Cyanide, Arsenic, and Other Toxins in Fruit: Apple Seeds, Peach Pits, Cherry Pits, etc.: Facts, Mythes and Old Wive's Tales. Find Out ther Truth!
This month's notes: February 2016: Strawberries and blueberries each have a very brief season; don't miss them: See your state's crop availability calendar for more specific dates of upcoming crops. And see our guide to local fruit and vegetable festivals, such as strawberry festivals and blueberry festivals. Organic farms are identified in green! Also make your own ice cream - see How to make ice cream and ice cream making equipment and manuals. Have fun, eat healthier and better tasting, and save money by picking your own locally grown fruit and vegetables, and then using our easy canning and freezing directions
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With the popularity of juicers and food grinders, some people seem to think that grinding up entire fruit (skin, seeds, pits, stems and all) is somehow healthier than tradition methods. This is not always the case. Some parts of some fruit are not only unpleasant to eat, they can even be dangerous. Here are the facts about toxic parts of fruit.
Apple and crabapple seeds contain amygdalin, a cyanide and sugar compound
that degrades into hydrogen cyanide (HCN) when metabolized. Cyanide itself
is a poison that kills by denying blood the ability to carry oxygen and
thereby causes its victims to die. It's not an urban legend that apple seeds
contain cyanide; even
Snopes.com has an
article about it.
Apple seeds also have a tough protective coating seals the amygdalin inside, unless the seeds are crushed, chewed or otherwise ground up. Whole apple seeds have hard, durable shells that allow them to pass intact through the digestive systems of people and animals.
The National Institute of Health says:
"The edible portions of dietary plant species commonly used in the United States contain relatively low levels of cyanogen glycosides, although some pits and seeds of common fruits, apple, apricot, peach, contain significantly higher concentrations."
But don't worry: It would take a bushel's worth of ground up apple's seeds (about 1 cup of seeds) to create enough cyanide to poison someone. Grinding apples and pressing them for apple juice or apple cider wouldn't release enough cyanide to be a problem. Neither does cooking apples and straining them to make a sauce. Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D. Assistant Director PG Research Foundation in Darien, Illinois says "About the only way you can actually ruin into a problem with the toxicity of apple seeds is if you save the seeds from about a bushel of apples and eat them all at once."
Still, I don't think I would intentionally group up the seeds and include them in foods.
Cherry, peach, and apricot pits, on the other hand, also contain amygdalin, a form of cyanide. Peach and apricot have it in potentially harmful amounts. Of course, few people intentionally swallow or chew them. This NY Times article explains more.
- Centers for Disease Control - Facts about Cyanide/a>
- AMA Handbook of Poisonous & Injurious Plants by Dr. K. F. Lampe & M. A. McCann, Chicago, IL 1985.
- FDA website
- Nutrition Facts Label.
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