Can You Eat Green Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the friendliest vegetables. It goes well with just about any other vegetable. However, there are concerns related to the consumption of green potatoes that are feared to possess harmful toxins that could affect the health of a person. Let us check whether these fears about green potatoes are based on facts.

Why do potatoes become green?

The greening of potatoes involves natural processes caused due to the exposure to light. The synthesis of chlorophyll begins in potatoes when they are exposed to sunlight. The green pigment is an indication of the presence of chlorophyll in them. [1]

The light-skinned potatoes tend to change color from light brown to greenish while the darker-skinned potatoes do not change the color drastically as the dark pigments disguise the chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll allows plants to produce energy from the sunlight through a process of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll also helps plants to produce carbohydrates and oxygen in the presence of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide.

Nevertheless, the greening in potatoes caused due to the chlorophyll synthesis may also indicate the production of less desirable and harmful toxic plant compounds like solanine. And it is this solanine that makes eating green potatoes dangerous for your health.

How does solanine make potatoes toxic?

During the synthesis of chlorophyll, potatoes are also encouraged to produce certain compounds like solanine, which can protect them against damage by bacteria, insects, and fungi. [2]

Unfortunately, these compounds could be toxic to human health.

Solanine can inhibit the enzymes involved in the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters. It may also cause damage to the cell membranes and negatively affects the permeability of the intestine. This might increase the risk of digestive disturbances and hamper the breakdown and absorption of nutrients in the intestine.

This is the reason why eating green potatoes is considered harmful.

Can peeling potatoes help to remove solanine?

The solanine levels are higher in the skin of the potato. Hence, it is common for people to wonder if it is possible to reduce or eliminate the solanine content in green potatoes by peeling them.

It is true that peeling green potatoes could significantly reduce its solanine levels.

Research studies have estimated that the peeling of a green potato may remove about 30% of the toxic plant compounds present in it. However, it would still have 70% of the compounds in its flesh. [3]

Even boiling and other methods of cooking like baking and frying do not help to reduce solanine levels significantly. So, they can not make a green potato any safer to eat.

How to prevent the greening of potatoes?

While potatoes that have already turned green are best to be avoided, you can protect the good potatoes from greening.

Storing potatoes at a cool, dark place will prevent the process of photosynthesis due to the absence of sunlight and thus, keep your brown potatoes healthy and safe to consume.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16881686
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15649828
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15649828