how can one determine if something is edible?

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All animals are made of proteins, does that make them edible? Or can there be something inside that make them inedible?

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2 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

One useful definition of “edible” is “will this provide any nutritional value?” That is, you technically can swallow sand or wood pulp, but your body would not be able to extract any useful energy or nutrition from these substances, and they would go right through you. This definition of edible mostly depends on what the substance is made of. A good rule of thumb is that it was previously alive (so that rules out sand) and not made primarily of cellulose (which rules out wood – though many animals can digest cellulose and think that wood is delicious), it’s edible in this sense.

Another definition of “edible” is “will this hurt me if I eat it?” This is substantially trickier. Most foods will make you sick if cooked improperly or kept in the wrong conditions, and many things that seem like they should be edible (and indeed, even meet the first definition above) are actually poisonous. So long as you restrict yourself to eating things you can buy at the market or in a restaurant, you shouldn’t encounter anything poisonous. The first problem is more of a constant battle because food that is usually edible may be inedible if handled improperly. Learn safe cooking temperatures for meats and what undercooked meat looks like. Smell suspect foods and discard any that smell unusually sour or bitter.

Anonymous 0 Comments

A protein is edible if the thing eating it can digest it without consequences. How do we know if there will be consequences? From experience passed down, shared not just in the stories we tell, but also sometimes in our DNA.  

This is the whole evolutionary basis for taste – things your brain knows are edible and taste good and things your brain knows aren’t edible taste bad. Some of those you’re born with, some of them you learn from experience, and some are so dangerous they must be taught.

The other side of this is also evolution. Animals and plants evolve to become inedible to predators as a survival technique. This is the basis of poison.