10 Foods You Shouldn’t Eat Raw
You know to avoid raw meat and eggs. But there are plenty of other foods that you definitely want to cook before eating, and some of them might surprise you.
Yes, potatoes are a tuber-iffic mealtime staple but you should try to avoid eating them raw. “Eating potatoes raw can cause bloating and undesirable gastrointestinal effects, because potatoes contain starches that are resistant to being digested,” says Lisa Davis, PhD, the chief nutrition officer at Terra’s Kitchen. (Cooking the potatoes successfully breaks down these starches.) Even worse, if raw potatoes spend a long time in a warm or damp area, they can turn green and develop a toxin called solanine. If a potato appears to have green spots on it, you should avoid eating it altogether, because the solanine could cause food poisoning-like symptoms. Here are some other foods that are bad for your digestive health.
One word: Cyanide. This root vegetable, a staple of South American cuisine, is packed with vitamins and minerals. But it’s also hiding a sneaky, potentially lethal ingredient. The leaves and roots of raw cassava contain cyanogenic glycosides, chemicals that release cyanide when eaten. Cassava is still edible, but make sure you wash it thoroughly, rinse it, peel it, and cook it before consumption.
Here’s another normally healthy food that can be hazardous if eaten the wrong way. Red kidney beans are packed with protein, fiber, and antioxidants, but eating them raw can wreak havoc on your stomach. “Uncooked kidney beans contain the toxin phytohemagglutinin, which can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal discomfort and symptoms similar to food poisoning,” says Davis. Make sure you boil kidney beans for at least ten minutes before eating them. Here are some more health benefits (and risks) of eating beans.
Meat and poultry
Raw or undercooked beef, pork, chicken and turkey are seriously risky to eat. Most raw poultry contains Campylobacter. It also may contain Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and other bacteria. Raw meat may contain Salmonella, E. coli, Yersinia, and other bacteria. The safest bet is cooking your food to these recommended temperatures.
Hot dogs aren’t the most nutritious food as it is, but eating them raw can be downright dangerous. It’s a common misconception that, since they’re pre-cooked, hot dogs can be eaten right out of the package like lunch meat. This isn’t the case at all. According to the FDA, packaged hot dogs can become contaminated with the bacteria Listeria, which can only be killed by reheating the dogs. Here are some foods you’ll want to avoid eating altogether (because nutritionists avoid them).
You might hear “raw milk” and wonder what that could possibly mean. You don’t cook milk! But raw milk is real, and it’s dangerous. Milk that comes straight from a cow, without being pasteurized, can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella. According to the FDA, raw milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illnesses than other dairy products. Plus, raw milk is actually illegal in parts of the United States, so be sure that you’re always buying pasteurized milk.
Sprouts—they’re so healthy! What could possibly be wrong with them? Well, alfalfa and radish sprouts can contain harmful bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. Sprouts are grown in warm, moist conditions where these bacteria thrive. Because of this, you should aim to buy your sprouts as fresh as possible; consider buying them locally or from a farmers’ market. And, of course, wash them and cook them.
You’ve probably heard, countless times, about the dangers of eating raw eggs and may have even been shooed away from raw brownie batter or cookie dough for that very reason. But the egg is only part of the problem; eating raw flour might be just as problematic. In recent years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified raw flour as a potential health hazard. During its journey from wheat stalk to supermarket shelf, flour may have come into contact with pathogens such as E. coli, which can only be banished by cooking. On the other hand, these are the foods you should eat raw.
Similar to kidney beans, lima beans should always be cooked thoroughly. Lima beans contain cyanogenic glycosides, a compound created to protect plants by releasing deadly hydrogen cyanide when chewed raw.
- Lisa Davis, Chief Nutrition Officer, Terra's Kitchen
- Medline Plus: "Potato plant poisoning--green tubers and sprouts"
- Federal Drug Administration: "Fact of fiction from food safety for moms to be."
- Centers for Disease Control: "Foods most likely to cause food poisoning."
- Futurity.org: "A dash of cyanide with those beans?"
- Centers for Disease Control, "Facts about cyanide."