Sunday, July 6, 2014

Natural Toxins in Food Plants

Dr Abe V Rotor

Arusip or lato is the most popular sea vegetable in the market.  Too much intake may cause dizziness and may have sedative effect to some. This is traced to a substance called caulerpin, named after its genus Caulerpa. The species shown is Caulerpa racemosa.  It is served fresh with sliced ripe tomato and onion.  

Food contains natural chemicals that are essential for growth and health which include carbohydrates, sugars, proteins and vitamins. But some foods contain potentially harmful natural toxins. Here are some common plants that carry natural toxins.

• Number one in the list is cassava (Manihot utilissima) yields natural cyanic acid mainly in the bark.
1. Crop should be harvested in about 6 months. Over mature tubers contain more of the toxin.
2. Avoid cassava growing along fences and borders; they are likely there for a long time.
3. Choose tubers that are freshly harvested, especially when buying in the market.
4. Remove the entire bark, and wash the tuber thoroughly. Cut into pieces and boil.
5. When the pot starts to boil, remove the cover. This allows the cyanogas to escape.
6. Well cooked cassava is generally safe, but exercise moderation especially among children.
7. Note that there are varieties of cassava which have higher cyanic acid content. Your local agriculturist and the old folks know best.

• Potato (Solanum tuberosum) contains natural toxins called glycoalkaloids The levels are usually low but higher levels are found in potato sprouts, and the peels of potato. These natural toxins are produced by the plant to counteract pests and pathogens, and stress fro ultraviolet and injury. Because glycoalkaloids are not destroyed by cooking, these are the things to do.

1. Don’t eat sprouted potato.
2. Remove any damaged part of the tuber.
3. Don’t eat cooked potatoes that still taste bitter.
4. If you come across a green potato crisp, it’s best not to eat it.
5. Store potatoes in a dark, cool and dry place.
6. Note that Solanum tuberosum belongs to the same family as tobacco – Solanaceae.

• Seeds of apples and pears, and the stony pit or kernel of apricot and peaches contain a naturally occurring substance called amygdalin. Amygdalin can turn into hydrogen cyanide in the stomach causing discomfort or illnesses. It can sometimes be fatal.

Others:

Bamboo shoots (labong) contains a certain amount of cyanic acid, similar to that in cassava. Cook well with the pot open to allow the gas to escape.


  • Nicotine in tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) is among the most poisonous substances in nature. Extract of the poison from a single stick of cigarette can instantaneously kill a person when injected into the bloodstream. Smokers die slowly of nicotine, one of the top ten causes of death in modern society, early death notwithstanding heobromin in cacao (Theobroma cacao)
  • Caffeine in coffee (Coffea spp.)
  • Capsicin in red pepper
  • Ricinin in castor bean (Ricinus communis)
  • Caulerphin in lato or ar-arusip (Caulerpha racemosa)
  • Aflatoxin is a substance produced by a fungus, Aspergillus flavus, that grows on harvested crops like corn, rice and copra that are not properly dried and stored. Aflatoxin causes cirrhosis of the liver and other related ailments. ~

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