There is much controversy as to whether potatoes are a vegetable or fruit, and why! This article outlines exactly what a potato is, whether they’re one of our 5 a day, and if the starch within them is good for us.
What is the definition of a vegetable
The difference between fruits and vegetables is as follows. Fruits are the seed-bearing structure that develops from a flowering plant. Vegetables are the other parts of the plant, such as leaves, stems and roots.
Seedy outgrowths such as tomatoes, apples and squash, are fruits. Roots such as turnips, beets and potatoes, leaves such as lettuce, spinach and kale, and stems such as broccoli and celery, are all classed as vegetables.
Although, the difference between a fruit and a vegetable also alters if you’re a chef or gardener. A chef will see those fruits that are savoury rather than sweet, as vegetables. This includes botanical fruits like tomatoes, eggplants and bell peppers.
Potatoes are a vegetable native to America, and is a starchy tuber of the plant Solanum tuberosum. The plant itself is a perennial in the nightshade family, Solanaceae.
Are potatoes a vegetable?
Potatoes are grown as a vegetable crop, eaten like other vegetables and taxed as a vegetables crop, which makes the tuber a vegetable.
Although, there are a good few people out there who think potatoes are considered fruits, and not vegetables.
Potatoes, by definition, are a vegetable due to the coming from an annual plant that is grown for its edible root.
Vegetables have five subgroups based on their nutritional content; red and orange vegetables, dark green vegetables, starchy vegetables, beans and peas and other vegetables.
Potatoes are definitely categorised as a vegetable and their plant family is the nightshades, so, they’re a nightshade vegetable along with peppers and tomatoes.
Fruits are a particular part of some plants, and not all plants bear fruit. When they do, the fruit is only a small part of it, and it is distinguished because when it is mature, it has seeds.
If a fruiting body is not mature and has been altered to not have seeds, then it is still identified as a fruit, for example, the seedless watermelon.
Why the confusion
There has been confusion because we think of fruits as sweet or sour, and can be eaten raw, like lemons or apples. Many things that we consider as vegetables are the fruiting bodies of plants, such as peppers, bean pods, tomatoes and corn kernels.
So technically, baby bell peppers are both a nightshade vegetable and a fruit, but as it’s immature, they have no seeds. This is why we’re all confused.
On the other hand, the potato is the root of the potato plant, and is not a fruiting body, so in which case, it isn’t a fruit. Potatoes reproduce from their roots, and tiny spots can sprout, which is what we see when we leave a potato in a dark corner for too long.
The purpose of the potato is to act as a root and to store starch.
Why is there a question over why they’re a vegetable?
There has been much debate as to whether potatoes should be classed as a fruit or a vegetable.
Due to the fact they’re grown for their roots, like other vegetables, this is why they’re classed as a vegetable.
If they had seeds, then it would more than likely be a case of them classifying as a fruit instead.
Do potatoes count as one of my 5 a day?
Even though potatoes are 100% natural, cholesterol and fat free and packed with minerals and vitamins, they have never been part of your 5 a day.
This has been on the menu to change though, as a medium sized potato of any variety, and with the skin on, provides us with 27mg of Vitamin C, which is 45% of our recommended daily amount. Not only that, but it also contains 0.2mg of vitamin b^ which is vital for our nervous system.
The problem will adding it into the 5 a day mix, is that we will then begin to question whether we should allow crisps and other savoury snacks into the scheme also. Obviously, crisps aren’t as healthy as potatoes alone due to the fact they’re cooked in oil, but the question will still be raised.
So at the moment, potatoes are not classed as one of our 5 a day.
Is starch good for me?
Starch is a form of carbohydrate and it’s the main type of carbohydrate in your diet. They often get bad press, which is unfortunate because they give your body the energy it needs.
Carbohydrates with sugars in are simple, but because it’s made up of sugar molecules, starch is considered a complex carbohydrate.
Your diet should consist of starchy (potatoes, green peas and corn) and non-starchy vegetables (asparagus, leafy greens, cauliflower, etc).
What way do you eat potatoes?
Potatoes are good for you, but you should differentiate them from the buttery mashed potatoes and the greasy french fries as these should be eaten in moderation.
Starchy foods should make up at least one third of the food you eat on a daily basis, and where you can, choose whole grain varieties and eat your potatoes with the skin on for more fibre.
To sum this article up, even though there is a lot of controversy as to whether potatoes are a fruit or a vegetable, they’re actually categorised as a vegetable. Not just any vegetable, but a root vegetable.
Potatoes, even though they’re classed as a healthy food and are vegetables, they don’t count as one of your 5 a day. This has been discussed further, but no other option has been selected.
Starch is given such a bad name, but without starch, we wouldn’t have the essential balanced diet that we are recommended to. Starch is good for us, and as potatoes are a starchy food, they’re actually great to add to your balanced diet on a daily basis. Except, of course, for crisps and french fries – these should be eaten in moderation.