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I've not been paying much attention to what I ate, but now I have just become a vegetarian and want to try eating much more raw foods.

I know that in many fruit and vegetables, most of the important nutrients are found in the peel or directly below it; however, it is also commonly known that for example the green of tomatoes contains a poison and must be removed before consumption.

I'd like to know what other fruit and vegetables contain potentially bad substances when eaten whole and raw (or put in a blender etc.), and what to look out for.

Also, many people remove the skin of mushrooms before eating them; is this actually advisable?

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If green tomatoes were toxic, there would be a whole lot of dead people in the south (including me). –  baka Oct 20 '11 at 11:42
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The OP said "the green of tomatoes", not green tomatoes... I think he's referring to the leaves and stems, which has at least some truth to it. –  Flimzy Oct 20 '11 at 11:45
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I think parsnips vs carrots is another example. As a child I was told that parsnip peels contain a higher concentration of carcinogen so you have to peel them, but carrot peels are ok to eat raw, its just preference to peel them. –  Manako Oct 20 '11 at 15:45
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@Felix: I thought people just cut them out because they're tough, and unpleasant to chew. I don't bother removing them with smaller tomatoes. –  baka Oct 20 '11 at 20:33
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There's actually nothing wrong with using the leaves from tomatoes, if added at the end of cooking they return the fresh flavour of uncooked tomatoes that is lost through heat. The 'toxic' chemical in tomatoes passes through your system undigested and actually binds to cholesterol and brings that with it when excreted: nytimes.com/2009/07/29/dining/29curi.html?pagewanted=all –  Stefano Oct 20 '11 at 22:40
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2 Answers

In my experience, whether or not you peel a fruit or vegetable has more to do with how easy it is to digest than any level of toxins. If you're going into the realm of herbs, however, then you need to be more careful, as some are quite potent. But as long as we're sticking to fruits and veggies, here's my advice, and it's pretty simple:

Clearly things like melons, and corn don't have edible peels, simply because their outer layer is too difficult for us to masticate, and then digest... Things like citrus peels can be digested, but not when they're raw. They need to be pickled, cooked (think of marmalade) or turned into a zest. When it comes to soft, thin peels, like apples, pears and kiwi, it's more of a personal preference. Some don't like the feel of a furry kiwi slice going down, but I don't mind it, so I slice it right into my cereal.

In the realm of veggies... Yes, stems are great for you. If it's really difficult to chew it, it's not going to be broken down enough for your stomach to handle it, and extract anything useful from it. Ex: Broccoli stems - they'll benefit even from some light steaming, and they're GREAT for you. But raw? Rather difficult. The florets however are a classic raw snack. That's my general guideline. Same with artichokes. They need some kind of cooking in order to be digested. But carrots? Kale? Celery? Simple chewing pulls them apart enough to make the extraction of nutrients easy for the body.

Hope that helps!

Mindy

P.S. A great tip for raw kale - not everyone likes the consistency of raw kale because you have to chew it for soooo long. BUT, if you massage it with a bit of lemon juice, and a touch of olive oil until it softens, and the color brightens (5 minutes or less), it's easier to chew, very tasty, and you haven't cooked any of the nutrients out of it!

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Most of what you have stated as "commonly known" is not commonly known and/or probably false

Many things "commonly known" as poisonous are not very poisonous, and it is usually excessive consumption of one item that makes you sick (yes there are some very poisonous plants, but most markets don't stock them in their poisonous state).

The skin of most fruit and vegetables is "dead", just like human skin. Can't imagine it is better than the interior? Your parents probably made you eat the skin/crust etc. to gain some control and satisfaction (a simple battle to win).

There is often more to be concerned with how the food was grown, and how clean it is before you eat it. Bacteria and other pathogens may have been transferred to it during transport or at a busy market (snotty kids with grubby hands). Hence peeling and/or cooking can be a good idea!

E.g. Commercial mushrooms have often been cited as needing peeling because they grow in crap, but in many mushrooms farms the soil is quite sterile. A quick rinse is all that is required to remove any dust etc. (also, they do not soak up water, another popular myth)

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The only thing I have stated as "commonly known" is that the green of tomatoes contains a poison. Well, it's a nightshade plant and they all contain Solanin, which is indeed poisonous. ...Also, my parents didn't make me eat the skin of any vegetable, how did you get the idea? Please read my question more carefully. –  Felix Dombek Oct 20 '11 at 9:53
    
Many varieties (maybe not all) of mushrooms will soak up water, if left in water for an extended period of time. A quick spray / shake or pat dry won't water-log them, which I assume is what you're referring to. –  Joe Oct 20 '11 at 20:48
    
Solanin comes from potatoes, the chemical in tomatoes is tomatin and it's not really toxic. nytimes.com/2009/07/29/dining/29curi.html?pagewanted=all –  Stefano Oct 20 '11 at 22:41
    
@Felix_Dombek I read you question very carefully, green tomatoes (in my country) contain a "poison" but it does not effect us, so is it poisonous? The paragraph about peel contained the word "probably", it's a "commonly known" that most parents force their children to eat the skins etc :-) In summary there is no such thing as "commonly known" and most "facts" about the health benefits of fruit and vege and their components are just barrows pushed by people with agendas! –  TFD Oct 21 '11 at 21:27
    
@Joe Yes, why would you put any vegetable under water for any length of time? You just need to quickly rinse it. Anyway some tests on common mushrooms show they only absorb less than 10% by weight anyway! –  TFD Oct 21 '11 at 21:28
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