Apples are a favorite among people the world over. They are easy to grow and taste amazing. Not just that, they are abundant in so many health benefits that they still stand true to the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” They are rich in antioxidants, which prevent oxidation – a process that causes damage to cells and results in various health problems.1
But when you bite into an apple and reach the core, you might accidentally chew on its tiny, black seeds that don’t live up to your expectations of the sweet fruit in terms of taste and benefits. They are bitter and said to be poisonous.
So, should you stay away from these bitter seeds? Research suggests that while the seeds, in fact, contain harmful components, you’ll have to properly chew on a lot of them to actually experience possible toxic effects. That said, it’s a good idea to know what makes these seeds harmful to figure out if you actually need to avoid them.
Chewed Or Crushed Apple Seeds Release Cyanide
The seeds of apple and many other fruits have a strong outer layer that is resistant to juices released in the digestive system. They contain a substance called amygdalin, which is a compound of cyanide – a deadly substance often used in chemical warfare in history, in high amounts.2
When the seeds are intact, they are harmless because amygdalin is enclosed in them; however, when you chew on the seeds, amygdalin gets released and combines with an enzyme in your body to form hydrogen cyanide, which is extremely poisonous and fatal in high doses.
Cyanide and its compounds come in the way of oxygen supply to cells and may lead to death in high doses.3 However, keep in mind that the enzymes in your body can detoxify small amounts of cyanide.
How Your Body Reacts To Cyanide
Small amounts of cyanide when consumed or inhaled can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness, and weakness. Larger amounts can cause loss of consciousness, seizures, and coma.4 Extreme cases of cyanide poisoning are likely to be fatal.
So, Are Apple Seeds Poisonous?
While the amount of amygdalin in 1 g of apple seeds is about 1–4 mg, the amount of cyanide released when the seeds are chewed on and properly crushed is considerably less.
1–2 mg of cyanide per kg is fatal for a man who weighs about 155 lbs; however, to consume that much cyanide, you’ll probably need to eat and thoroughly chew at least 200 apple seeds.5 The exact dose that could be lethal to you depends on your body weight, your tolerance, and what type of apple you ate.
So, if you end up chewing on some seeds, you are likely to just feel sick because the amount of cyanide being released is not enough to be fatal. Swallowing the seeds is unlikely to cause any symptoms either because they end up passing undigested through your digestive system.
However, it’s best to be safe and remove the seeds before you eat the fruit and spit them out if they end up in your mouth by mistake; you might just have a low tolerance for amygdalin, increasing the likelihood of cyanide poisoning. If you intend on drinking the juice, remember not to grind the seeds. This way you’re nipping possible problems in the bud.
|↑1||Wolfe, Kelly, Xianzhong Wu, and Rui Hai Liu. “Antioxidant activity of apple peels.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 51, no. 3 (2003): 609-614.|
|↑2||Lu, Yinrong, and L. Yeap Foo. “Constitution of some chemical components of apple seed.” Food chemistry 61, no. 1 (1998): 29-33.|
|↑3, ↑4||Hamel, Jillian. “A review of acute cyanide poisoning with a treatment update.” Critical care nurse 31, no. 1 (2011): 72-82.|
|↑5||Cyanides (as CN). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|