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Fried, baked, boiled, mashed — these are just a few ways to enjoy potatoes. Although relatively uncommon, some people enjoy munching on raw, uncooked potatoes (as one would an apple). They may even argue that cooking the potato strips it of its nutritional benefits. So, can you eat raw potatoes, and is it a better option than if you were to cook them?
Yes, you can eat raw potatoes. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. Raw potatoes have a bitter taste and a chalky, starchy texture that’s typically unappealing to many. Although they are not necessarily toxic, eating raw potatoes might cause problems with digestion. In this article, we will examine why eating raw potatoes may not be a great idea.
Can you get sick if you eat raw potatoes?
Potatoes aren’t typically eaten raw. Here are a few reasons why:
1) Problems With Digestion
You might experience quite a few digestive problems if you eat raw potatoes.
Although munching on one doesn’t really pose any serious problems, remember that potatoes are rich in carbohydrates. Our bodies and digestive systems aren’t well-equipped to break down resistant starch present in raw potatoes. The starchy carbohydrates found in potatoes are basically indigestible until they’re cooked and do not provide any nutritional value. Since your body isn’t prepared to digest raw potatoes, you could experience unpleasant cramping, bloating, and gas production.
Another reason why you shouldn’t consume raw potatoes is that they might be toxic.
Potatoes contain solanine, a natural toxin. Although all potatoes, raw or cooked, can contain solanine, potatoes that have been exposed to sunlight and have already turned green have higher levels of solanine. Baking, microwaving, or simply cooking potatoes can significantly reduce the concentration of solanine in the tubers.
Solanine in high doses can cause diarrhea, nausea, headaches, and even death (in extreme cases).
3) Inhibits Nutrient Absorption
Munching on raw potatoes may also inhibit your body from consuming the nutrients of other foods.
Raw potatoes have been known to contain antinutrients, which tend to inhibit enzymes in the body. Antinutrients are primarily found in the potato peel, and they make the consumption of other foods more difficult.
Cooking potatoes significantly reduces the antinutrient content in the vegetable.
Why It’s Okay To Eat Raw Potatoes… Sometimes
On the flip side, some research has suggested that eating spuds raw isn’t all that bad. Here are a few reasons why it may be okay to indulge in the occasional raw potato.
High in Vitamin C
Just like with any other vegetable, cooking it will tend to lose some of its nutritional value.
Potatoes are naturally rich in vitamin C, but exposure to high temperatures tends to destroy this vitamin. Munching on raw potatoes will increase your intake of this essential vitamin if you can’t get it anywhere else.
Uncooked potatoes also contain fewer calories and carbs, and they won’t elevate your blood sugar level to a high degree, as opposed to their cooked counterpart. This is an essential factor to consider if you’re trying to lose weight.
As mentioned earlier, uncooked potatoes have resistant starch. Although this can’t be digested by the body properly, it becomes a food source instead in the large intestine or what is called a prebiotic. This is healthy bacteria in the gut. This has been associated with health benefits like lower blood sugar levels and an improvement in insulin sensitivity.
Raw or resistant starch is also converted to butyrate, which is known to block colon cancer cells’ growth.
Cooked potatoes are no longer a good source of resistant starch as the cooking process reduces the starch level to only two to four percent. Raw, uncooked potatoes have a starch content of 47 to 59 percent.
Can you eat raw potatoes while pregnant?
Pregnancy is a delicate time, and it’s best not to consume vegetables that should typically be cooked. After all, you’re caring not only for yourself but an unborn child, too. There is the possibility that a baby might get poisoned due to the toxicity mentioned above, which is known to be present in raw potatoes. You might also experience digestion problems on top of the digestion problems that you may already have due to the pregnancy.
All in all, it’s best to consult your gynecologist for any pregnancy-related concerns. In general, it’s not recommended to eat raw potatoes while pregnant.
Conclusion: Can you eat raw potatoes?
If this article still hasn’t curbed your appetite for munching on a raw potato or two, our best advice is to do so sparingly. After all, raw potatoes do present their own health benefits, and we can’t recommend that eating cooked potatoes is a healthier alternative — because it’s not.
Potatoes are extremely high in simple carbohydrates with very little protein. The carbohydrates found in cooked potatoes have a high glycemic load, which causes your blood sugar to rise and then fall rapidly. This causes you to feel hungry again right after eating — which causes you to overeat, which in turn contributes to weight gain.
So, it’s ultimately up to you. You can eat raw potatoes, but it’s always best to do so sparingly.