ow this is not intended to alarm you, but some of our day-to-day natural foods in their ‘all natural’ nature do contain some potentially harming toxins embedded in them. Hence it’s important that we arm our brain cells with the knowledge of these toxins. We are not talking about food soaked in chemicals. This post is intended to let us be in the know regarding these ‘I woke up like this’ foods and their harmful sides.


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

You’ve probably been eating by-products of our dearly beloved Manihot Esculenta. Tell me you remember that botanical name please! At least it would show you took your Agric. classes serious. Its known by different other names around the world, like the manioc, or Brazilian arrowroot, tapioca or yuca especially in Spanish speaking communities (different from Yucca). We all know our beloved cassava is one of the major sources of carbohydrate especially here in the tropics, behind rice and maize. We are mostly in tune with its biggest ever by-product, Garri. We are either sipping it or using it to make ‘eba’ to gulp down our freshly prepared soups.

However our dearly beloved cassava like other tubers do contain some unwanted toxins. Hence they must be properly prepared before consumption as improper/faulty preparation may predispose our body systems to intoxication. The common anti-nutritional toxin contained in cassava is Cyanide. A fresh raw tuber bags about 20mg/kg of Hydrogen cyanide. A fatal dose for humans can be as low as 1.5mg/kg. That’s a lot of poison going into the body-especially to those who practice the art of eating unprocessed cassava tubers. This can cause acute cyanide intoxication and has been reported also to cause goiter (anterior neck swelling resulting from a hyperplastic thyroid gland, as cassava has been proven to be a goitrogen). Ingestion of unprocessed cassava has also been reported to cause some form of ataxia (lack of muscle coordination in the body). However some good news is that Vitamin B12, which is stored in substantial amounts in our liver, helps to reduce the negative effect of chronic cyanide exposure and a deficiency of this vitamin can culminate in negative health effects following cyanide exposure. Long time exposure to this toxin will result in increased levels of it in the blood that can result in above aforementioned symptoms and in addition miscarriages, mild liver and kidney damage also.

Now lets take a sneak peek into the world of Cyanide. What the hell is it?

It’s basically a “poison”. But don’t get too worried. In tolerable amounts, the body deals perfectly with it. The problem arises when it is in quantities that exceed the body’s capacity to deal with it, which is basically the same problem as with most poisons that get into the body. It is more specifically an Electron transport inhibitor in the same class as CO, Antimycin A and Rotenone. Now don’t bother your head too much about that last sentence especially if you not a scientist. Lol. What it means in simple terms is that it stops your body from making ATP (you probably would have heard of that since your High school days in Biology class). ATP is the energy currency of the body. It is the form in which the body recognizes energy. Lets call it the legal tender of energy in the body. So basically, Cyanide stops your body from producing energy from the food you take in. simple huh? I hope so.

So its important we consume properly processed cassava meals and in case you’re wondering if our beloved Garri is ok for consumption, well, yes it is. It’s gone through enough processing stress.

2. Cashews

O! How we love our cashew nuts. I could personally count a community of people that could kill for a handful of cashew nuts. But have we ever given much thought as to why a lot of energy goes into its processing? More importantly, the significance of its being roasted before its bottled and kept on our supermarket shelves?

Unprocessed cashew nuts are a health risk. This is because its shell contains a toxin that mimics the famed poison ivy, a worldwide known cause of contact dermatitis-a sort of painful allergic rash. The oily allergenic resin (anacardiol and cardol) found in its shell is largely responsible for the negative health effects of the cashew nuts. Airborne contact is also possible especially during its processing, and the inhalation of this toxin can fatally affect the lungs by causing a life threatening irritation of the respiratory tract. So roasting these nuts removes the toxin ad makes them ok for consumption. So the next time you have your cashew nut cravings, ensure its been properly processed before ingesting. Cashew nuts themselves are not the problem, but rather its shell.

3. Peanuts

Tell a Nigerian peanut and they’ll be like huh? What? Yes! Sorry to disappoint, our almighty groundnuts (as we famously call them) belong to the list. And I know this is no longer getting funny, given that groundnut is a necessary coefficient to our beloved Garri. From mild symptoms such as itchy and watery eyes, mild skin irritation, nauseating effects, endless sneezing, diarrhea, to severe ones like full-blown anaphylactic reactions, swelling and tightness of the airways, our little groundnuts could easily send us to the grave. Peanuts are one of the most common causes of food allergies. Due to lack of documented statistical data in our beloved Nigeria, its difficult to place how many people truly suffer from food allergies – I mean its understandable, we have bad roads and poor electricity to worry about than food allergies, right? S next time you get that funny feeling after popping some nuts into your alimentary canal, make sure to see an allergist (Do we even have those here in Nigeria?). For now, no cure exists for food allergies, but for now, an Epinephrine shot does a good job at controlling the resulting reactions. All the same, never judge a groundnut by its size. Uh huh!

4. Shell-fish

Now this one right here has sent more people to the emergency room than any known food worldwide. From your Lobster to crabs, oyster to shrimps, clams to scallops, these sea products can take you on a ride to the hospital. They have been known to cause in a certain degree of people fatal shock and severe septicemia. Chances are if you’ve ever reacted to one of them, you’re likely to react to all in this class. And just incase you dining out in one of those fancy Lagos restaurants where raw fresh shellfish are offered to give you that intercontinental dish feel, be extremely careful. These harbor a ton of microbes most times especially those known to thrive in brackish waters like Vibrio and the norovirus. Reactions from shellfish are almost always on the severe side. So if you feel a tingling in the mouth, diarrhea, a feel of gasping for breath, hives, lightheadedness, severe abdominal pain and vomiting, after consumption of shellfish, you most likely would be better off checking into the nearest health facility.

5. Eggs

Now you’re probably freaking out. Hey! It’s ok. I totally understand. I too for one wouldn’t have loved to see eggs make this list. Its just unfortunate we can’t ignore them either. Am sure you’ve come across some child who complained about an upset stomach, or a runny nose some minutes after consuming the lovely white round food. Chances are you have, and you probably thought they weren’t serious. More interestingly, these allergic reactions can also surface in adults. So its not a “children thing” as most of us adults would like to think. The reactions to eggs are not far fetched. The reason is embedded in the protein contained in the egg. And it doesn’t spare any part of the egg – as both the egg white and yolk are involved. So if you come to notice symptoms after consuming that fried egg and Dodo or probably after ingesting omelets, you’re more likely safer keeping away from eggs.

I’d really like to know what you guys think, so leave your comments below.

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