Can you eat a raw sweet potato? (1 key Fact)
In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can you eat a raw sweet potato? We will also discuss the risks of eating raw sweet potatoes, the benefits of eating sweet potatoes, if cooking changes their nutritional value and how to safely enjoy raw sweet potatoes.
Can you eat a raw sweet potato?
You can eat a raw sweet potato, but there’s a high probability that it would make you sick. The raw, hard vegetable has indigestible compounds that can cause diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting. Some yams can be toxic if you eat them raw (1).
However, we do not recommend that you eat sweet potato in its raw form because it can cause abdominal distress and gastrointestinal (GIT) issues (1).
What are the risks of eating raw sweet potatoes?
Raw sweet potatoes have a protein inhibitor called Sporamin that restrains the body from easy digestion and, consequently, makes you sick. The ill-effects are obvious if you eat a large number of sweet potatoes or have a sensitive stomach (1).
You can face flatulence accompanied by bloating, cramping and gas because of another enzyme called raffinose (2).
Why should you opt for cooked sweet potatoes instead of raw?
You should opt for cooked sweet potatoes because it’s easier to digest. While raw sweet potatoes can be hard to bite into, they are also deficient in nutritional value. The starch and proteins present in sweet potatoes can be hard for the body to digest in their prime state (1).
To ordinary tastebuds, it will also not taste as good as cooked sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes will be devoid of their distinctly sweet taste and creamy texture. Sweet potatoes are a popular holiday vegetable used to make pies and casseroles.
The best way to cook sweet potatoes is to boil them for 15 minutes without peeling or slicing them. Some other ways to prepare sweet potatoes are steam, bake, stir-fry, grill, or cook and mash.
Does the nutritional value of raw sweet potatoes change after cooking?
Yes, cooking can change the nutritional value of sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are often baked, boiled, microwaved, steamed, or fried. These cooking techniques would very probably alter the physical properties and chemical content of sweet potatoes (3).
Different heat treatments, for example, alter the ascorbic acid and -carotene content of sweet potatoes. In general, the overall phenolic content of sweet potatoes rises; however, heat treatment reduces the concentration of specific phenolic derivatives, such as caffeic acids (3).
When you boil, it tenderizes and cleans the sweet potatoes. We suggest that you keep the skin and the entire vegetable intact to prevent losing valuable nutrition. As vitamin C and B are soluble in water, exposing the flesh to boiling water will make them leach out (6).
After they have been cooked, you can peel the skin off the sweet potatoes. For optimal nutritional value, leave the skin on while you eat because it has antioxidants and vitamins that the insides are not sufficient to provide you with (4).
Sweet potatoes are large and starchy, which upon cooking have a pleasingly sweet taste and a creamy texture. Sweet potatoes grow underground, and as root tubers, they are full of starch or carbohydrates.
The sugar in sweet potatoes is called maltose, which is mildly and uniquely sweet. Like potatoes, they are hard and starchy when raw, but on cooking become sweet and tender. The starches break down to carbohydrates as the maltase enzyme changes the starch to maltose (3).
The enzymes work between the temperature of 135 Fahrenheit to 170 Fahrenheits. The greater the heat sweet potatoes are exposed to, the sweeter they become (3,4).
How to safely enjoy the sweet potato raw?
To safely eat raw sweet potatoes you should first select fresh and firm sweet potatoes. Then, clean them well with a firm scrub brush under lukewarm running water and consider peeling them to eliminate any impurities. It may be simpler to eat them if they are cut into smaller pieces (5).
Combining raw sweet potatoes with other meals in salads or with other raw vegetables might improve flavor and digestion. According to some, it is a good idea to use raw sweet potatoes in smoothies. All you need to do is grate the sweet potato and add it to the blender with turmeric, ginger, and coconut water.
You can also add pecan and cinnamon for an extra punch. Some people also add the raw sweet potato to a salad with some green vegetables, beans, or carrots.
What are the health benefits of eating sweet potatoes?
Sweet potatoes are packed with fiber and also have antioxidants. Sweet potatoes also come with vitamin c, vitamin A, potassium, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, and copper (6).
Sweet potatoes may be filled with calories and sugars, but they have a very low glycemic index. Despite their sweet taste, they will not make your blood glucose levels spike, hence, digest at a slow pace. A low glycemic index means sweet potatoes do not increase any risk of developing or worsening diabetes, cholesterol, or cardiovascular diseases; rather play a part in stabilizing blood sugar (3,6).
Sweet potatoes are a very good source of vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a crucial role in maintaining the retina of the eyes and protecting from night blindness, vision impairment, and clears the cornea (3,6).
Moreover, sweet potatoes will keep your digestive system, heart, reproductive organs, immune system; healthy (6,7).
In this brief guide, we answered the question, can you eat a raw sweet potato? We also discussed the risks of eating raw sweet potatoes, the benefits of eating sweet potatoes, if cooking changes their nutritional value and how to safely enjoy raw sweet potatoes.
1. Maloney KP, Truong VD, Allen JC. Susceptibility of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) peel proteins to digestive enzymes. Food Sci Nutr. 2014, 2(4), 351-360.
2. Elango D, Rajendran K, Van der Laan L, et al. Raffinose Family Oligosaccharides: Friend or Foe for Human and Plant Health?. Front Plant Sci. 2022;13:829118.
3. Dincer, C. et al. Effects of Baking and Boiling on the Nutritional and Antioxidant Properties of Sweet Potato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] Cultivars. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 2011, 66(4):341-7.
4. Buratti S, Cappa C, Benedetti S, Giovanelli G. Influence of Cooking Conditions on Nutritional Properties and Sensory Characteristics Interpreted by E-Senses: Case-Study on Selected Vegetables. Foods. 2020;9(5):607.
5. Zander, A., Bunning, M. Guide to Washing Fresh Produce. Colorado State University, 2010.
6. Bhuyan, S. et al. Sweet Potato: Its Nutritional Factor and Health Benefits. Biotica Research Today, 2022, 4,6.
7. Tabassum, R., Fazal, M.A. Health benefits of sweet potatoes: a scientific review. Inter. J. Multid. Educ. Res., 2022, 11,4.