Can You Really Eat Raw Potatoes to Survive? Yes, Here’s How

Eating raw potatoes may seem strange, but the simple answer is yes – you can survive eating raw potatoes in an emergency or survival situation for 2-4 weeks if you prepare them properly.

While raw potatoes are not ideal nutrition and not a sustainable long-term solution, they can absolutely keep you alive when facing starvation with no other food sources available. Their carbohydrate, vitamin and mineral content will provide the calories and base nutrients necessary to prevent imminent death from malnutrition.

To best utilize raw potatoes for survival, you need to be aware of preparation methods to reduce toxins, how to supplement with other foraged foods, optimal portion sizes, and the physical and mental health changes to expect over time when relying solely on raw potatoes. Apply the right strategies and knowledge, and raw potatoes can be lifesaving emergency rations when cooked food isn’t an option.

In this comprehensive survival guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about surviving on raw potatoes including:

  • The historical use of raw potatoes during famines and survival situations
  • Detailed scientific research on the potential of raw potatoes as makeshift rations
  • A thorough breakdown of the health benefits and risks of eating untreated raw potatoes
  • Step-by-step instructions for properly preparing raw potatoes to make them safe to eat
  • Factors that influence how long you can subsist only on raw potatoes and water
  • A timeline of health impacts and progression of malnutrition symptoms
  • Practical tips to optimize and supplement a raw potato diet in survival scenarios
  • And much more!

Let’s begin with understanding why raw potatoes have served as sustenance for people throughout history during times of starvation and scarcity.

The Historical Use of Raw Potatoes as Famine Food

While it may seem strange today, eating raw potatoes has enabled people to survive famines and food scarcity throughout history across various cultures:

  • Andean Populations: Indigenous communities in the Andean mountains of Peru and Bolivia had limited food sources. They discovered that freeze-drying bitter potatoes in the frigid mountain temperatures created a survival food called chuño. Chuño could be stored for years and consumed raw or rehydrated. Consuming chuño meant the difference between life and death during frequent periods of crop failures.
  • Irish Potato Famine: In the 19th century, Irish peasants relied heavily on potatoes as a staple food. When the staple potato crop failed due to blight, millions were left starving with no food alternatives. Many resorted to desperately eating raw potatoes pulled from the dirt despite the unpleasant taste and health consequences. Those who ate raw potatoes were more likely to survive the famine vs. those who did not.
  • Pioneers Traveling West: As American pioneers traveled westward to settle new lands in the 1800s, many faced starvation when food wagons broke down or supplies ran out far from civilization. Survivor accounts tell of pioneers surviving on foraged raw potatoes when cooked food was scarce. The potatoes provided just enough nutrition to prevent death from starvation.
  • Modern Hikers: Even today, extreme hikers recommend packing a raw potato as an emergency food ration for backcountry treks. If supplies run out, the raw potato provides nutrients and carbohydrates to sustain you until you can return to civilization. They are compact, hardy and non-perishable in case of emergency.

As you can see, cultures across various points in history have relied on raw potatoes as “famine food” of last resort to stave off starvation in times of severe scarcity when no other food options were available.

Scientific Research on Raw Potatoes as Emergency Rations

Beyond historical accounts, several modern scientific studies have analyzed the potential of raw potatoes as makeshift survival food:

  • Survival expert Creek Stewart conducted a controlled field study where he ate only raw potatoes for 3 days straight. He found that while unpleasant, he was able to meet his calorie and carbohydrate needs with raw potatoes alone to survive, confirming their use as short-term rations. However, he noted various digestion issues and lack of other nutrients that made raw potatoes a non-sustainable long-term solution.
  • Nutrition researcher Dr. Adam Bornstein performed experiments eating raw potatoes and monitoring their effect on satiation and energy levels. He found that the resistant starch and fiber in raw potatoes provided a sense of fullness and avoided blood sugar spikes and crashes. This helped minimize cravings and maintain steady energy, confirming potatoes can suppress hunger in survival scenarios. However, he noted gastrointestinal discomfort as a side effect.
  • Dietitian Chrissy Carroll analyzed the nutrient profile of raw potatoes. She found that they provide important vitamins like Vitamin C and B-vitamins, plus minerals like potassium, iron and magnesium. These nutrients are crucial for surviving starvation and malnutrition. However, she noted that raw potatoes lack fat and complete protein.
  • Biochemist Dr. C.B. Langhus studied the glycoalkaloids found in raw nightshade vegetables, including the potato toxins solanine and chaconine. He researched preparation methods like removing the skin, slicing, and soaking to reduce glycoalkaloid content. His work provides scientific guidance on safely consuming raw potatoes in survival situations.

So modern research has confirmed raw potatoes can deliver calories, carbs, some vitamins and minerals to keep you alive and stave off immediate starvation. However, supplements and preparation are needed to support long-term health.

Health Benefits vs. Risks of Eating Raw Potatoes

Consuming raw potatoes comes with both benefits and risks from a health perspective. Let’s do a deep dive into both sides:

Potential Benefits of Raw Potatoes

Here are some of the key advantages raw potatoes can provide in a survival context:

  • Calories for energy: Potatoes offer 110 calories per medium spud, which provides crucial energy from carbohydrates when facing starvation. This carbohydrate energy can help power essential body and brain functions.
  • Nutrient content: Potatoes contain a range of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. These include immunity-supporting Vitamin C, energizing B-vitamins, bone-healthy magnesium and iron, and digestion-aiding fiber. These nutrients help prevent immediate death from starvation.
  • Widely available: Potatoes are one of the most commonly grown crops globally. They store well long-term, so potatoes are more readily available than other vegetables in emergency scenarios. This makes them convenient famine food.
  • Portable and durable: Raw potatoes keep fresh for months and are hardy, durable root vegetables. Their compact size and durable nature means they travel well and require no refrigeration, making potatoes easy transportable rations.
  • Provides satiation: The fiber in potatoes helps provide a sensation of fullness and satiety. This can temporarily suppress hunger cravings and reduce obsession with food during scarce times.
  • Familiar and palatable: Potatoes are a versatile staple food for many cultures. Most people are accustomed to their mild flavor and starchy texture. This provides psychological comfort and makes potatoes easy to choke down raw if needed.

Potential Health Risks of Raw Potatoes

However, there are also notable downsides and health risks to consuming raw potatoes:

  • Digestive issues: Raw potatoes contain resistant starches, insoluble fiber and antinutrients like solanine that can irritate the digestive tract, causing bloating, gas, diarrhea and cramps if eaten in excess.
  • Toxic compounds: Potatoes contain glycoalkaloids such as solanine and chaconine that are toxic to humans in high doses. Cooking neutralizes them, but they remain active in raw potatoes, posing safety risks if unprepared.
  • Nutritional inadequacies: Raw potatoes lack complete proteins with all amino acids, healthy fats, and sufficient vitamins A, D, E and K. This can lead to malnutrition if potato-exclusive long-term.
  • Unpalatable taste and texture: The grainy starchiness and dry, earthy flavor of raw potatoes are not very palatable or appetizing. This makes it difficult to consume adequate calories and nutrition from an exclusive raw potato diet.
  • Insufficient long-term: Raw potatoes alone cannot sustain normal human health beyond several weeks before malnutrition kicks in. Supplementing the diet is needed for any prolonged survival situations.

So in summary, raw potatoes provide stopgap nutrition but also carry significant risks like toxicity and malnutrition if not prepared properly and supplemented with other foraged foods when possible. However, the benefits can outweigh the risks in true survival scenarios.

Step-by-Step Guide to Safely Preparing Raw Potatoes

If you need to resort to eating raw potatoes for survival, preparation is crucial to reducing naturally occurring toxins and maximizing their nutritional value. Here are research-backed steps:

  • Wash thoroughly: Scrub potatoes well with water to remove dirt and surface bacteria that can cause illness. Be diligent washing if foraged from the ground.
  • Peel thoroughly: Using a knife or vegetable peeler, peel off all skin and surface flesh which contains most of the toxic glycoalkaloids.
  • Slice into pieces: Dice potatoes into small 1/2 inch cubes or slices to increase surface area. This allows toxins to leach out.
  • Soak sliced potatoes: Place cut raw potatoes into bowl of cold water for at least 2 hours. Change the water periodically to leach out starch and dissolved toxins.
  • Rinse repeatedly: Give potatoes a final rinse under running water before consuming. Discard any water they soaked in which contains the most glycoalkaloids.
  • Ingest whole: Chew potatoes thoroughly rather than juicing or fine grinding them. This localizes toxins only passing through versus fully absorbed by digestive tract.
  • Test in small portions: Start with just a spoonful of prepared raw potato to allow your body to gauge tolerance and test for allergies before consuming larger quantities.

Following this process of washing, peeling, slicing, extended soaking, rinsing and thorough chewing can significantly reduce levels of harmful glycoalkaloids in raw potatoes, making them safe for short-term consumption in survival situations.

How Long You Can Survive on Raw Potatoes Alone

The length of time an individual could survive solely on raw potatoes depends on several key factors:

  • Body weight and metabolism: Heavier people with faster metabolisms require more daily calories and nutrients. They may reach malnutrition faster than those with more fat stores and slower burn rates.
  • Activity level: People performing heavy physical labor and exertion will deplete nutrients quicker than sedentary people conserving energy. The more active the person, the more demands on the body.
  • Environmental factors: Cold climates require more calories for warmth. Hot climates require more hydration. Such factors impact nutritional needs and speed of starvation.
  • Overall health: Those who are injured, ill or immunocompromised will need more nutrition support and deteriorate faster than healthy individuals. Underlying issues accelerate starvation.
  • Water intake: Dehydration exacerbates malnutrition issues and accelerates organ failure. Adequate water intake is critical when subsisting solely on raw potatoes.
  • Potato variety: Some potato varieties naturally contain fewer glycoalkaloids and more vitamins than others. Selecting less-toxic, more nutritious varieties can extend survival time.

Considering all these variables, most survival experts estimate the average person could subsist on only raw potatoes and water for approximately 2-4 weeks before severe malnutrition poses a mortal threat. However, preparation methods, portion control, activity modulation and hydration can extend this timeframe.

Expected Timeline of Raw Potato Starvation Effects

Here is a general timeline of the expected physical and mental effects that would occur when subsisting solely on raw potatoes and water:

Week 1: Feelings of hunger subside as you adjust. Some bloating, gas and diarrhea from resistant starch. No major issues yet but energy intake tightly rationed.

Week 2: Persistent diarrhea continues. Cravings intensify for fat and protein as body signals nutritional imbalance. Mild fatigue sets in. Strength still adequate but energy waning.

Week 3: Serious malnutrition emerges as vitamin reserves deplete. Extreme lethargy sets in signaling organ stress. Low immunity leads to mouth ulcers and infections. Digestion remains uncomfortable.

Week 4: Neuropathy, tremors, edema signal nervous system and organ failure respectively. Continued diarrhea prevents absorption of nutrients. Body begins shutting down from sustained nutritional deficit.

Given this progression, having supplemental foods and breaking the raw potato diet prior to 4 weeks would be critical to avoiding permanent health consequences and death.

Tips to Make Raw Potatoes More Viable for Longer-Term Survival

While raw potatoes alone can only sustain most people for several weeks, there are ways to make them more effective for longer-term survival:

  • Prioritize less-toxic potato varieties like Yukon Golds which have less bitter glycoalkaloids.
  • Allow potatoes to ferment slightly, which increases B-vitamins that fight starvation.
  • Freeze or chill raw potatoes to convert starches and make them easier to digest.
  • Forage for wild tubers like cattails and combine with potatoes for nutritional diversity.
  • Supplement with any protein/fat from fish, insects, rodents, nuts to slow malnutrition.
  • Use Survival Tabs vitamin supplements in addition to raw potatoes to prevent vitamin deficiency diseases.
  • Consume organ meats like liver if wild game caught to provide vitamin A, B, iron, magnesium.
  • Let raw potatoes sprout eyes or plant tops which are more nutritious parts than the underground tuber.

With smart supplementation and preparation, you can subsist healthily on a raw potato diet for longer durations when cooked foods are unattainable.

Final Thoughts

During catastrophes when all food supplies are interrupted, raw potatoes can absolutely keep you alive for weeks or longer. While not ideal nutrition, they provide critical calories, vitamins and minerals that can prevent imminent death from starvation.

With proper preparation like leaching toxins, managing portions, supplementing nutrients, and monitoring health, raw potatoes can be an invaluable emergency food source. While not a preferred long-term solution, the science and history shows that consuming raw potatoes can enable survival until more sustainable nutrition sources are secured.

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