5 Natural Chemicals in Food You May Not Know About

Many people worry about chemicals in their food. However, there are several naturally occurring chemicals in the food we eat every single day.

Do you ever worry about chemicals in your food? Manufacturers put some chemicals in our food, but some foods also contain natural and even beneficial chemicals you may not know about.

Today, we’re diving into five natural chemicals in the food you may not know about and explaining how they affect our diets and overall well-being. Some of these chemicals may sound scary or intimidating, but they’re naturally occurring and, most often, found in levels that aren’t harmful to people.

Orange date salad with jalapenos - foods with natural chemicals that we don't need to worry about

5 Natural Chemicals in Food You May Not Know About


Lectins are proteins found in several plant-based foods, including beans, peas, and tomatoes. They bind to specific carbohydrate structures, making them essential for different biological processes.

However, consuming large amounts of lectins in their raw state may cause digestive discomfort. Cooking methods such as boiling and fermenting can reduce lectin content and improve their digestibility.


Formaldehyde, a naturally occurring chemical compound, is present in various foods, such as apples, pears, and fish. It plays a crucial role in metabolic processes and the production of certain amino acids. 

Outside of food, there are actually several practical applications of formaldehyde that we utilize every single day.

Although excessive exposure to formaldehyde may have harmful effects, the trace amounts found in food are considered safe for consumption.


Some other natural chemicals in food you may not know about are mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are naturally occurring compounds that molds and fungi produce. You can find them in grains, nuts, and coffee beans.

These natural chemicals can be detrimental to human health if consumed in high amounts, potentially leading to weakened immune systems and even cancer, in extreme cases.

To minimize the risk, storing food properly and following the guidelines for safe food-handling practices are essential.

Cyanogenic Glycosides

Cyanogenic glycosides, found in foods such as almonds, lima beans, and cassava, have the potential to release hydrogen cyanide—a toxic compound—when consumed.

The levels are generally low enough not to be harmful, but being aware of proper preparation methods is still essential.

Cooking or fermenting these foods can neutralize the cyanogenic glycosides, making them safe to consume.


Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals in plants that act as defense mechanisms against insects and diseases. You’ll find them in various fruits, vegetables, and spices, such as oranges, tomatoes, and turmeric.

Salicylates are generally harmless, but some individuals may experience sensitivity to them and experience allergic reactions or gastrointestinal issues.

Monitoring your diet and being aware of high-salicylate sources can help you manage any adverse effects.

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