Can You Eat Raw Potatoes?

Potatoes are a delicious and versatile vegetable. You can bake them, roast them, fry them, sauté them, mash them, etc. The opportunities are endless!

However, eating potatoes raw is not a popular option. Their bitter taste and starchy texture make it difficult to chew them raw, plus, it can actually damage your health to do so. Although there are some arguments to be made about their health benefits when consumed raw, it is overall not a good idea.

In this article, we’ll look at the pros and cons of eating raw potatoes.

Potatoes undergo a process known as the Maillard reaction when they are cooked. The high heat used in cooking kickstart this process wherein amino acids and reducing sugars react to create a browning effect (1).

This browning effect contributes to the delicious flavour and crispiness of cooked potatoes.

However, raw potatoes have their benefits too. They’re full of resistant starch, which is a type of starch your body does not digest. Instead, it is used by your gut microbiome as a source of food and energy.

Resistant starch can improve insulin sensitivity and thereby lower blood sugar levels. It also aids in weight loss by curbing your appetite and making you feel full. Furthermore, it can be converted to butyrate by your body, which protects against colon cancer while treating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) such as bloating (2).

Raw potatoes also contain certain nutrients in higher proportions than their cooked counterparts. For example, nearly twice as much Vitamin C is found in cooked potatoes when compared to baked ones.

Vitamin C has antioxidant properties and performs a variety of functions, including aiding in collagen production and maintaining immune health.

However, cooking your potatoes increases the concentration of other nutrients such as proteins, Vitamin B6 and potassium (3).

Moreover, raw potatoes contain plenty of antinutrients, which are compounds that inhibit your body’s ability to digest and absorb beneficial nutrients. Cooking potatoes has been observed to reduce the concentration of antinutrients such as trypsin inhibitors and lectin as the high heat inactivates them (4).

Raw potatoes also contain toxins such as glycoalkaloids. These are more present in green potatoes, and glycoalkaloid toxicity can result in symptoms of drowsiness, itchiness and increased sensitivity. It also contributes to digestive issues (5).

Exposing potatoes to high heat by cooking them can reduce the concentration of these toxins (4).

Lastly, although the resistant starch in raw potatoes can improve digestive health, large quantities have an opposite effect and can cause gas and bloating (2). Raw potatoes may also contain pathogens that can be easily destroyed by washing, peeling and cooking them.

In conclusion, although raw potatoes offer some mild health benefits, the risks are much more predominant. In moderation, raw potatoes will likely not cause any negative health effects, but any risks can be easily mitigated by cooking them.

References:

  1. Duarte-Delgado, D., Ñústez-López, C. E., Narváez-Cuenca, C. E., Restrepo-Sánchez, L. P., Melo, S. E., Sarmiento, F., … Mosquera-Vásquez, T. (2016). Natural variation of sucrose, glucose and fructose contents in Colombian genotypes of Solanum tuberosum Group Phureja at harvest. Journal of the science of food and agriculture96(12), 4288–4294. doi:10.1002/jsfa.7783
  2. Abduh, S., Leong, S. Y., Agyei, D., & Oey, I. (2019). Understanding the Properties of Starch in Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum var. Agria) after Being Treated with Pulsed Electric Field Processing. Foods (Basel, Switzerland)8(5), 159. doi:10.3390/foods8050159
  3. Grudzińska, M., Czerko, Z., Zarzyńska, K., & Borowska-Komenda, M. (2016). Bioactive Compounds in Potato Tubers: Effects of Farming System, Cooking Method, and Flesh Color. PloS one11(5), e0153980. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153980
  4. Fischer, M., Kuckenberg, M., Kastilan, R., Muth, J., & Gebhardt, C. (2015). Novel in vitro inhibitory functions of potato tuber proteinaceous inhibitors. Molecular genetics and genomics : MGG290(1), 387–398. doi:10.1007/s00438-014-0906-5
  5. Arnqvist, L., Dutta, P. C., Jonsson, L., & Sitbon, F. (2003). Reduction of cholesterol and glycoalkaloid levels in transgenic potato plants by overexpression of a type 1 sterol methyltransferase cDNA. Plant physiology131(4), 1792–1799. doi:10.1104/pp.102.018788