Can You Eat Raw Potatoes?

And what happens if you do?

Raw potatoes next to peeled potatoes
Photo: ollo/Getty Images

Your only experience with raw potatoes is usually when you prep them before transferring them to the oven or stove. But maybe you've gotten the urge to nibble on a potato wedge while chopping, peeling, or dicing, or perhaps your mom warned you not to eat them as a child. If you've ever wondered what might happen if you eat a raw potato, you've come to the right place. Read on to learn the disadvantages and risks associated with eating raw potatoes.

Can You Eat Raw Potatoes?

You can eat raw potato, but you might not want to. Raw potatoes contain solanine and lectins, two compounds that can cause gastric distress and potentially make you sick. Additionally, raw potatoes contain resistant starch, which is difficult to digest, and their overall taste and texture is nothing like the potatoes you know and love. When in doubt, cook that potato.

Raw Potato Risks

Solanine

Solanine is a poisonous compound that acts as a potato plant's defense system — it also found in certain nightshade species, including tomatoes, tobacco, and eggplant. It forms in potatoes that have been exposed to sunlight, excessive heat, or an extreme temperature shift, meaning that green or sprouted potatoes can contain high levels of solanine. When it's consumed, solanine can cause gastric and neurological duress such as nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting, dizziness, and headaches. However, more severe effects include paralysis, jaundice, loss of sensation, and hallucination.

Lectins

Lectins are a type of protein that binds to carbohydrates that exist in most foods. Legumes, grains, and plants in the nightshade family (potatoes!) contain high amounts of lectin, and these levels are even higher in raw foods. When consumed in large amounts, lectins can cause nausea, upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. You'd have to eat a lot of lectins to get sick — an entire raw potato, perhaps — but it's never smart to willingly invite gastrointestinal disaster. Plus, all you need to do to reduce those lectins is cook your potato.

Can You Eat Raw Sweet Potatoes?

It's possible to eat sweet potatoes raw (and many people do), but be aware that they're harder to digest. Additionally, some of the nutrients and starches only emerge after sweet potatoes have been cooked. Sweet potatoes and yams don't contain solanine because they are not members of the nightshade family, so they don't cause solanine poisoning like regular potatoes.

Can You Freeze Raw Potatoes?

Don't freeze raw potatoes unless you like your spuds mushy and rainy. Potatoes have a higher water content, so it's best to cook or at least partially cook them before freezing and remove some of that moisture. Store uncut raw potatoes in a cool, dark place, and relocate them to the fridge after they've been cut or peeled.

Can Dogs Eat Raw Potatoes?

According to the American Kennel Club, feeding dogs raw potatoes is dangerous because solanine can be toxic to dogs. If you're going to feed your dog potato, opt for one that's been baked or broiled, with no oils or seasonings added.

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