Fruit seeds: when to eat them and when to avoid them

Written by: Editors

Modified on: 

Some fruit seeds are poisonous

You're eating an apple and some seeds end up in your mouth. What do you do? Is it OK to swallow them or should you spit them out? And do you have to de-seed fruit before juicing? Or can you just throw whole fruits into your juicer, without removing cores or seeds? We found out the answers to all of these questions for you.

Stone fruit

Fruit is super healthy, but some types of fruit have a hard pit in the centre that may contain poisonous compounds. Like stone fruit. Some of the most popular stone fruits include:

  • Cherries
  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines

Avocados, mangoes and dates are also classified as stone fruits. The seeds (also known as stones, pits or kernels) of stone fruits contain a compound called amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when ingested. Cyanide is a dangerous poison because it blocks the ability of cells to receive oxygen, resulting in spasm, coma or even death. But before you throw all your fruit in the bin, let’s look at this a bit more carefully. The poison is only released when you chew or grind the kernels. In very rare circumstances, ingestion can cause cyanide toxicity. But you do need to eat a lot of seeds to die. So there’s no need to call 999 if you accidentally swallow a cherry pit.

Cyanide smoothie

What if your morning routine consists of putting entire peaches and plums in the blender, seed and all? Now that’s a different story. You're actually making yourself drinking a cyanide smoothie. Apricot and almond seeds contain the highest level of cyanide. If you eat 30 grams of apricot seeds, you're in trouble. Even chewing a few cherry pits can lead to mild cyanide poisoning. Symptoms of mild poisoning include headache, increased respiratory rate, palpitations, dizziness and vomiting. Cyanogenic glycosides are also present in seeds of oranges, apples and pears but in much lower levels, so a few seeds a day won’t do you any harm. Seeds of other fruits, such as grapes, berries and strawberries, are edible.

Myths and misconceptions

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about fruit pits and whether they are safe for humans. Some people believe that the cyanide from apricot seeds can kill cancer cells or prevent cancer. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. There is no scientific evidence that shows that apricot seeds have cancer-fighting benefits. In fact, consuming large amounts of apricot seeds is associated with is a considerable risk of serious adverse effects. In addition to cyanide poisoning, ingestion also increases the risk of thyroid problems. Here’s another myth: swallowing apple, pear or melon seeds can cause appendicitis. This is also not true. If you accidentally swallow a seed, don’t worry. The seed will pass through your digestive system without causing any harm, and your body will dispose of it through regular bowel movements.

Is fruit safe to eat?

That was a lot of information! Let’s recap. Fruit is very healthy. However, seeds, pits and the stones in stone fruits are less healthy. Although ingestion should be avoided, it won't hurt you if you accidentally swallow a seed or two. Mind you, seeds and pits should never be crushed or placed in a blender for consumption. Take out pits or stones before blending and remove seeds (or the whole apple core) when apples are given to children.

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