Poison Ivy Make You Itchy? You Might Need to Avoid These 3 Foods

We're itching just thinking about it.

We've all heard the helpful rhyme, "leaves of three, leave them be," but if you're highly sensitive to poison ivy, you might have to do more than just watch where you put your hand or leg when you're outside. Several foods from the same Anacardiaceae family may cause a reaction in those who are extra sensitive to the rash-inducing plant. Keep reading to find out which foods are related to poison ivy and how you can know if they're problematic for you.

Foods From the Poison Ivy Family

Cashews, mangos, and pistachios are edible cousins to the poison ivy plant. Each of these foods can potentially contain urushiol, an oily substance that's present in the plants, and is often released when touched (like poison ivy) or bruised (pistachio, cashew, mango, or poison ivy.)

Urushiol is found in the shells of cashews and pistachios. That's why you'll never see cashews sold in-shell, and both types of nuts are typically roasted before packaging. The "raw" cashews you purchase are actually steamed, in an effort to destroy the oily substance.

Urushiol is present in the skin of some mangoes, particularly around the stem area. Because of this, it's recommended you thoroughly wash a mango by using mildly warm water and a scrub brush before carefully peeling.

Sumac, the popular Middle Eastern spice, is also technically part of the Anacardiaceae family, but the type of sumac that's eaten is free of urushiol. Only poisonous sumac contains the oily substance.

close up of poison ivy
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What Happens If You Consume Urushiol

How you react to urushiol exposure depends on two factors: your sensitivity to urushiol and how concentrated the urushiol was.

For skin contact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, the majority of people who touch urushiol get a rash, just like if you were exposed to poison ivy. If you've managed to handle or eat a food that contains the oily substance, such as improperly treated nuts or an unwashed mango, you may experience a mild to severe rash.

Cashews and pistachios are often handled and treated in a way to remove as much urushiol as possible before they're packaged and sold. Mangoes may be rinsed if you're purchasing in a grocery store, but if you're buying directly from a grower, you should assume the fruit needs to be washed before preparing.

Are These Foods Safe to Eat?

Only your doctor can truly tell you whether foods from the Anacardiaceae family are safe for you individually. But the majority of consumers, barring allergies, have no issue when eating cashews, pistachios, or mangos. If you're extra sensitive to poison ivy, such as requiring weeks of steroid use to combat a rash, then you may want to avoid these particular foods, or be extra careful when preparing them.

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