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: August 2014: Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries tomatoes, corn and most vegetables are being picked in most places; strawberries are finishing or done; Peaches are in and early apples have started. Find a local blueberry festival and blueberry picking tips here. See how easy it is to make strawberry jam or strawberry-rhubarb jam! Make your own homemade strawberry ice cream including low fat, low sugar and other flavors))  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.


Cyanide in Apple Seeds, Cherry Pits, Peach Pits and Apricot Pits

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.

Other references:


Picking Tips

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