead to trichinosis, an infection caused by contaminated meat. Raw chicken isn't any prettier and can lead to food poisoning or typhoid fever.

Always cook your chicken and pork thoroughly to avoid any nausea or stomach pain.

8. Raw Milk

a cup of milk on a table

Hang on, what's raw milk? Is that the kind of stuff I have every morning with breakfast? Have I been doing it all wrong?! Well, no. The milk we have in our fridges is pasteurized, which means it's been heated to kill any bacteria or harmful properties.

Raw milk is something else and it's essentially milk that hasn't been pasteurized. What this means is that if you consume it, you're likely welcoming listeria, E.coli, and salmonella, according to the CDC. In order to avoid getting a stomach ache from your milk, the CDC recommends you purchase pasteurized milk, keep your dairy products at 40 degrees F or lower, and toss out any expired dairy.

9. Elderberries

elderberries on a vine

You're not wrong in thinking that elderberries have some serious benefits. They can help with the common cold, allergies, and digestion. Though, they're poisonous to humans when consumed raw. The bark, leaves, and raw berries of an elderberry bush might cause the symptoms of autoimmune diseases to worsen. Uncooked elderberries can lead to an overactive immune system, which triggers symptoms of autoimmune diseases.

You'll want to make sure that you never eat these berries raw. Consuming them in vitamin form or after they're boiled will guarantee that you're not ingesting any harmful toxins.

10. Hot Dogs

a raw hot dog on a blue background

A common myth is that since hot dogs are pre-cooked, they're totally safe to eat raw. But, the FDA warns against doing that. They stated that certain products like hot dogs "can become contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes after they have been processed and packaged at the plant." They suggest that you always reheat your processed hot dogs in order to remove any chemicals or harmful bacteria.

Final Notes

These foods are best avoided raw as they contain potentially harmful ingredients or toxins that lead to health complications. Always cook these foods properly and thoroughly to avoid feeling sick or contracting any illnesses.

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