Fruits

What Fruit Seed Has The Most Cyanide?

That shiny red apple seems so wholesome and harmless, but what’s hiding inside may surprise you. Fruit seeds contain amygdalin, a compound that breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when ingested. Some seeds pack more of this poisonous punch than others. But which common fruit seed has the highest concentration of deadly cyanide?

Cyanide is an extremely toxic substance that prevents cells from utilizing oxygen. Even small doses can be fatal. Many fruit seeds contain amygdalin, a naturally occurring compound made up of cyanide bound with sugar. When the seed is chewed or crushed, enzymes break amygdalin down and release free hydrogen cyanide.

The potential for cyanide exposure deters most people from snacking on raw apple cores and apricot pits. However, trace amounts of cyanide are considered harmless. Some alternative medicine practitioners even promote amygdalin from apricot kernels as an anti-cancer supplement. But just how much cyanide is too much?

The Fruit Seed Cyanide Breakdown

Many fruits carry a tucked away dose of potential poison. It comes with the evolutionary territory. Cyanide in the seed discourages creatures from eating it, ensuring some seeds survive to germinate new plants.

It turns out natural selection has packed the biggest punch into the seeds of stone fruits in the genus Prunus. Their amygdalin content far exceeds that of other common edible fruits. But which takes gold for the most cyanide? Let’s crunch the numbers on a few common fruit seeds.

1. Bitter Almonds

Coming from the same species as the sweet almond, bitter almonds take gold for the highest levels of amygdalin and potential cyanide release. Bitter almonds contain around 50 times more amygdalin than sweet almonds. Just 3-4 raw bitter almonds may deliver a fatal dose of cyanide.

2. Apricot Pits

Apricot seeds follow closely behind almonds when it comes to amygdalin content. About 3-5 raw apricot pits provide a lethal dose of cyanide for the average adult. However, risks vary based on pit size and amygdalin concentrations, which differ between apricot varieties.

3. Peach Pits

Encased inside that fuzzy peach is a pit with potential toxicity similar to apricot seeds. Peach pits average about 60-80 milligrams of cyanide per 100 grams. So while not quite as deadly as their kernel cousins, they can still pose a risk.

4. Apple Seeds

Apple seeds make the list primarily because apples are consumed frequently. The average apple contains around 5 seeds. Each of those seeds contains around 0.6 mg of amygdalin – not enough for poisoning. But the cumulative risk of chewing and ingesting apple seeds regularly makes them potentially hazardous.

5. Cherry Pits

The pits of cherries also contain amygdalin, though in lower concentrations than their stone fruit relatives. Average concentrations are around 2-3 mg per 100 grams. Like apple seeds, toxicity comes mainly from repetitive chewing and ingestion.

Other Fruits

Many other fruits contain amygdalin in their seeds as well, but rarely in concentrations over 5 mg per 100 grams. These include plum pits, pear seeds, grape seeds and more. Ingesting a couple isn’t harmful, but the poison can accumulate with frequent consumption.

In the genus Prunus, it’s the seeds with “almond” in the name that pack the biggest toxic punch. Bitter almonds top the list, with apricot and peach pits following close behind. Even apple and cherry seeds can be dangerous in large cumulative quantities.

Enjoy Fruit Safely – Skip the Seeds

For most people, the trace levels of amygdalin from accidentally swallowing seeds while eating whole fruit are harmless. To take in a lethal dose, you’d need to deliberately eat several raw seeds.

With the exception of bitter almonds, which are banned in many countries, there’s no need to avoid fruits that contain cyanide compounds. However, some common sense fruit safety tips can keep you from unnecessarily consuming amygdalin:

  • Remove apple cores, cherry pits, and citrus seeds before eating or juicing.
  • When eating stone fruits like apricots, peaches, and plums, crack open the pits carefully. Discard the seed inside.
  • Never chew, crush, or grind fruit seeds or cores. Injured seeds release far more cyanide.
  • Keep fruit seeds away from pets and children to avoid accidental poisoning. Cyanide harms them more than adults.
  • Never consume fruit seeds that smell or taste bitter or “almond-like.” Only sweet almonds are edible.

Cyanide is nature’s way of protecting plant offspring. Luckily our bodies are resilient to small doses. With some care and common sense, fruit lovers can keep enjoying their favorite healthy treats without inviting the secret poison inside.

So crunch into that apple and enjoy the sweet flesh without worry. Just steer clear of the center and seeds for apple eating pleasure minus the risk of cyanide!

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