Potatoes are healthy, nutritious crops that are a favorite ingredient for many different recipes. But once they turn green, they are said to be poisonous. Is this claim a fact or just another food myth?
The truth is that potatoes that have turned green contain high levels of solanine, a toxin known to cause headaches, nausea, and neurological issues. Food science experts also say that green potatoes being poisonous is not a myth.
Potatoes naturally produce solanine as a defense mechanism against pests.
This amount of solanine increases with warm temperatures and exposure to light.
As explained in an article in The New York Times, the green color that could be present in some potatoes are caused by chlorophyll, but this substance itself is not harmful. However, green color also signifies that solanine has been produced and the levels of this toxin have increased as well.
Solanine is a natural substance found in the skin and flesh of potatoes but they are in low quantities. However, sunlight or damage to potatoes will also increase the levels of solanine in the plant.
But how poisonous are green potatoes?
One 100-pound individual would have to consume about 16 ounces of green potatoes to feel sick, agronomy professor Alexander Pavlista said. That is equivalent to eating one large baked potato.
If the potato has extremely high levels of solanine or if it’s consumed by a small person or a child, even a small green potato can be enough to cause illness.
Pavlista, who’s also a horticulture at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, noted that these green potatoes usually won’t find their way to the market. But it’s better to prevent sickness by avoiding green-colored potatoes altogether. How does one do that?
Potatoes are best stored in cool, dim storage areas.
Cutting the green portions before eating is also advised.
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