Vegetables, including potatoes play a vital role in a nutritious diet because they provide the body with essential vitamins and minerals. However, consuming a potato raw can cause you to ingest bacteria or food borne illnesses that can actually be detrimental to your health. Understanding the risks associated with consuming raw potatoes will help you learn the importance of cooking your food thoroughly so you can avoid coming in contact with substances that may be toxic.
Possible Dangers of Eating Raw Potato
In general it is not safe to consume raw potatoes. Potato flowers and roots contain concentrated alkaloids, which can cause heart rhythm irregularities, hallucinations, seizures diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, headache, respiratory problems or death if consumed. Raw potatoes have a lower concentration of these alkaloids which lowers the risk of poisoning, but consuming green potatoes or potato-leaf tea will increase this risk. In general, the greener the potato, the more alkaloids it has accumulated, which increases its toxicity. Consuming raw potatoes on a regular basis will increase your risk of developing side effects as the toxicity from the alkaloids continues to build up in your system.
2. Bacteria Exposure
Potatoes may be contaminated with listeria, E. coli or salmonella that was present in the soil or water where it was grown. After they are harvested they may also be exposed to additional bacteria where they are prepared or stored. The high temperatures needed to cook a potato will kill off these bacteria so the potato is safe to eat and you are not at risk for developing an infection. If you fail to cook your potato before you eat it you will consume these bacteria along with your meal which can cause abdominal cramps, fever, diarrhea or vomiting.
3. Digestion Problems
Raw potatoes are harder for your body to digest because it is harder to break down the cell walls to gain access to the starch. This will cause the potato to pass through your digestive system without actually being digested. It will stay around the same shape and size as it was when you swallowed the pieces initially, which can cause nausea, abdominal discomfort, pain and bloating.
4. Liver Problems
Regularly consuming raw potatoes has a tough impact on your liver. Potatoes are very starchy and contain a great deal of carbohydrates that are easy for your body to absorb, which will cause your body to release more insulin to manage this large intake of carbohydrates. When this occurs your body will receive instruction to lay down an additional layer of fat to protect itself. This fat will often accumulate around the liver, which can result in you developing a fatty liver. When fatty liver develops you may notice pain in the abdomen, fatigue and weight loss.
Tips for Eating Potatoes
1. Cook to Reduce Alkaloid Exposure
If you are going to be eating potatoes your first step should be to reduce your risk of alkaloid exposure from the potato. This will help to prevent the risk of toxicity that makes consuming raw potatoes particularly dangerous. In order to reduce the levels of alkaloids you will ingest when you eat potatoes you should make an effort to avoid eating them raw. Cooking your potatoes will require you to expose them to heat, and this heat will help to break down the alkaloids so they will decompose. This will lower the amount of alkaloids in the foods to a level that is not likely to cause toxicity when they are consumed.
2. Pay Attention to Signs of Alkaloid Buildup
When you are preparing potatoes for a meal you should look at them carefully to check for signs of alkaloid buildup that could cause toxicity if they are consumed. In general, green areas of a potato contain more alkaloids than areas that are whiter in color. If you notice a green area on your potato, make a point of cutting it off rather than including it in your dish. This will help you avoid increasing the alkaloid content to a point where it could cause side effects for those that consume the dish. If you are still concerned about the toxicity levels, you can remove the peels before you consume your potatoes as well. Alkaloids tend to accumulate in the peels of the potatoes, so removing these will further reduce the risk of side effects when you eat them.
3. Never Eat Raw Potato on a Regular Basis
If you occasionally consume a raw potato it is not likely to cause you any harm. However, you should not make a point of consuming raw potatoes on a regular basis because these alkaloids can accumulate in your body over time and increase your risk of developing potentially harmful side effects. If you make a point of cooking your potatoes you can use them to gain vital nutrients in your diet that can do you a great deal of good. Baking your potatoes is particularly helpful because this does not add any excess oil. Topping them with broccoli or a heart healthy salsa can also be delicious and provide even more helpful nutrients.
Watch Videos for Delicious Potato Recipes
There are several ways to cook a potato that are delicious and allow you to take full advantage of the nutrition they offer without having to worry about the potential dangers associated with eating raw potatoes. Two videos are listed below to help you learn the different methods you can use to make a unique and flavorful potato dish that you can serve to people without having to be concerned about causing unpleasant side effects.