Why you should think twice before eating sprouted potatoes

When you're shopping for some potatoes to mash or fry, it's easy for your eyes to be bigger than your stomach. You might grab a three-pound bag for convenience, and then a week or two later find that the potatoes you didn't use have since sprouted. What to do with them now? Are they safe to eat?

Sprouting refers to the buds that appear on potatoes that have been sitting for too long. The potato is still good to eat, according to the Food Network, as long as you remove the sprouts first. But there is still one thing to look for and be cautious of: If your potato has taken on a green tint, it's time to throw it out. That's because potatoes are full of something called glycoalkaloids, two types in fact, which are toxic. Normally, potatoes don't contain enough glycoalkaloids to be of concern. But according to the Poison Control Center, the green color is caused by the activity of chlorophyll. Increased chlorophyll is an indicator that the level of glycoalkaloids has risen, and could be a risk.

What happens if you eat sprouted potatoes?

Cooking potatoes does not reduce the level of glycoalkaloids, however removing the skin can. If you find that you've consumed potatoes that have turned green, watch for gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The Poison Control Center says some people might also experience headache, flushing, confusion, and fever.

Most people with mild symptoms will be fine to recuperate at home. If, however, you can't hold down liquids or are becoming dehydrated, it's time to visit a doctor.

Pregnant women should stay away from sprouted potatoes and any that show green coloring altogether, according to Healthline. Research indicates that there can be an increased risk of birth defects among those who eat sprouted potatoes, so err on the side of caution.

For anyone on the fence about the potatoes taking up space in your kitchen, remember the old adage, "when in doubt, throw it out." Though many sprouted potatoes may be fine to eat once you remove the sprouts, if you're uncomfortable with the idea, just find a new side dish.