Can you eat cherry seeds?
In this brief guide, we will provide an answer to the question, “Can you eat cherry seeds?” with a thorough analysis of cherries, what happens when you eat cherry seeds, cyanide toxicity and symptoms associated with eating cherry seeds.
Can you eat cherry seeds?
Ingesting whole cherry pits is not dangerous. However, you should always avoid eating cherry seeds because chewing on them releases a toxic compound known as hydrogen cyanide.
Unintentional biting on one or two of the seeds releases a very bitter taste. Moreover, chewing a few of them may lead to the development of seizures, headaches, and difficulty in breathing. However, the intake of one or two seeds is very unlikely to be toxic for the person consuming them.
What are cherries?
Cherries are the members of the stone family of fruits and the genus Prunus, to which pears, plums, peaches, almonds, apricots, and mangoes also belong. They come in various colours ranging from yellow to deep blackish-red with different flavours.
There are two main divisions of cherries i.e., tart and sweet cherries, scientifically known as Prunus cerasus L. and Prunus avium L., respectively. All varieties of cherries have good amounts of beneficial nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
The seed of the cherry is enveloped by a hard and stony outer shell or endocarp containing natural cyanide compounds in small amounts called cyanogenic glycosides. Other common names for cherry seeds include cherry pits and cherry stones.
What happens when you swallow cherry seeds?
Cherry seeds contain the chemical amygdalin that is a cyanogenic glycoside, a chemical that is transformed into the toxic compound called hydrogen cyanide in the body.
Hydrogen cyanide intervenes with oxygen transport in the body, thereby, potentially damaging vital organs like the lungs, heart and brain.
This is the reason why cherry seeds are unsafe to eat. However, the extent of the likely damage depends upon the quantity of cyanide consumed.
If an individual accidentally eats a cherry seed, he will be fine. The seed will pass through his body intact and will come out in the faeces.
The cyanide toxin is discharged only when the seed has been chewed or crushed. This is not possible when eating fresh cherries as the seed is too tough to be broken open.
Also, the amount of the toxin is so low, that the concentration obtained in a typical serving does not usually pose a hazard for toxicity.
You will only experience toxic effects when you consume several whole seeds of cherry. In addition, chewing the seeds will make them more dangerous for your health.
Dangers of eating cherry seeds
If in some way, you have consumed a high amount of cherry seeds, you will suffer from cyanide toxicity.
The symptoms of mild cyanide toxicity include:
- Upset stomach
- Significant anxiety
- Unpleasant taste in the mouth
In case of serious cyanide toxicity, symptoms include:
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty in breathing
- Increased blood pressure
- Kidney failure
- Choking hazard
- Coma and ultimately death
How much cyanide do cherry seeds include?
When the cherry seeds are chewed or crushed, the plant’s enzymes get into contact with the amygdalin inside the seed, which leads to the synthesis of hydrogen cyanide.
Toxic effects from cyanide in the human body may occur from 0.2 to 1.6 milligram per pound of body weight (i.e., 0.5 to 3.5 milligram per kg). That is almost equal to 30 to 240 milligrams of cyanide for an individual who weighs 150 pounds (i.e., 68 kilograms).
The seed of red cherry is considered to contain 3.9 milligrams of amygdalin per gram of cherry, while the seed of black cherry has a somewhat lower amount of 2.7 milligrams per gram. While the seed of Morello cherry contains a high level of amygdalin i.e., 65 mg per gram.
Cherry seeds can produce around 0.01 to 1.1 milligrams of cyanide in our body, depending on the amount eaten. Eating just 3 to 4 seeds of the Morello cherry or 7 to 9 seeds of red or black cherries may result in cyanide toxicity.
The nutritional profile of cherries
Cherries are rich in nutrients that provide various health benefits. One cup ( i.e., 154 grams) serving of sweet, raw, whole cherries provides
- Calories: 97
- Fibre: 3 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Carbohydrates: 25 grams
- Potassium: 10% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 18% of the DV
- Manganese: 5% of the DV
- Copper: 5% of the DV
In addition to these nutrients, cherries also contain a good amount of B vitamins, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, and copper.
Vitamin C helps in maintaining the immune system and skin tone.
Whereas, potassium helps in nerve function, muscle contraction, regulation of blood pressure, and several other important body processes.
Cherries are also rich in fibre, which helps to maintain a healthy digestive system by feeding beneficial gut microflora and improving bowel movements.
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In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat cherry seeds?” with a thorough analysis of cherries, what happens when you eat cherry seeds, cyanide toxicity and symptoms associated with eating cherry seeds.