Is sweet potato skin safe to eat? (2 risks)
In this article, we will discuss whether sweet potato is safe to eat, the risks and benefits of eating sweet potato skin, how to safely consume the skin of a sweet potato and how can you include sweet potato skin into your diet.
Is sweet potato skin safe to eat?
Yes, sweet potato skin is safe to eat (1, 2). Except when the potato skin is spoiled or uncooked, its consumption may be not safe (3, 4).
Potato skin is considered very nutritious and a source of antioxidants, proteins, fibres and minerals. However, there are also risks associated with the consumption of potato skin (5).
The skin of sweet potato tubers can accumulate heavy metals and pesticides, in addition to being more concentrated in certain anti-nutrients, such as tannins, oxalic acid and phenolics (4, 5, 6).
What are the risks of eating sweet potato skin?
The risks of eating potato skin are mainly two: the presence of antinutrients, and the accumulation of pesticide residues.
Are antinutrients in sweet potato skin a risk?
Yes, antinutrients in sweet potato skin may be a risk. The skin of sweet potato contains a higher concentration of tannins, oxalic acid and phytates.
The consumption of these compounds can reduce the absorption of some minerals in the diet, such as calcium and magnesium, as oxalic acid and phytates can trap these minerals, hindering their bioavailability.
The negative effects of ingesting antinutrients depend mostly on the amount ingested, as they may also have positive effects on health. For instance, tannins are antioxidant compounds (2).
Are pesticides in sweet potato skin a risk?
Yes, pesticides in sweet potato skin may be a risk. In the cultivation of sweet potatoes, different pesticides containing heavy metals are used and these metals accumulate in a higher concentration in the peel of the tuber (5, 6).
Studies report that concentrations of arsenic and lead above the amount considered safe for consumption were measured in sweet potato tubers (5).
The presence of pesticides in unsafe amounts was found in sweet potato cultivation soils, as reported in studies (6). The ingestion of such compounds can lead to negative effects on health, such as neurological disorders and cancer.
What are the benefits of eating sweet potato skin?
The benefits of eating sweet potato skin are the nutrients present in the skin. Proteins, minerals, fibres and antioxidant compounds, such as phenolics, are found in a higher concentration in the skin of sweet potatoes (1, 2).
According to studies, the amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron, dietary fibres and antioxidant compounds, including flavonoids, phenolic acids and anthocyanins (1). Antioxidants can neutralise free radicals in the body and reduce oxidative stress.
The ingestion of antioxidants is related to a lower risk of developing some diseases, such as heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes and cancer. Iron and calcium are essential in the human diet and their deficiencies may lead to diseases.
How to consume sweet potato skin safely?
To consume sweet potato skin safely, you should purchase fresh sweet potatoes, without signs of spoilage and damage. Spoilage can be detected by the presence of off-odour, slime formation and growth of moulds (3).
Wash and cook the sweet potatoes thoroughly and do not remove the skin. Avoid consuming the tuber and its skin uncooked, as cooking can reduce possible microbial contaminations and reduce the concentration of antinutrients in the skin (3, 4).
Due to the concerns regarding pesticide and heavy metal accumulation in the sweet potato skin, it is recommended to consume the skin in moderation (5, 6).
How to include sweet potato skin into your diet?
To include sweet potato skin into your diet, simply do not remove the skin when preparing your meals. Boil, fry or bake sweet potatoes whole, after carefully washing the tuber (1, 3).
The skin of sweet potatoes can be also dried and blended in the form of flour to substitute wheat flour in cookies and bread, and to be added to soups (1).
In this article, we discussed the safety of eating sweet potato skin, the risks related to the consumption of sweet potato skin and their benefits and how to consume the skin of sweet potato safely.
Sweet potatoes are very nutritious and can be eaten with and without skin. The skin is rich in nutrients but can bring health concerns when overconsumed.
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