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Short version:

Is about 3 g nutmeg too much for a single meal?

Long version:

This evening, I prepared 2 big dishes of spinach lasagna. I like to eat rather spicy, but I overdid it a bit this time, putting about 50-60 g (bought ground).

I usually cook big quantities like today, and freeze it to eat it during the following weeks. Normally, I would do about 20-24 portions out of those 2 dishes

Taste wise, it's still good (a bit less nutmeg would probably have been optimal). However, I realized afterwards that the amount of nutmeg might start to be unhealthy (about 2.5-3 g per portion).

Is it still safe to eat my lasagna? If so, should I make sure not to eat it too often (for example: max once per day, or per X days)? Or should I in addition do smaller portions (and just plan to have a starter and desert to get enough for a full meal)? Or should I trash the whole thing?

For now, what I found was mainly information that it starts to get toxic around 5g or 10g. For now, the only "scientific" study I found is not giving much details on doses (focusing on symptoms), but report symptoms for 10 spoonfuls and for 25 g.

EDIT : I ended up making it 32 portions (I did them a bit smaller than usual, I will just eat them if not very hungry or if I have some desert in addition). So it should rather be 2-2.5g per portion. I froze them, so I can easelly let some time between portions (I was going to freeze most of it anyway, as I can't possibly eat 20+ portions alone before it spoils)

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    Isn’t 3g almost half a nutmeg seed? How does it not taste horrible with that much nutmeg in a single piece of lasagna? Especially since it will be much more concentrated in your Béchamel sauce layers.
    – Michael
    Jan 17, 2023 at 12:35
  • Yes, I think it's about half a seed (even if from what I understood, whole seeds have twice the taste). But not, it's not horrible. I eat one portion of the lasagna before starting to ask myself questions, and it was still good (even if I have to admit that a bit less would have been better). When I did the same recipe several times a few years back, I used generally about half that amount.
    – Sandro
    Jan 17, 2023 at 14:06
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    "I like to eat rather spicy, but I overdid it a bit this time, putting about 50-60 g (bought ground)." I find it hard to sympathize. Isn't that, like, an entire container? Jan 17, 2023 at 15:07
  • Yes, it's a bit more than one container (40g). When tasting the bechamel alone, it was still ok, so I supposed that once the bechamel in the lasagna, it would be fine.
    – Sandro
    Jan 17, 2023 at 16:11
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    Maybe your nutmeg was old--that would reduce the flavor (but maybe not any other physiological effects). If you want it particularly spicy it might be worthwhile to get whole nutmeg and grind it. Jan 17, 2023 at 17:02

2 Answers 2

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I think (pending a bit more digging through the literature) that for an acutely toxic dose you would need to be consuming something in the order of all of the nutmeg you put into your whole dish before you experienced the effects of consuming "too much" nutmeg. Death from nutmeg seems to be incredibly rare and usually accidental, though there are no shortage of people using it as a recreational drug.

Nutmeg contains the psychoactive compound(s) myristicin, amongst which is myristic acid. These can result in hypertension (high blood pressure) and tachycardia (fast heart rate), as well as psychosis and a range of minor symptoms. To reach these sorts of effects you (assuming you are an adult, with resultant body mass etc.), you would need to be consuming about 30-50 g in a single session, as suggested by this case report from the British Medical Journal, which states:

Some 50 g of commercially available grated nutmeg were blended into a milkshake, the patient drinking three quarters of the amount.

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    A friend of mine, who is a doctor, once told me of a case he had in his hospital work: a patient had tried to poison themselves by nutmeg. The person only had one nut, which was too little, and they survived. But the doctors judged that it was close, and two nuts might have worked. Jan 17, 2023 at 7:54
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    @phipsgabler the paper I linked says that there are only 2 cases of death from nutmeg ingestion in the literature. For what it's worth, I have been told the same story as you by various doctors and other non-medical professionals, so I suspect it is one of those urban myths. Check out this abstract at pubmed about amounts needed for intoxication.
    – bob1
    Jan 17, 2023 at 8:23
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    From SWIM's experience, I can attest that even five nutmegs (powdered) ingested together in short amount of time are not deadly by themselves to a young healthy adult without any additional conditions etc. But yes, they are definitely both intoxicating and psychoactive. I'd honestly say it's not worth it since basically makes you a dumb person for some hours, and then you vomit (not unlike alcohol). A couple of grams are basically not psychoactive or toxic any more than the alcohol in kefir or ripe fruits is.
    – user213769
    Jan 18, 2023 at 17:34
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That's really up to you and your risk tolerance. As you've correctly assessed, there aren't many studies on toxicity levels of nutmeg, particularly not of toxicity when cooked in food. As such, the 3g/serving you have could be borderline risky or completely safe and you just don't know.

Questions to ask that would help you decide this, based on studies and internet references:

  • Are you or anyone in your family pregnant?
  • Were you planning on serving this to children?
  • Is anyone in your household taking any of the drugs that interact with nutmeg?
  • Do you have any existing liver conditions?
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    To answer your questions : I will be the only one eating from it (adult in late 20s, without health issues, not pregnant, not taking any drugs, normal weight)
    – Sandro
    Jan 17, 2023 at 6:34
  • @Sandro I personally would split this meal in two parts. One meal for now, one directly into the fridge to eat the day after tomorrow (so you have one day break between nutmeg doses).
    – Hobbamok
    Jan 17, 2023 at 8:15
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    @Hobbamok : I might not have been clear enough : I have enough for about 20-30 meals, not just 2. But keeping a day between each time I eat from it seems reasonable
    – Sandro
    Jan 17, 2023 at 9:33
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    20+ portions means you're freezing them, so you can leave a longer gap than that (I would anyway, to avoid boredom)
    – Chris H
    Jan 17, 2023 at 15:26
  • Yes, I'm freezing them. So indeed, no problem for a longer gap.
    – Sandro
    Jan 18, 2023 at 8:24

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