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As the title says, are there any races in the Star Trek universe whose dietary requirements are different enough, that they couldn't survive on the foods from another world, or where such food may even be toxic to them?

The best I've found is the TNG episode where Dr. Pulaski takes a counter-agent to be able to share the Klingon tea ceremony with Worf. However, she also notes that this tea is not too healthy to Klingons either.

In DS9, Ben Sisko is seen drinking Raktajino, which someone (I don't remember who) also refers to as Klingon coffee, on several occasions. In one episode of DS9, O'Brien is seen buying a jumja stick, a Bajoran lollipop, from a shop on the promenade, and he also points out its sweetness is natural. In one episode, Jadzia Dax suggests that Ben Sisko eat his azna steamed. It's not clearly stated that azna is originally a non-Earth food, but Memory Alpha states that The Star Trek Cookbook has a recipe for azna "adapted for terrestrial kitchens", which suggests to me that it not originally an Earth dish. I've not found the actual recipe, only a reference to said cookbook, and I'm assuming it's a printed book. The Bajoran dish hasperat is also mentioned in several episodes of DS9, but I don't recall actually ever seeing it being eaten. Klingon Gagh is, if I remember correctly, seen eaten by Dr. Bashir at least once.

All of these are examples of one species being able to digest the foods of another species, but apart from Dr. Pulaski needing a counter-agent to be able to drink the Klingon tea, I can't remember any instances where the foods of one race don't meet the dietary requirements of another, or where foods that are essential to one species may even be toxic to another species. So in short, are there any known species in the Star Trek universe who could not sustain themselves on the foods of another species, or who might even die or fall severely ill from eating foods of another species?

And to clarify, I'm asking whether there are species who can not sustain themselves or who'd die or fall ill from the diet of another species. If a species could not eat e.g. Human food, but they could find something else on Earth that could sustain them, then that species would qualify for an answer to this question, since the diet of another species could not sustain them.

To further clarify, I'm adding some constraints:
I'll consider only the dominant species of a planet, i.e. the species that have achieved warp capabilities or, in pre warp civilizations, the species that are likely to achive warp capabilities.
If two or more species of comparable intelligence originated on the same planet, they are considered separate species, and all may be considered.
Only species who have been depicted or explicitly mentioned in official canon will be considered.
For dietary requirements to be considered incompatible with that of another species, it must be either toxic, causing at least a moderate level of discomfort, or insufficient, causing malnutrition.
Dietary requirements can be met by any method of extracting energy and nutrients from a substance, not just eating or drinking. Species that do not eat or drink, might still be able to extract energy and nutrients by some other means. If they can do so from another species's food, the dietary requirements are considered compatible.
To be considered to have different enough dietary requirements, it must be evident beyond reasonable doubt that the requirements of a species are incompatible with that of at least 75% of all other considered species.

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    There are species on earth today that couldn't live on a diet of human food. Have they all gone extinct in Star Trek?
    – user14111
    Mar 14 at 4:04
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    May be of interest common chemical origins of RNA, Lipids, Amino Acids ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4568310 Mar 14 at 6:05
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    TNG S06E20, The Chase provides an in-universe explanation for the similarities in dietary requirements and visual-appearances for many of the major species… Mar 14 at 15:50
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    @DarrelHoffman If I remember correctly, Seven of Nine had to regain her ability to digest food, and even after she does, she still needs Borg regeneration. And Hugh draws energy from a power outlet. So yes, the Borg would count. I actually came to think of both Jem'Hadar and Borg after I had posted my question. Mar 14 at 18:27
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    Crystalline entity, space amoeba, Gomtuu, the alien from "Galaxy's Child", the Devidians, the Skin of Evil, the Tholians... there are too many to mention.
    – J...
    Mar 14 at 20:17

5 Answers 5

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The Horta, a silicon based life form that eats rocks. From the TOS episode The Devil In The Dark.

And Odo's people, the Changelings or the Founders don't eat at all. It isn't clear how they gain nutrition, but human food doesn't work for them.

In the TNG episode Allegiance Picard is put in a cell with a human and two aliens. They are given food. It is sufficient to sustain Humans and Mizarians, but Esoqq the Chalnoth declares it to be poison to his species.

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    This is a valid answer. I'm not allowed to cast any votes, as my rep is below 15. And i'll give some time before accepting, since others may hesitate to answer a question that already has an accepted answer. Moreover, as user14111 pointed out in a comment, there are species here on earth that cannot survice on a human diet. I'll need to clarify the question further, and I don't think I'll accept until the question is clear enough. Mar 14 at 4:17
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    Also worth noting...in Allegiance, Esoqq could eat the other species even though he couldn't eat their food... Mar 14 at 17:01
  • The Jem'hadar required Ketracel-white, but not food or water, as it provided all the required nutrients they needed. Inversely, Ketracel isn't food — no one else could ingest it.
    – coll
    Mar 14 at 18:47
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    came here expecting Esoqq - glad I wasn't disappointed
    – NKCampbell
    Mar 14 at 19:49
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    The Sheliak Corporation is described as being completely alien to humans, and all other humanoids in the federation, as well., and it would stand to reason their nutrional needs would be completely different than humanoids.
    – Issel
    Mar 14 at 22:08
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We know of several races that do not eat at all.

Pete already mentioned the Founders, though there was a brief period of time where Odo was temporarily "human" and had to eat, but that was a special case.

There's also the Jem'Hadar, who only seem to need the Ketracel-white to survive. They're at least never seen consuming anything else. It's debatable whether they can live without the white for very long or if they're merely addicted to it like a drug.

Then you have the Borg, who are sustained by their implants, though they periodically need to plug into a power source to recharge. As mentioned in the comments, 7 of 9 had to adjust to eating food at one point, and even then was still reliant on charging via her implants.

The Breen are never seen outside of their suits either, and it may be that they are sustained by them and cannot eat regular food.

There's also androids, such as Data and Lore, which can be considered life forms, and do not need to eat. In one of the films, when Data installs his emotion chip, he has a drink in 10-Forward, (which he famously hates, but drinks it anyhow, just to experience disgust for the first time).

Finally, there's various holographic life forms, such as the EMH from Voyager, Vic Fontaine from DS9, and Moriarty from TNG. It may be a bit of a stretch to call them lifeforms, but they are intelligent, and treated as almost equals by other characters, so they should arguably be considered to be "alive".

Oh, and then there's the Q. As far as we know they have no need for food, though I'm pretty sure they can eat if they want to.

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  • Seeing them all listed like this, I do of course remember them. I'm guessing I, as well as most people watching sci-fi, don't actually pay attention to the cuisine. I'm not sure androids and/or holographic life forms can be considered the dominant life form of any civilization, even if they could very well be considered alive by at least a broad definition of the word. Overall this answer definitely deserves the check mark, as the other examples are definitely what I was looking for. Mar 14 at 19:31
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    @InTheAbsenceOfFear If Data and Lore and the other assorted Soong-ian androids aren't enough for you - there were those androids from that one TOS episode with the numbers on their collars - with Harvey Mudd in control of them, until the Enterprise crew set the machine to make hundreds of copies of Mudd's nagging wife to torment him... Mar 14 at 19:41
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    Since the Breen have no blood and live in extreme cold, it's hard to see how they could live on anything we'd consider normal food. Mar 15 at 16:56
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There's a crystalline entity in TNG that only eats spaceships? And some species that eats the enterprise's exhaust? And V'ger of course.

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  • I was only thinking about humanoid life forms, but good thinking outside the box there... Mar 14 at 20:34
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    Inside the box. Not my fault the box as specified wasn't the box as actually intended ;-) Nope, definitely not!
    – Stilez
    Mar 14 at 23:11
  • The Crystalline Entity eats far more than starships. Mar 16 at 17:06
  • But do we have evidence it can flourish on human food....? Or even that its likely?
    – Stilez
    Mar 16 at 20:37
  • It's apparently omnivorous - it eats everything life-bearing on a planet.
    – Shadur
    Mar 17 at 6:03
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Building on another answer that mentions the crystalline entity from TNG, Voyager S5E14 ('Bliss') features a creature that (also) feeds on starships.

Next to that, in Enterprise S2E13 ('Dawn'), commander Tucker has a run-in with an Arkonian that either doesn't like the food he's offered, or simply can't eat it, but requires some liquid to survive (which the commander can't drink).

Also from Voyager, although I don't know which episode, I remember Neelix experimenting with a drink which he claims one of the Bolian crew members liked. After hearing that, Tuvok states that a Bolian's mouth (and probably throat) could withstand the most corrosive acids, so I'd expect at least some incompatibility between Bolians and Vulcans.

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It seems obvious that while occasionally eating food from a different species might not make one ill, given the (somewhat inconsistent) differences in basic biology of, for example, Vulcans and humans (like copper-based blood in Vulcans) it is almost certain that either some micronutrient might be missing if a human only ate Vulcan food or vice versa. Or Vulcans might tolerate something in their diet that in the long run would be toxic to humans (and vice versa). This is the case not just between terrestrial species but even among humans, some people sicken from a normal diet.

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    This feels like guesswork, not least because here are multiple examples of humans being raised on Vulcan and no indication that they need special food.
    – Valorum
    Mar 14 at 7:53
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    Aside from Valorum's point about humans living on Vulcan, there's also the fact that humans and Vulcans are sufficiently similar biologically that they can interbreed. Mar 14 at 8:20
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    Horseshoe crabs have copper-based blood and subside very happily on a normal omnivorous diet that would feed a human
    – Valorum
    Mar 14 at 10:15
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    @releseabe - Why else would they be waving their little pincers around?
    – Valorum
    Mar 14 at 11:56
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    @CristobolPolychronopolis Spock's mother was human, and we have no reason to believe they required medical intervention. We also have evidence of other half-breeds: Troi is human-Betazoid, Belana Torres is human-Klingon, Gul Ducat had a half-Bajoran daughter... Mar 14 at 20:39

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