Has the question, "Is a potato a vegetable?" ever occurred to you? If yes, then you are not alone. There has been a lot of debate as to whether potatoes are vegetables or fruits. At first glance, potatoes don’t look like many other vegetables like kale, spinach or even broccoli. So, how should potato be classified?
Most of us know that potatoes come in handy when making tantalizing dishes in a multitude of ways. They are also very easy to cook. Take fries for instance. They are very easy to cook, right? You can also boil, mash, bake, and roast potatoes, and they are delicious as well.
Potatoes belong to a family of plants called nightshade. Its Latin name is solanum tuberosum. A potato is actually the swollen root of the plant and is the only part of the potato that is safe to eat.
Why Is a Potato a Vegetable and Not a Fruit?
According to Diffen, when comparing fruits vs vegetables, vegetables are edible vegetative portions of plants that are not always necessary to a plants' reproduction. Fruits on the other hand are the matured ovaries of seed plants that are formed from flowers. Additionally, fruits multiply from seeds which are naturally dispersed once the fruits are eaten.
After reading these descriptions, you may still be confused about whether a potato is a fruit or a vegetable. It is probably this ambiguity that puts potato in a questionable position regarding its classification. Is it a fruit or a vegetable? If we use this description of the potato, it would seem that potatoes are fruits because propagation happens by use of seed potatoes. However, potatoes can also be grown from the seeds of their fruits, which means that the potato is not the only part that can be used in propagation.
But this is not the only description of vegetables. The Vegetable Research and Information Center of the University of California Cooperative Extension defines a vegetable as the edible portion of a plant and includes plants of which the edible parts can be the stem, leaves, roots, bulbs, flowers or tubers. Going by this description, a potato is actually a vegetable.
From the comparison of these properties, the potato is more of a vegetable than a fruit.
Potato Is a Portion of the Primary Plant Parts
Potato is a vegetative portion of the primary parts of the potato plant. It is not an ovary of the flowering art of the plant. On close examination of a potato's eyes you can see some tiny hairs around it. These are tiny roots indicating that the potato is part of the root.
Potatoes Do Not Contain Seeds
While fruits contain seeds internally or externally, a potato does not.
Potato Is Not Sweet
Unlike fruits, potato is not sweet or even tart because it is low in natural sugar. However, potatoes are unusually high in carbohydrates.
Potato Is Eaten in the Main Meal
Unlike fruits, potato is eaten within the main meal and not as dessert like fruits. In normal circumstances, fruits are eaten without undergoing any processing, like cooking. It is also worth noting that potato is seasoned with salt and not sugar.
Why Some Claim That Potato Is a Fruit?
Some people argue that potato is not a vegetable, but a fruit. They base the claim on the fact that the potato plant produces fruits. But, while this is true, these fruits are in fact poisonous due to their high content of solanine, a poisonous alkaloid. Potato flowers also contain the alkaloid and are also poisonous.
Additionally, potato fruits are not the part of the plant that is consumed as food. For these reasons, potato is a vegetable and not a fruit.
How Important Are Potatoes?
Potato is such an important staple food that it is the leading vegetable crop in the United States. And, not only is a potato a vegetable that you can use to make your favorite dishes like fries, but it combines very well with many dishes. No wonder there are lots of recipes with potato as an ingredient.
But do you know that there are over 200 types of potatoes to choose from? Also, potatoes come in a variety of colors and textures, each fit for different cooking methods. This means that you can pick just the right type of potato for your specific recipe.
Some of the Most Popular Potato Dishes
- French fries
- Baked russet potatoes
- Mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream
- Potato salad
- Potato crisps
What Are the Nutritional Benefits of Potatoes?
If you are still unconvinced and wondering if a potato is really a healthy vegetable; consider that it is low in calories and rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Health Benefits of Potatoes?
Potato is a vegetable that has some amazing health benefits. Besides vitamin C, potatoes are rich in phytonutrients. This combination has powerful antioxidant properties which helps to maintain good health, including supporting heart health and healthy blood pressure.
5 Good Reasons for Eating Potatoes
Health benefits of potato consumption include the following:
#1. Prevention and Management of High Blood Pressure
Another great thing about potatoes is this vegetable is higher in potassium than bananas. Potassium is an essential mineral for the regulation of cell and body fluids, including vasodilation (expansion of blood vessels). Adequate potassium intake helps to lower blood pressure to healthy levels.
It is worth noting that the peel of a potato contains the highest concentration of potassium. It is, therefore, important that you prepare your potatoes with skins on them. Just make sure that you clean them.
Additionally, potatoes are high in fiber, which helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. This prevents build up of cholesterol in the blood vessels which lowers the risk of high blood pressure
#2. Promotes a Healthy Heart
In addition to the above point – control of blood pressure – potatoes contain many phytonutrients which helps the heart to function properly by helping to eliminate free radicals.
#3. Boost Brain Function
Potatoes are high in vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which is essential for brain development and brain function. Vitamin B6 is also used in producing serotonin, melatonin, and norephedrine which control mood. Thus, eating potatoes can help improve and stabilize your mood, reduce stress, anxiety, depression so that you are more active and you’re you to enjoy restful sleep.
Potato is also a good source of energy. Since it contains a significant amount of carbohydrate, a potato helps keep the blood sugar level at a normal rate and hence boosts brain function.
You may want to know more about the various types of foods to boost your memory in this article.
#4. Boosts Immunity
Vitamin C in potatoes helps boost your immunity and contributes to the healing of wounds and infections.
#5. Prevents Constipation
While this does not prove that a potato is a vegetable, it is high in fiber which helps prevent constipation. The high fiber content also makes it easier to digest.
How to Prepare Healthy Potato Meals?
While you are probably convinced that the answer to the question, "Is a potato a vegetable?" is yes. Besides making fries and chips which are not the healthiest options for eating potatoes, what else can you make with potatoes?
If you want to get the most out of potatoes, you first need to prepare them without peeling. Thus, start by thoroughly cleaning them then steam or bake them with the skin on. This way, all the nutrients will remain in the potatoes.
Avoid soaking potatoes in cold water for a long time; otherwise some of the vitamins will dissolve and you may lose some valuable nutrients. Also, be careful not to consume too much potato as this can lead to higher blood sugar and higher cholesterol levels. Like all foods, they should be consumed in moderation as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Well, is a potato a vegetable? The fact is, YES, potato is a versatile vegetable with numerous benefits.
Potatoes also have health benefits that include supporting heart health, brain health and overall health. The mighty potato can also help ward off disease and oxidants which cause premature aging. But to get the most benefit, avoid high amounts of oily fried potatoes in the form of French fries, chips and crisps.
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