And what the heck is a starch?

By Corey Williams
Updated April 15, 2020
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Apparently, a lot of people don’t know if potatoes are considered fruits or vegetables. Hey, no judgment here! This is what you need to know:

Are Potatoes Vegetables?

Credit: mikroman6/Getty Images

mikroman6/Getty Images

Yes. Botanically speaking, a potato is definitely a vegetable. It comes from an annual plant that is grown for its edible root.

Vegetables are classified into five subgroups based on their nutritional content, according to the USDA: dark-green vegetables, beans and peas, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, and other vegetables.

So where do potatoes fit into all this? A potato is a starch.

What’s a Starch?

Starchy vegetables contain more starch than other vegetables (shocker, I know).

Starch is a type of carbohydrate. In fact, it’s the main type of carbohydrate in your diet.

Carbohydrates often get a bad rap—that’s unfortunate, because they give your body much-needed energy.

The simplest carbohydrates are sugars but, because it’s made up of joined sugar molecules, starch is considered a complex carbohydrate.

A healthy diet consists of both starchy (potatoes, corn, green peas) and non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, cauliflower, asparagus, etc.).

Potato Nutrition

Credit: Capelle.r/Getty Images

Capelle.r/Getty Images

This may come as a shock to many people, but potatoes are actually quite good for you. To understand the role they play in a healthy diet, you must separate them from greasy French fries and buttery mashed potatoes. (Note: We’ve got absolutely nothing against French fries and mashed potatoes—but we don’t eat them for their health benefits. Moderation is key).

Yes, those delicious-yet-not-quite-nutritious foods are made from potatoes, but that doesn’t mean you should count them as part of your daily vegetable intake.

Let’s take a look at another example: Ice cream is made from milk. Does that mean we should ignore milk’s health benefits and classify it as dessert? No.

Potatoes and other starchy vegetables pack a serious nutritional punch. Rich in fiber, beneficial carbohydrates, and protein.

The Bottom Line

Credit: Nednapa/Getty Images

Nednapa/Getty Images

A potato is definitely a vegetable. Because it’s considered a starchy vegetable, it’s nutritionally different from other types of veggies—but that doesn’t mean it’s bad.