Listen, we all know what a potato is. They’re grown round vegetables that grow in the ground. Spuds, taters, yams. Whatever you call them, these vegetables are about as simple as vegetables get, it seems. That’s all there is to them, right?
Well, actually, no. While potatoes have been eaten for centuries at this point, and grown across the world for decades, there’s a lot of information about these root foods that goes under the wire.
Folks can’t seem to agree on whether potatoes are the reliable base for a varied diet or a carb-rich food that is bad for your health. Heck, some people can’t agree on whether or not potatoes are even vegetables in the first place!
Okay, perhaps that last question is a little silly. But the point stands, for a food item that is so widely eaten across the world, there are a lot of aspects to it that we seem to just forget about.
Well, no longer! In this guide, we’ll break down everything that you could want to know about potatoes as food. And, of course, answer definitively whether potatoes are a vegetable or not!
Are Potatoes A Vegetable?
Well, considering that it’s the question that we posed in the title, we should probably answer the main question that we posed: Are potatoes vegetables, or some different type of grown food?
Well, the answer is yes, they undoubtedly are, by every measurable standard! Vegetables have meant a lot of things over the years, at least when it comes to food. Originally, the term meant any plant or part of a plant that was edible, which potatoes easily fall under.
Vegetables are also classified by how exactly they grow, usually excluding any plant where they are the fruit-bearing seed of a plant, that might apply to foods like oranges, apples, and berries.
By many different food and health organizations around the world, including the USDA, vegetables can be broken up into 5 major groups, based on their overall nutritional content:
- Dark-green vegetables
- Peas and beans
- Red and orange vegetables
- Starchy vegetables
With their high starch content, potatoes comfortably fit in the fourth category, often being considered a ‘starch’ by many nutritional and agricultural organizations.
Are Potatoes Healthy For You?
However, while the potatoes being a vegetable was never really in question, their overall nutritional value still is.
After all, what is the main vegetable that you often see dropped from virtually all forms of dieting and food plans? It’s usually a potato, isn’t it? So, are potatoes bad for you? Should you drop them from your diet completely?
Carbs In Potatoes
Well, the topic is a little more complicated than that. Certainly, carbohydrates are considered ‘empty carbs’ (they are high in calories, but low in overall nutritional content), and potatoes do contain a lot of starch, a type of carbohydrate.
However, starch carbs are not the same as sugar carbs, the latter being the simple carbs that burn quickly with no value that health experts tell you to stay away from.
Starch, meanwhile, is formed from chains of sugar-carb molecules, which need to break down in your gut to release their energy into your bloodstream.
This allows the energy to be slowly released from starch, giving you that slow burn of energy that many of us need to stay active throughout the day. So they’re a vital part of a healthy diet!
Other Nutritional Information
Aside from their steady energy release, what other nutrients can you find in potatoes? Well, potatoes are a great source of fiber, a type of carb that is essential for good digestion.
Eating a healthy amount of fiber makes digesting your food easier, as well as aiding your gut in turning food into waste that can easily pass through your body. This also makes high-fiber meals a great way to treat mild constipation, in a pinch!
In terms of vitamins and other nutrients, potatoes also contain a lot of potassium, as well as vitamin B1, which is essential for your metabolism and breaking down carbs and other sources of energy for the body.
So, not only are potatoes high in energy but they’re also packed with the nutrients needed to help break down that energy!
That being said, even if potatoes are more healthy for you than many nutritionists might want you to think, it’s still important to balance out your potatoes with other vegetables in your diet.
They all contain different, but equally important nutrients for your body! We’re not recommending you chow down on three bags of chips a day!
Are Potatoes One Of Your 5-A-Day?
So, with all that great information about how good potatoes are for your diet, do they count as one of your 5 portions of fruit and vegetables in a day? Well… no, not really. At least, not when compared to other vegetables.
When health organizations refer to getting your ‘five-a-day’, they are mainly referring to the number of vitamins and other minerals that your body needs, particularly vitamin C, fiber, folate, and vitamin A.
While potatoes are pretty high in fiber, they’re not in the other aspects that you need in a balanced diet. What’s more, trying to eat enough potatoes to get the necessary amount of vitamins is DEFINITELY not a healthy diet!
So, don’t count these veggies towards your 5-a-day, and instead, focus on the leafy greens to meet that threshold.
Ways To Cook Potatoes
Being the reliable food item that it is, potatoes can be cooked in a variety of ways to fill any role at the table, whether that’s as an appetizer, main meal item, or even a dessert!
If you’re unsure of how potatoes can be cooked and prepared, then this next section will help clear up that confusion, as well as potentially show you ways to appreciate potatoes that you may have never imagined before!
Baking is widely considered to be one of the easiest ways to prepare a potato as a meal. There’s not a lot of preparation that needs to go into it, and it’s a low-maintenance food while it is being cooked, too.
All you need to do for a baked potato is to preheat the oven to around 420 to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, put your potatoes in for 45 minutes to an hour, and they’ll be ready to eat, with a crispy outside, and a fully cooked and crumbling inside.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to make a baked potato even better. We recommend coating the outside of the potato in a little sunflower or olive oil and rubbing some salt and pepper into that oily skin, before putting them into the oven.
This will give you potato skin that is extra crispy and tasty to eat, rather than simply wasting the outside.
Who doesn’t love a good French fry recipe? Crispy, tons of flavor, and an amazing, crowd-pleasing way of preparing potatoes. French fries and other similar fried potato recipes are made by, you guessed it, frying them in a fryer, or a pan of hot oil of some kind.
Simply preheat your fryer or oil-filled pan to high heat, then through your cut-up potato pieces into it. Wait for the edges to start browning and crisping, then take them out, dry off any excess oil, and you’re good to eat them!
Whichever way you prefer to eat your fried potatoes and… well, french fries, you’ll want to make sure that they crisp up in the best way possible.
To do this we recommend soaking your peeled and chopped potatoes in water for at least 30 minutes, before thoroughly drying them off and putting them in your cooking tool of choice.
This will allow the edges to fluff and fry much better, and with a fluffier texture as you bite into them.
A staple of any Sunday or Thanksgiving meal, mashed potatoes are another crowd-pleasing way to prepare potatoes for a main meal.
Creamy and rich, a good mashed potato dish is the perfect complement to some other roasted potatoes, a juicy slice of turkey meat, or beef steak.
Potatoes that are to be mashed are usually peeled, sliced into chunks, then boiled until they have softened substantially.
From there, the water is emptied, cream or milk is added, and the mashed potatoes are pressed and mashed until the softened potatoes are now into the softer mashed potato that we are familiar with.
If you’re looking to add extra flavor, make sure to add butter to your potatoes as you mash them together, as well as a little extra salt for good measure.
This will both enhance the flavor of your mashed potatoes and help make them even creamier than just using milk or cream.
While getting a good mash recipe right can be tricky, and is deftly one of the most energy and attention-heavy ways to prepare this vegetable, it’s one that everyone is sure to enjoy.
Alongside mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes are often one of the most popular ways to enjoy potatoes. They’re also a relatively simple way to prepare this vegetable for eating.
Like mashed potatoes, they are peeled, chopped up, then boiled until they have softened. However, instead of being matched up, the softened potatoes are taken out, dried, salted, and oiled, then placed in the oven for between 40 and 45 minutes.
Types Of Potatoes
You’ve probably heard of at least a few potato varieties out there, but how many do you know about?
There are so many varieties and cultivars out there, each of them having their unique qualities that make them. These particular types are our personal favorites for cooking in the kitchen.
Arguably the gold standard of potato varieties, Maris Pipers are a great catch-all variety when you’re unsure about what other kind of potato might be best for a recipe.
While they have traditionally been used mostly for making French fried and roast potatoes, they can also be used for making pretty good mashed potato dishes too, as well as a variety of more specific recipes that you may have in mind for your next meal.
Their light, fluffy contents are great when they have been properly cooked!
As their name implies, these potatoes are usually found with a red hue to them, and have a somewhat waxy texture to their skin. Their light flavor makes them perfect for roasting, as well as slicing, cooking, and using in salads.
Alternatively known as baby potatoes, these particular spuds are much smaller than your typical variety of potatoes that you’ll find and use in everyday cooking.
These potatoes are best prepared by boiling them, drying them off, then salting and lightly oiling them, rather than mashing or baking them.
So, overall, it’s clear to see that potatoes are a vegetable. They don’t produce seeds from inside them like fruit o and are roots grown in the ground, not plucked from a tree branch or vine.
We’ve also learned that, while they shouldn’t be the only food item that you are eating in your diet, potatoes are often a key ingredient that can provide some much-needed nutrition and fiber to your meals.
They’re not necessarily the unhealthy glutton of carbs that many people make them out to be. And, of course, there are plenty of delicious ways to prepare them to be eaten too!