The potential dangers of eating cookie dough before it goes into the oven, as tempting as it is, are pretty well known. But did you know that there are actually foods that can be poisonous if eaten raw? Kidney beans and elderberries, for example, are perfectly fine—if not great—for you when cooked, but can be very harmful if consumed raw. And then there are also cruciferous vegetables that are much easier to digest, have more health benefits, and taste better if you eat them cooked. Here are 30 foods that are best consumed cooked instead of eaten raw. Also, check out The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.
Spuds are one of our favorite and most versatile foods: They can be fried, roasted, mashed, or twice-baked, but they shouldn’t be eaten raw. Uncooked and green potatoes, which should never be eaten, can contain toxic compounds called glycoalkaloids that can aggravate the digestive system. Not to mention, the taste and texture wouldn’t be so appetizing either.
The stalks of the rhubarb plant are edible, but the leaves can actually be poisonous and may lead to difficulty breathing, burning of the mouth and throat, and even seizures, according to New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Most of the time, rhubarb is sold without the leaves, but be sure to remove them if you grow it yourself.
You may have grown up being forced to eat these legumes, but you should never have one raw. Lima beans have a compound called linamarin, which breaks down into cyanide. Luckily, cooking the beans for just 10 to 20 minutes makes them completely harmless to eat.
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Another type of bean that should never be eaten raw is the red kidney bean, even more so than the white kidney bean. Just four or five of them can contain high levels of the toxin lectin, which can cause severe foodborne illness. They should be cooked for a solid half-hour, and the water should be fully drained afterward to ensure all the lectin is able to escape.
“It is never safe to eat wild mushrooms, raw or cooked, without a trained expert,” says Alexandra Oppenheimer Delvito, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., a New York-based registered dietitian. Most mushroom varieties that you’d find in a supermarket are safe to eat raw, Delvito says, but their flavor is definitely enhanced by throwing them in a pan with some spices.
It’s probably no surprise to you that eggs shouldn’t be eaten raw because of potential contamination from Salmonella bacteria. “In order to ensure any existing bacteria is killed, the egg needs to be cooked to a safe temperature, which is 145°F. If eggs are mixed with other ingredients, they should be cooked to 160°F,” Delvito says. She suggests using pasteurized eggs or egg products if a recipe calls for raw egg.
You should always pay attention to the footnotes on restaurant menus warning you against eating raw or undercooked meat and poultry, Delvito says. “Meats should be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. For ground meats, that’s 160°F. For beef or lamb steaks, roasts or chops, that’s 145°F and then allowing it to rest for three minutes. And for pork, that’s 145°F and then allowing it to rest for three minutes. Turkey and chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F,” Delvito says. “Below these temperatures, you are taking a risk.”
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Cassava is a staple in many South American and African dishes. But, like lima beans, the raw root and its leaves contain a derivative of cyanide and should be baked or roasted for optimum taste and safety.
While the berries have a reputation for fighting off colds and the flu, and even calming acne and irritated skin, their raw form can be poisonous. It’s best to thoroughly boil them before adding them to your favorite syrup or elixir, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Eggplant, before it’s cooked, has the same glycoalkaloid compound as raw potatoes do, solanine, which isn’t lethal, but it’s still not ideal to eat raw. Plus, a study from Food Chemistry showed that eggplant can have further antioxidant benefits when sautéed in olive oil, so it’s a win-win.
Pufferfish is never to be eaten raw—and it’s even a risk to eat when cooked. “The pufferfish makes a toxic compound called tetrodotoxin, which is not necessarily destroyed by heat. So the parts of the fish that contain the toxin must be carefully and thoroughly removed, making sure that none of the rest of the fish is contaminated with the toxin,” says Jennifer Dennis-Wall, PhD, lead scientific writer at Biorasi, a contract research organization. Plus, unlike in Japan, there is no training and certification process for American chefs to cook this potentially deadly fish, according to the FDA, so it’s even riskier to consume stateside.
Raw sprouts like mung bean and alfalfa can be unsafe because pathogenic bacteria can get into the seeds, even before they grow. This can be dangerous to pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems, according to the FDA.
Bitter almonds grow as a cyanogenic plant, meaning it contains cyanide. The almonds are fine once they’re cooked or roasted, but they are not safe to eat raw. The raw form of the bitter variety is actually illegal in the U.S., but it’s more prevalent in certain parts of Europe.
It’s important for milk and milk products to go through processing before they can be ingested. “Dairy products are pasteurized to kill off pathogens, and this process is very important in preventing some serious foodborne illnesses that cause infections,” Dennis-Wall says.
Honey should go through similar processes as milk to make sure it’s safe to eat. Honey is pasteurized because in its raw form, it can contain spores of a toxin called Clostridium botulinum, which can also do harm to pregnant women and children under the age of one.
In addition to the raw eggs in baking, raw flour can also make you sick, so eating that cookie dough is a double risk. Due to a 2016 E. coli outbreak, which was suspected to be from raw flour, the CDC advises that all foods that might contain uncooked flour be avoided. “Raw flour also has a higher amount of compounds called phytates or phytic acid. Phytates bind to some minerals—such as iron, zinc, and calcium—preventing them from being absorbed,” says Dennis-Wall. But if you cook the food that has the raw flour in it, you should be in the clear. “Some of the phytates may be destroyed to a degree by fermenting, which occurs when there is yeast in the bread and it is left to rise, or by soaking before cooking,” she says.
Raw green beans aren’t necessarily poisonous, as they were once thought to be, but when uncooked, they can have higher levels of the protein lectin, which is found in many beans and may cause digestive problems. Blanching green beans lowers the lectin levels significantly and is the safest way to eat them.
Uncooked rice, if you’d even be able to chew it, would not be at all safe to ingest. According to a study in the International Journal of Food Microbiology, it can contain a disease-causing bacteria. It’s usually not present in cooked rice, but can begin to form if rice is left out or not refrigerated properly after cooking, so it’s important to be safe when prepping it.
Broccoli is one veggie that there’s a nutritional benefit to cooking: If cooked properly, it can increase cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates, says Allison Knott, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.S.D., a New York City-based dietitian. “One study looked at the effect of steaming broccoli versus frying or boiling and found that steaming preserved or increased the glucosinolates, whereas frying and boiling caused the compounds to degrade significantly,” Knott says. And it may also be much easier for your digestive system to process broccoli if it’s cooked rather than consumed raw.
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This sister veggie of broccoli may also be tricky to tolerate and digest raw. Roasting or grilling it can be easier on your stomach and can bring out a delicious flavor in cauliflower. One study from the Institute of Food Technologists also found that the cauliflower lost the least minerals and essential nutrients by grilling it or baking it in the oven, as opposed to boiling.
Asparagus is one of those veggies that most likely tastes better seasoned and cooked properly, but it’s actually healthier, too. Research from the Institute of Food Technologists has found that cooking green asparagus increases its antioxidant content as compared to consuming the raw stalks.
Brussels sprouts are certainly tastier and tend to lose some of their bitterness when cooked; not to mention, they might cause less bloating and gas than they could if consumed raw. Cooking the sprouts releases a cancer-fighting compound called isothiocyanates, which may help inhibit the growth of tumors, according to Harvard University’s School of Public Health.
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Of course, a kale salad is a perfectly hearty meal or side dish, but when it comes to digestion, you might suffer. Cooking kale can help soften the fibers and aid digestion. Plus, cooked kale is better for those with thyroid disease, since its raw form can inhibit the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland, according to Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute.
Cabbage, like kale, is a member of the cruciferous family. Not only is it difficult to digest raw for some, but cooking it also brings out the vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, and folate content even further, according to Megan Ware, R.D.N., L.D.
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It’s been said for decades that one of these a day will keep the doctor away. It’s high in both antioxidants and fiber, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Some people are bothered by foods with too much fiber, which can cause gastrointestinal issues. Apples also have high fructose content. Fructose is a FODMAP, a compound that certain people might need to reduce in their diet to eliminate bloating, IBS, or other digestive problems. Peeling and cooking apples, as in apple sauce or baked apples, might make them easier to digest.
It’s more of a taste and sanitary preference to avoid eating olives right off the tree. “Olives need to be cured, as otherwise they are extremely bitter and not enjoyable to eat,” says Mike Roussell, PhD.
Raw or cooked, spinach boasts a ton of nutrients. But when steamed, you may be able to both digest it better and absorb its iron and calcium more easily, according to Consumer Reports. The oxalic acid in spinach, which usually prohibits the absorption of iron and calcium, diminishes with heat, so cooking it ultimately helps the body boost its nutrient levels.
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Research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that boiling zucchini, as compared to frying or steaming, can increase its nutrient factor. But be sure to leave the skin intact, since it’s where the zucchini’s nutrients are most plentiful.
Tomatoes are delicious fresh, cooked, baked, or roasted. But putting them in heat releases a nutrient called lycopene, an antioxidant that may improve heart health and reduce the risk for certain types of cancer. “Cooking helps break down the cell walls and this liberates nutrients like lycopene. Cooking foods generally makes them easier to digest for this same reason: breaking down the cell walls,” Roussell says.
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One of our favorite fall flavors takes on an even richer flavor when baked into breads, pies, and soups, and it may be better for you, too. While you likely wouldn’t want to eat it raw anyway, cooked pumpkin—and its winter squash relatives, like acorn, delicata, and butternut—has high levels of vitamins A and E, according to Ware.
If you’re looking to lose weight this year, we’ve got 22 Meals to Melt Belly Fat in 2022.
5 Eating Habits to Avoid to Live Like the World's Oldest People
Did you know that your longevity is only about 25% attributable to genetics? As it turns out, your lifestyle choices, including your diet, can play a massive role in how long you live. Residents of the “Blue Zones”—which include Okinawa, Sardinia, Nicoya, Icaria, and Loma Linda—are well aware of this. Because of their healthy eating habits, they have a larger population of centenarians (people over 100) than anywhere else in the world.
“Following the Blue Zones’ eating habits is a centuries-old proven method to promote longevity, connection, and energy,” says Lexi Endicott, RD and culinary nutrition specialist at To Taste Culinary Nutrition. “You can start adopting these eating principles at 2 or 92; it’s never too early or too late to make food choices that promote your long-term health. Not only do the Blue Zones eating principles help you live a longer, healthier life, but they also naturally promote a longer, healthier life for our planet, too—a double win!”
Just as you can take a cue from Blue Zone residents on what to eat, you can also take a cue from them on what not to eat. Below, registered dietitians share a few eating habits you’ll want to skip if you want to live a longer life.
It’s all too easy to go overboard on the snacks when you’re bored or distracted. For instance, if you’re watching Netflix or working at your desk and eating straight out of the bag or box, you may find that you frequently eat way more than one portion size.
“When you eat mindlessly, you are more likely to overeat, and you likely will not enjoy your food as much as you could have,” says Endicott. “In one of the Blue Zones—Okinawa, Japan—they have a practice called Hara Hachi Bu, which translates to ‘eat until you are 80% full.’ Saying this phrase before each meal reminds them to not eat too much, which allows Okinawans to tap into their body’s hunger and fullness signals. This strategy can help you, too: eating enough but not too much can keep you nourished while staving off excess pounds.”
If it helps, you may want to pre-portion out snacks to avoid mindless munching.
“Overeating can lead to obesity and further aggravate chronic conditions,” adds Blanca Garcia, RDN, a nutrition specialist for Health Canal.
Processed foods are unhealthy in not one, but two ways: they tend to be loaded with excess sugar, salt, fat, calories, and other additives, and also lacking in essential vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, water, and phytonutrients.
“High ultra-processed food intake is consistently correlated with increased risk of overweight, obesity, metabolic disorder, cancer, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and all-cause mortality,” explains Endicott. “Blue Zones residents focus on whole, natural foods that promote satiety and are packed with disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients.”
Trista Best, RD at Balance One Supplements adds that some of the worst options you can have are processed meats (bacon, pepperoni, hot dogs, etc.), salty processed snacks, sugar-sweetened beverages, and packaged sweets.
“Packaged sweets should be avoided because they contain refined carbohydrates which are inflammatory, this can dull the immune system and is detrimental to gut health,” she explains. “Salty snacks contain preservatives and salt which increase the risk of other metabolic conditions like hypertension and cholesterol. And processed meats are off-limits due to their link to cancer and heart disease risks.”
According to Dana Ellis Hunnes, RD—a senior dietitian at UCLA medical center and author of Recipe For Survival—avoiding these foods can support longevity by lowering inflammation, a well-known predictor of chronic disease and early death.
It’s not that Blue Zoners don’t drink—it’s that they do so in moderation, and they stick with polyphenol-rich wine. For example, Sardinians often enjoy a glass of Cannonau red wine with a meal. Dry reds are an excellent choice because they’re low in sugar and high in antioxidants.
In fact, a 2006 study in Nature found that reds from Sardinia and southwestern France are naturally higher in procyanidins, a type of antioxidant that’s been linked to promoting heart health. Chardonnay, Riesling, and sauvignon blanc are a few white wines with the highest antioxidant levels.
“If Blue Zone residents drink at all, it’s typically just one drink a day, and socially—not to be drunk,” explains Hunnes. “Alcohol is associated with increased risk of certain cancers, like breast and liver cancer, and early death.”
Remember: the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting alcohol intake to two drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women in order to prevent the health risks associated with alcohol.
You don’t necessarily have to go vegetarian to live a long life—in fact, many Blue Zone residents still occasionally enjoy meat, fish, eggs, and dairy in their diets. That said, according to Endicott, the vast majority of their nutrients come from plant-based foods. Blue Zone residents typically only eat about two ounces of meat five times per month, about three ounces three times per week, and about two to four eggs per week.
“They do not consume animal foods in the same way that most Americans do,” she explains. “They consume them in smaller quantities alongside lots of other plant foods. By limiting their animal protein intake, they naturally avoid excess calories, saturated fat, and other potentially carcinogenic compounds.”
Rather than getting all of your protein from animal-based products, Garcia advises leaning into protein-rich beans, lentils, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
“By increasing plant-based protein you include healthy unsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals, and cholesterol-free protein,” she adds.
Like meat, Blue Zone residents usually reserve sweets for special occasions and celebrations. They don’t eat many foods with added sweeteners and overall only consume around seven teaspoons of sugar per day. The average American consumes more than double that—about 17 teaspoons per day.
Regularly consuming excess sugar can shorten your lifespan by increasing your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. such as weight gain and obesity And added sugar isn’t just in the obvious foods like cookies and candy—it’s also hiding in many other unexpected foods like yogurts, cereals, smoothies, condiments, and even salad dressings. Make it a point to always check the nutrition label on processed foods to confirm the sugar content, and try not to exceed a max of 12 teaspoons per day. When you’re craving dessert, do like the Blue Zoners do and enjoy some fresh fiber-rich fruit, which will fill you up while satisfying that sweet tooth.
The #1 Best Vegetable to Lower Cholesterol, Says Dietitian
We get it, sometimes eating enough vegetables can be difficult. But if you skip out on veggies, you’re potentially missing out on tons of nutrients, vitamins, and health benefits.
For example, there are certain vegetables that contain heart-healthy and cholesterol-lowering nutrients. In fact, according to Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our medical expert board, carrots are some of the best veggies you can eat to help lower and manage your cholesterol levels.
“Carrots are a good source of soluble fiber, which can help reduce cholesterol levels. They are also rich in beta carotene, the vitamin A antioxidant that can protect you from chronic disease like heart disease,” says Young, “and the best part is, carrots are super versatile. You can munch on them with hummus, add them to a salad, or toast them with olive oil and garlic and enjoy them as a side dish.”
Continue reading to learn how carrots can help your heart, and for more healthy heart tips, check out Side Effects of High Cholesterol After 50.
Carrots are almost always first associated with your eye health—and for good reason. They are rich in vitamin A, which has been known to help reduce your risk of certain eye diseases. They also contain lutein, which can help lower your risk of macular degeneration. But while carrots are great for your sight, their benefits don’t stop there.
According to Harvard Health, carrots make a great snack for helping your heart and reducing cholesterol because they’re easy to eat and are loaded with fiber.
The connection between dietary fiber and cholesterol is significant. A review published in Nutrients states that both insoluble and soluble fiber has been known to help lower blood cholesterol levels, which ultimately helps in reducing one’s risk of heart disease.
Another study published in The Lancet found that eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day was known to help manage weight, blood sugar, blood pressure levels, and cholesterol.
Along with its fiber content, carrots can also provide heart-healthy benefits through its levels of beta-carotene. According to a study published in Circulation Research, beta-carotene was said to help reduce the risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and some cancers.
Lastly, carrots contain vitamin A, which experts know has some connection to your heart health. However, much more research needs to be done before we can say for certain how vitamin A can help your heart.
So, next time you’re in the mood for a quick snack and want to try roasting some yummy vegetables in the oven, try grabbing some carrots and giving your body a dose of heart-healthy nutrients.