When people say “food can kill you,” they usually mean it in the abstract sense that a poorly balanced diet can contribute to disease. Not here. We’re taking on foods that can kill you, and we mean actually kill you. As in dead. Today.

It’s a terrifying but thrilling prospect to take your own life in your hands in order to fulfill your foodie dreams. But it’s one so many of us are willing to do. Check out these killer foods whose naturally occurring chemical compounds, in the right doses, can be as lethal as they are tasty—but don’t say you weren’t warned.

Rhubarb Leaves

Rhubarb stalks are what go in pies. Rhubarb leaves… not so much. The leaves contain oxalic acid in high concentrations. Oxalic acid is the stuff in bleach. It’s also the stuff used to remove rust. Eat a little bit of it and your mouth, throat, and stomach will burn. Eat too much (an amount you can’t ever be sure of, and which differs from person to person) and you will suffer convulsions, then death. It’s one case where you can refuse to eat your greens.

Cherry Pits

Cherry pits can kill you. If you’re thinking “hey, I’ve eaten cherries whole, and I’m still here” there’s an explanation for that. See, it’s what’s inside the pits that can kill you. The pits contain cyanogenic compounds. That means if you open up and crush the pit, you’ve got cyanide. Luckily, they’re pretty hard to break open. You’ll break your teeth if you try. Still, since it only takes one or two pits to kill you, it’s better not to take the risk.


You can’t get fresh ackee in the US, and for good reason. If you don’t let the fruit ripen long enough before you eat it, it will kill you. Both the fruit and the seeds contain hypoglycin A and hypoglycin B, toxins responsible for causing Ackee Fruit Toxicity or Jamaican Vomiting Sickness. Good to know in case you’re ever vacationing on the island and get curious about the local fruits.

Castor Beans

If you eat a handful of castor beans, the ones used to make castor oil, you won’t live to tell about it. The beans contain ricin, which is incredibly toxic to humans. When it’s pressed into castor oil, manufacturers have to take special precautions to make sure none of the ricin seeps in. Otherwise, many of your cosmetics and lotions would be killing you. This is one bean that is not a musical fruit.


We don’t eat wild elderberries! It’s something our grandparents and scout leaders drilled into us. If you knew to skip them but never knew why, it’s because there’s a good change eating them will make you sick, if not kill you. The glycosides in the stems, leaves, and juice turn into cyanide in the digestive tract. And then it’s “hello darkness my old friend…” Better to stick with trail mix.

Bitter Almonds

We eat sweet almonds, here, so no need to panic if you’ve been wolfing them down all afternoon. But if you were to eat a raw, wild, bitter almond, you’d probably get an upset stomach. Eat about 50 of them, and it’s curtains. A child can die after eating as few as five. When in doubt, stick to the ones in the packaging and you won’t go astray.

Lima Beans

Remember when you told your parents you’d die if they made you eat your lima beans? Well, you were kind of right! Lima beans are actually pretty dangerous. If you eat raw lima beans, or drink the water they were soaked or cooked in, you could consume enough hydrogen cyanide to do you in. Good to know, considering lima beans are pretty common.


A few years back, high school students got the idea that downing nutmeg would get you high. What it actually got them was myristicin poisoning, which, in their defense can cause hallucinations. Unfortunately, at that level, it’s also often fatal. A sprinkle here and there is totally fine. It’s when you start having tablespoon after tablespoon on one go that you need to worry.


While we’re on the subject of dumb things people do for entertainment, remember the cinnamon challenge? Or maybe you remember when Poison Control shut it down? Eating cinnamon isn’t dangerous. When you eat it in huge quantities, like in the cinnamon challenge, you’re bound to inhale it, and that’s when danger strikes. Cinnamon in your lungs is bad, and it can cause enough inflammation to cut off your air supply. Not worth your life for YouTube views, that’s for sure.

Peanuts and Shellfish

You won’t necessarily die from eating peanuts and shellfish. Or will you? Actually you might. Here’s why. People who are allergic to these foods often have violent reactions – violent enough to cause death if not treated immediately. Not allergic? You’re still not safe because you can develop an allergy at any time. One day you could be eating peanuts like it ain’t no thang, and the next day, you could pop some in your mouth and go into anaphylaxis. That’s scary stuff.

So what do you think? Are you game for trying some of these deadly foods?