Food Science: A brief compendium of all the ways your food can kill you

In Food Science, Dave McCowan from the University Of Chicago’s Department Of Physics answers our confounding questions about the mysterious world of food.

Before early humans began to domesticate plants for food, they foraged the wild for fruits, roots, and nuts. Through this process of discovery, it’s likely that one of our ancestors stumbled upon an almond tree and, despite finding the first few bites to be bitter, chowed down a handful of seeds. He then promptly died.

This unlucky fellow served as a lesson to his fellow gatherers that it isn’t only animals that defend themselves from attack. Nature gives us many plants that have evolved to produce pesticides, off-putting tastes, and—in extreme cases—lethal poison. Such protections ensure that the meanest plants survive to reproduce another day, and some of this toxic produce remains a part of our diet today.

The culprit in the …

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