Cooked potatoes are a popular ingredient in side dishes, salads, and main courses.
However, eating raw potatoes is not nearly as common, as they’re often considered less palatable and difficult to digest.
While eating raw potatoes may be linked to several health benefits, there are also some concerns related to their safety and nutritional value.
This article examines the benefits and risks associated with raw potatoes, determining whether they’re healthy or harmful.
Raw potatoes vs. cooked potatoes
Raw potatoes typically have a bitter taste and starchy texture that’s unappealing to many.
For this reason, most people prefer baking, frying, grilling, or roasting their potatoes before eating them.
This leads to several notable differences in taste, texture, and color.
When raw potatoes are cooked, they undergo a process called the Maillard reaction — a chemical reaction that occurs between amino acids and reducing sugar in the presence of heat.
This browning effect is responsible for the distinct flavor and characteristic color and crispness of the cooked potato.
Moreover, research shows that cooking potatoes produces certain compounds responsible for the unique taste that makes cooked potatoes more palatable than raw ones.
Summary: Raw potatoes have a bitter taste and starchy texture. When potatoes are cooked, they undergo the Maillard reaction and produce compounds that increase their palatability.
Resistant starch content
Raw potatoes are loaded with resistant starch, a type of starch that your body doesn’t digest or absorb. Instead, it’s used to provide energy for your beneficial gut bacteria.
Adding resistant starch to your diet has been associated with an array of potential health benefits.
Studies show that it can lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity and keep you feeling full to help enhance weight loss.
Resistant starch is also converted into butyrate, an important short-chain fatty acid that can improve digestive health.
Test-tube studies have found that butyrate can suppress inflammation in the colon and block the growth of colon cancer cells.
Plus, according to one review, treatment with butyrate could also help decrease several symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including bloating and stomach pain.
Summary: Raw potatoes are high in resistant starch, which has been linked to better blood sugar, enhanced insulin sensitivity, increased feelings of fullness, and improved digestive health.
Raw potatoes are higher in vitamin C
Cooking potatoes may make them tastier, but it could lead to a loss of certain nutrients as well.
Gram for gram, raw potatoes contain fewer calories and carbs but also less protein than baked potatoes. In addition, they offer slightly less potassium and vitamin B6.
However, they’re significantly higher in other key micronutrients — packing twice as much vitamin C per gram as baked potatoes.
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Vitamin C is an essential water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant and plays a role in everything from collagen production to immune function.
Because high temperatures destroy vitamin C, munching on your potatoes raw instead of cooked is an easy way to increase your intake of this vital vitamin.
Summary: Raw potatoes are lower in calories, protein, carbs, and several micronutrients. Still, they contain twice as much vitamin C as baked potatoes, gram for gram.
Antinutrients may inhibit nutrient absorption
Potatoes contain antinutrients like protein trypsin inhibitors and lectins, which can interfere with your body’s digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Cooking potatoes has been shown to reduce antinutrient content to help optimize nutrient absorption and prevent deficiencies.
For instance, one test-tube study observed that cooking potatoes was able to inactivate one type of trypsin inhibitor completely and partially inactivate another.
Meanwhile, another test-tube study reported that cooking potatoes eliminated 50–60% of the lectin content.
For people eating a well-balanced and varied diet, antinutrients are unlikely to be a problem.
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However, if you have a restrictive diet and base your diet around grains, legumes, or tubers, cooking your potatoes may be a good option to help maximize nutrient absorption.
Summary: Potatoes contain antinutrients that can impair nutrient digestion and absorption. Cooking your potatoes is an effective strategy to reduce antinutrient content.
Raw potatoes may contain toxic compounds
Potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, a type of chemical compound found in members of the nightshade family that can be toxic if consumed in high amounts.
Potatoes, particularly green potatoes, contain two types of glycoalkaloids: solanine and chaconine.
When potatoes are exposed to sunlight, they produce chlorophyll, a type of plant pigment that causes the potatoes to turn green.
Not to mention, sunlight exposure can also increase the production of glycoalkaloids, which is why it’s generally recommended to limit the consumption of green potatoes to help minimize your intake of these harmful chemicals.
If consumed in high doses, symptoms of glycoalkaloid toxicity can include drowsiness, itchiness, increased sensitivity, and digestive issues.
According to one test-tube study, boiling, baking, and microwaving potatoes can substantially reduce the total concentration of glycoalkaloids.
Peeling your potatoes, avoiding potatoes that have turned green, and ensuring proper storage to avoid sunlight exposure can also reduce your risk of side effects.
Summary: Potatoes contain glycoalkaloids, which are formed through sunlight exposure and can be toxic to health in high amounts. Cooking, peeling, and properly storing potatoes can help minimize glycoalkaloid content.
Raw potatoes can cause digestive issues
Though resistant starch has been associated with various health benefits, high amounts — such as those found in raw potatoes — may contribute to digestive problems.
Resistant starch acts as a prebiotic and is fermented by the beneficial bacteria in your gut, leading to the production of gas in your colon.
Stomach discomfort, gas, and bloating are a few of the most common side effects associated with the consumption of prebiotics and resistant starch.
Raw potatoes may also be more likely to harbor contaminants and bacteria from the soil that would ordinarily be destroyed by cooking, increasing your risk of foodborne illness and infection.
The best way to sidestep negative symptoms is to increase your intake slowly over several days or weeks and scale back if you start to notice adverse side effects.
Additionally, be sure to wash potatoes thoroughly to remove potential pathogens and consider peeling your potatoes before consuming them to help further reduce the risk of contamination.
Summary: Eating high amounts of resistant starch from foods like raw potatoes may cause digestive issues like stomach discomfort, gas, and bloating.
Raw potatoes are more likely to cause digestive issues and may contain more antinutrients and harmful compounds.
Yet, they’re higher in vitamin C and resistant starch, which may provide powerful health benefits.
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In truth, both raw and cooked potatoes can be enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy diet. Simply practice basic food safety and follow proper preparation techniques.
Regardless of how you choose to enjoy your potatoes, be sure to wash them thoroughly, store them correctly and eat plenty of other fruits and vegetables to help round out your diet.