Eat mindfully but also knowledgeably or you could end up eating your way into an early grave – and it won’t be from downing too many pies.

RELATED: Ultra-processed foods and plant-based meats

Chia seeds

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Chia pudding? A delicious, nutritious way to start the day. Chia-speckled smoothie? Pass us one for our midday slump. Chia sprinkled on salad? You may be playing with fire. A spoonful of chia chased by water? Whoa, whoa, whoa – those tiny superseeds could kill ya.

Turns out, when eaten dry, this low-carb, high-fibre, protein-rich food can obstruct your oesophagus owing to the seeds’ ability to absorb several times their dry weight in water. For safe eating, first soak your chia in water (or your smoothie, milk or milk alternative) for at least 10 minutes in order to bring out that clear, gel-like texture.

Brown rice

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Photo credit: Rob & Dani

Recently cleared your cupboards of the white variety in a conscious bid towards healthier-eating choices? Not to rain on your pious parade, but brown rice has been found to be teeming with the poison popular in old crime novels: arsenic. Sounds crazy and paranoid, right? Wrong.

Rice in general has traces of arsenic that are absorbed from pesticides in the soil, but the processing of white rice removes much of the arsenic that is soaked into the outer layers of the grain. However, brown rice retains more of the toxic substance. Brown rice certainly has a desirable nutritional profile, but you shouldn’t live on it – in fact, the FDA advises us not to consume it more than twice a week, as well as telling us to cook brown rice in six times the normal amount of water in order to reduce the arsenic levels in half.

Brazil nuts

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Shall we start with the plain ol‘ shocking? Brazil nuts can kill you. Just one Brazil nut contains twice the recommended daily amount of selenium our body requires and a selenium overdose can have some very unpleasant side effects. But… Brazil nuts are also good for you. Wait, what?

Well, the good news is that these big, buttery nuts are full of protein, fibre and magnesium, and remember what we were saying about selenium? Well, the body needs it and Brazil nuts have it in spades. A good, solid dose of selenium can give you glossy hair, glowing skin, increased brain function and a boosted metabolism. But don’t go mad snacking on them like they’re salty peanuts because the age-old adage of moderation certainly applies with this nut; too much selenium can be toxic and cause brittle nails, make you lose your hair and experience fatigue and nausea – and, yes, even cause death.

The recommendation is to have no more than two Brazil nuts a day, so don’t go putting a bowl of these on your desk and then start munching away mindlessly. Despite their beneficial properties they really have some powerfully hazardous ones too. You’re not the only one worried, they even sell testing kits on Amazon!

RELATED: Granola recipe with Brazil nuts for the adventurous

Star fruit

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Juicy, tempting and a potentially deadly addition to your fruit platter (we’re not even exaggerating).

If you have perfectly functioning kidneys, worry not and eat star fruit to your heart’s content. But if you do suffer from any kidney problems, steer very clear of this symmetrically shaped fruit – for star fruit holds a neurotoxin that other fruits do not. It can affect the brain and nerves but is filtered out by the kidneys. When this toxin is not screened out, it can lead to nausea, vomiting, confusion, coma and even death. The poison can have an effect from eating as little as one star fruit, and treatment is problematic as scientists don’t yet know exactly which toxin is responsible for the reaction.

RELATED: The plant-based backlash

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Originally published October 12, 2017

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