I’m sure you’ve heard that potatoes are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. They’re high in potassium, vitamin C, and fiber—and they’re low in calories. But do potatoes really qualify as vegetables? I’ll let you decide.
The science is clear.
The science is clear. Potatoes are vegetables. They’re a root vegetable, which means they grow in the ground and belong to the nightshade family (Solanaceae). The plants that produce potatoes are part of the Solanum genus, which includes more than 2,000 species–including tomatoes and eggplants.
Potatoes have been cultivated for centuries; archaeological evidence suggests that people were eating them as far back as 5000 BC (though it’s possible that these early varieties were meant for brewing beer).
But you wouldn’t know it from the USDA database.
But you wouldn’t know it from the USDA database. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) maintains a comprehensive set of nutrition information on its website, which is used as a reference by many organizations and individuals. It lists potatoes as vegetables–and has done so since at least 2009, when I first noticed this discrepancy while writing my book “Vegetables Every Day.”
The USDA’s definition comes from its Plant Based Foods Association Database (PBFA), which lists foods based on their botanical names and categorizes them into various groups such as fruits or nuts based on their nutritional composition rather than how we typically think of them in everyday life (i.e., apples are fruit but banana splits aren’t). The PBFA includes over 4500 species–including potatoes–but only about half have been assigned values for any nutrients at all; thus far only about 11% have been assigned values for fiber content alone!
In the early 20th century, some states banned potatoes as vegetables in school lunches.
In the early 20th century, school lunch programs were introduced across the country. Schools and school districts were responsible for deciding what to feed students. In some states, this meant banning potatoes as vegetables in school lunches because they were thought to be unhealthy or immoral.
And potatoes haven’t been considered vegetables by all people throughout history.
Potatoes have not always been considered vegetables. In fact, the Spanish and French did not consider potatoes to be vegetables until well into the 17th century. And even then, some people still didn’t think of them as such–it wasn’t until the 18th century that potatoes were considered a vegetable by the British.
The debate over whether or not to call potatoes “vegetables” really picked up steam in America during the 19th century when many immigrants from Ireland and Germany came over and brought their traditional foods with them (like cabbage rolls). Because these immigrants ate lots of cabbage dishes like sauerbraten (sauerkraut braised in wine and spices), they would often refer to other types of cooked greens as “cabbage” regardless of what they looked like–even if those greens didn’t come from heads!
In fact, many people still don’t consider potatoes to be vegetables today.
You may be surprised to learn that many people still don’t consider potatoes to be vegetables today. In fact, the debate over whether or not potatoes should be classified as vegetables has been going on for centuries and is far from settled.
Why does this matter? Well, if you’re looking for ways to eat healthier and more nutritiously (as most of us are), then it’s important for you to know whether or not a food qualifies as a “vegetable.”
You might think that this question would have been decided long ago–but it turns out that there isn’t one clear answer! In fact, there are several different schools of thought about how best define this term:
The question of whether potatoes are vegetables is a contentious one that has been debated for hundreds of years.
The question of whether potatoes are vegetables is a contentious one that has been debated for hundreds of years. Potatoes were introduced to Europe in the 1500s and at first, they were considered to be a vegetable. However, this changed in 1854 when some people began arguing that potatoes were not actually vegetables because they were not grown above ground like other vegetables.
In 1869 this debate became even more heated when President Grant signed legislation making it illegal for schools across America to serve potatoes as part of their lunches if they wanted federal funding (which many did). Even though this law was repealed after only six months due to public outcry against it–and despite the fact that today most Americans still consider potatoes “a healthy side dish”–there are still those who continue questioning whether our favorite spud meets all criteria needed for inclusion under this particular umbrella term.
If you want to cut out some carbs, go ahead and eat potatoes!
If you want to cut out some carbs, go ahead and eat potatoes! They’re a healthy choice. Potatoes are high in potassium, vitamin C and fiber–and they’re low in calories and fat. If that’s not enough to convince you that potatoes are worthy of their vegetable status, consider this: A potato can help you lose weight!
Potatoes contain protein; therefore they fill your stomach so that less food is required to satisfy hunger cravings–and we all know how tricky it can be finding time for lunch when working at an office job!
We hope this article has given you some insight into the debate about whether potatoes are vegetables. We don’t want to tell you what to eat or how to think, but we do think it’s worth considering whether or not potatoes belong in your diet. If you want to cut out some carbs and eat more vegetables at the same time, then go ahead and eat potatoes! Just remember that there are plenty of other options available too–and maybe someday soon they’ll all be considered vegetables too…