Just don’t eat a cup of them!
I am frequently asked about the safety of including apple seeds in Vitamix Recipes. It is a common internet myth that apple seeds are dangerous. Before you worry about the cyanide (it’s not arsenic) in apple seeds, you have to determine the amount of apple seeds that it takes to cause harm.
A good rule of thumb is to never eat apple seeds without eating the apple they came with. If you followed this policy, you could never eat enough apple seeds to cause harm. The only way you could get sick from eating apple seeds is if you saved up the seeds, and ate a lot of them at once (like a cup or more).
You can’t say that the cyanide in apple seeds is dangerous if you don’t know how much cyanide is in apple seeds, or what happens inside our body when only a little bit of cyanide is ingested. You can’t say “poison is poison” when referring to cyanide because the dose makes the poison. Water and salt are also poisonous in a large enough dose.
Apple Seeds contain a natural form of cyanide. So do FLAX SEEDS, Lima Beans, Apricot Pits, and Almonds. Why are apple seeds singled out as dangerous, when other foods containing cyanide are not?
Foods that contain traces of cyanide: Apple seeds, alfalfa sprouts, apricot kernels, bamboo shoots, barley, beet tops, bitter almond, blackberries, boysenberries, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, buckwheat, cashews, cherry kernels, cranberries, currants, fava beans, flax seeds, garbanzo beans, gooseberries, huckleberries, lentils, lima beans, linseed meat, loganberries, macadamia nuts, millet, millet seed, peach kernels, pecans, plum kernels, quince, raspberries, sorghum cane syrup, spinach, sprouts (alfalfa, lentil, mung bean, buckwheat, garbanzo), strawberries, walnuts, watercress, yams.
People eat these foods which contain cyanide all of the time.
I have yet to find an article on the internet that gives the MRL (Minimum Risk Level) of cyanide, and also gives the amount of cyanide in an apple seed in the same article. If I could find such an article, THEN I would take the article seriously. (By the way, I’ve searched HIGH and LOW and have never found anyone who claims that apple seeds are dangerous also include in their article the AMOUNT of cyanide in apple seeds). I’m not saying you can’t find online how much cyanide is in apple seeds, or the MRL of cyanide. I’m saying that people who write articles trying to scare you off of eating apple seeds do not give you this information.
Although I’ve yet to find the source, several places online say there are 0.6mg hydrogen cyanide per dry gram of apple seeds. Apple seeds that most people would consume are not dried, so I still don’t know how much cyanide is in the seeds of one apple. THIS is the kind of practical information you would need to know (how much cyanide is in the seeds of one apple) in order to evaluate the risk. How can you evaluate the risk, or claim there is a risk, if you don’t present the appropriate data?
Most of the articles about cyanide in apple seeds that you will find online are based on ignorance, or fear mongering.
The natural, form of cyanide found in apple seeds and other commonly eaten foods is also called amygdalin aka Laetrile aka “vitamin B17”. Cyanide does NOT Bioaccumulate – it is completely cleared out of our body through our natural detoxification pathways. There is an enzyme in normal, healthy cells called rhodanese that catches any free cyanide molecules, and renders them harmless by combining them with sulfur. This chemical reaction converts the cyanide into cyanate, which is a neutral substance. Cyanate is then passed safely through the urine.
FYI – cancer cells do not contain rhodanese. They contain beta-glucosidase, which is not found in normal cells. Beta-glucosidase is an enzyme that, instead of binding cyanide with sulfur to make it neutral, releases both the cyanide and the benzaldyhide, which destroys the cancer cell by creating a toxic synergy. This is why some people eat the kernels of Apricot Pits, or go to Mexico for Laetrile (cyanide) cancer treatments.
Therefore, “some” people believe that the cyanide in apple seeds and apricot pits is good for you, and they go out of their way to consume it (most often in the form of Apricot Kernels which contain much more cyanide than that found in apple seeds). NOTE: I am NOT saying that you should do this, or that “Laetrile” cures cancer. I am explaining why some people believe it does, or at minimum, why a few apple seeds are not going to hurt you. You could hurt yourself by eating a bag full of apricot kernels (and people have), but only education can cure ignorance, and eating a bag full of apricot pits would be a foolish move made by someone who did not do their research.
I personally don’t go out of my way to eat apple seeds. If one falls onto the cutting board I toss it. Nor do I go out of my way to dig them out of the apple core (which I DO consume for the pectin, which binds to, and pulls toxins out of our body). FYI – it would be physically impossible to kill (or even harm) yourself using apple seeds if you follow this simple rule: “eat the entire apple with the seeds”.
Remember – foods and substances that can be helpful in the correct amounts, can kill if the dose it too high. Water is vital to life, and you can kill yourself with water. The natural cyanide in apple seeds is not vital to life, but may serve some small beneficial service in the form of killing a few cancer cells as it passes through our body. If you consumed a cup of apple seeds, that would be a different story – and foolish.
It is critical that people understand “the dose makes the poison”.
Chocolate and green tea contain theobromine. A 5kg dose of theobromine can kill a human. I rarely hear anyone warning people about the toxic effects of eating chocolate, or drinking green tea. Before anyone will be able to scare me off of consuming apple seeds in my smoothies, they are going to have to tell me exactly how much cyanide is in an apple seed. I’ve been looking for that information online for years.
Here is a video explaining why Apple seeds are safe*: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjwuIQYktHQ
*NOTE: The lady who placed this video on her YouTube channel claims that Laetrile will cure cancer. I will not make this claim, but I will say that in a laboratory setting, the natural form of cyanide found in apple seeds will leave healthy cells alone, while killing cancer cells as described above.
One last way to calm any fears about eating apple seeds – Google, “how many people have died from eating apple seeds“, then Google, “how many people have died from Aspirin“. The results of your search will speak for themselves. There are beneficial properties in Aspirin, and dangerous properties in Aspirin. People still take Aspirin. The beneficial properties of Apple Seeds (there are nutrients in the seeds, not just cyanide) greatly outweigh the negative, and if the Laetrile (aka “natural cyanide”) in apples seeds kills a few cancer cells inside your body on the way through, the cyanide can also be viewed as beneficial!
By Lea Ann Savage – Copyright 2015
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