Food & Nutrition

11 Leftovers That Can Make You Sick

Last night’s dinner can be a lifeline when you need a hot and ready lunch, but you may want to think twice before reheating these foods.

Eggs

Frying pan with tasty over easy egg on wooden tableAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

“Eggs almost always contain salmonella,” says Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., a food scientist and principal of Corvus Blue LLC, a food science and research firm. The methods commonly used to cook eggs use gentle heat for a short duration of time, which doesn’t kill the bacteria. And leaving them at room temperature for any length of time is a recipe for those bacteria to multiply to harmful levels. Plus, eggs always taste better fresh and don’t take too long to scramble, so they’re probably not a food you want to save for later.

Beets

sliced boiled beetroot on a white plateLev Kropotov/Shutterstock

Research has found that the nitric oxide in these scarlet root veggies can give your workout a boost and may help blood pressure. But those same compounds react with heat badly. “If cooked, nitrate-rich foods are not cooled properly and further reheated, the nitrates can get converted to nitrites, and then to nitrosamines, some of which are known to be carcinogenic,” Shelke says. So regularly eating reheated beets or beet products (also turnips, another nitrate-rich root veg) may up your risk for certain cancers.

Potatoes

Raw potato on wooden background. Top view.Alexeysun/Shutterstock

Spuds seem so sturdy, but even though they’re cooked hotter and longer than eggs, they suffer a similar fate when left to cool at room temperature too long. Doing so can potentially foster the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that causes botulism, says Shelke. Particularly at risk, she says, are large, foil-wrapped baked potatoes, which offer the bacteria the ideal low-oxygen environment to thrive in. Zapping them (sans foil of course) for 30 to 60 seconds cannot kill the stuff that will wreak havoc on your GI system. But cooking a raw potato in the microwave only requires a few minutes more, so when you can, go that route rather than risking it. Don’t miss the foods a food safety expert will never eat.

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