Dr. Becky Maes - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Becky Maes

Are Raw Potatoes Bad For You?



Short answer

There is a potential risk of toxicity in raw potato and the health benefits are minimal. It's also worth noting that in its raw form potato isn't that palatable.



Long answer

We eat so many different vegetables raw and are regularly told that cooking vegetables can kill off certain nutrients. There is even a whole movement dedicated to eating raw food. So why is it so few of us eat raw potato? 

Evidence indicates that the potato was first cultivated in Peru between 8000 and 5000 BCE. During that time, and right up to the potatoes introduction into Europe some four hundred years ago, there is little to indicate (with the exception of the Raw Food Movement) that eating raw potato has ever been a staple in any diet - other than in times of abject poverty and starvation. 

The main reason that so many have avoided the eating of raw potato comes down to key points:

  1. The amount of information, guidance and myths surrounding raw potato consumption.
  2. There are far more delicious vegetables out there that can be eaten raw.

So, with the information we do have available, can we make a conclusion to whether or not it's bad for you?

For those of you who might not have given it a second thought, potatoes are grown underground attached by roots to the potato plant which, as is the case with most plants, is made up of the stem, leaves, and flowers at the tip. The plant is a member of the Solanaceae family which includes tomatoes, mandrake, and tobacco. Solanaceae are more commonly known as nightshade plants and can be very toxic to both humans and animals.

Thankfully, the potato contains very little of this toxic alkaloid (known as solanine) as it is mainly stored in the above-ground parts of the plant. However, with regular consumption of raw potatoes, you would be putting yourself at a higher risk of succumbing to solanine poisoning, which commonly manifests itself in gastrointestinal disorders (nausea, cramps, diarrhea vomiting) and in rarer cases, neurological symptoms such as headaches, hallucinations, jaundice, and even death. Don't panic, though! Cases are rare and you would need to eat an awful lot of bad raw potatoes to see anything close to a fatality.

Bad Potatoes? One thing that horticulturalists, scientists, and medical professionals agree on is that you should avoid potatoes that have any green or, at the very least, cut the green parts off. The green in the potatoes is actually chlorophyll, a sure sign that photosynthesis has taken place. Solanine is a product of photosynthesis so try to avoid it. 

Digestion of a potato is very difficult if eaten raw; this results in large pieces of potato passing through your digestive system causing abdominal pain and bloating. Additionally, raw potato contains anti-nutrients that inhibit enzymes. A 2006 report concluded that much of these enzymes were found in the peel. So if you are eating potato raw, be sure to peel it first.

The final verdict?

It hardly seems worth eating raw potato, despite increased nutritional content like vitamin C, fiber, and carbohydrates. All of these can be gained in far more palatable ways. But be assured, the odd bit of raw potato is not going to kill you. Just try not to eat it regularly.

Possible short-term side effects

  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • cramps
  • abdominal pain

Possible long-term side effects

  • hallucinations
  • jaundice
  • liver issues
  • headaches/migraines

Ingredients to be aware of

  • solanine


  • some increase in nutritional content

Healthier alternatives

  • cooked potatoes

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View Sources | Written by Jamie Hancock | 12-06-2016

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Written by Jamie Hancock
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