Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. But they can also be tricky to classify as either a fruit or vegetable because sweet potato is classified in both categories by different countries. Here’s what you need to know about the confusing subject…
For this article we’re going to focus on the differences between a “fruit” and a “vegetable.” We’ll discuss how these terms were originally defined, some examples of each type (and their modern equivalents), and whether sweet potatoes fit into one category or another.
Is A Sweet Potato A Vegetable Or A Fruit?
Fruits and vegetables have been separated for thousands of years due to cultural and historical reasons, but there isn’t much difference between them from an evolutionary perspective.
Although most people class Sweet Potatoes as starchy root vegetables.
Fruits typically contain seeds while vegetables don’t, fruits grow inside plants (or other fruits) whereas vegetables are grown outside those plants. In addition, most people think that fruits generally taste better than vegetables do!
These characteristics aren’t necessarily good criteria for deciding which foods belong in which group though. For example, tomatoes fall under the definition of plant even if they don’t produce flowers and therefore bear any edible fruit. On the other hand, peppers (like chili peppers) are usually considered fruits since they ripen off the vine and then turn red when ripe. However, it’s not uncommon for green bell peppers to become hot enough to qualify as spicy chilies once they’ve turned red.
The best way to decide whether something falls into your preferred food grouping may come down to its appearance. If all else fails, ask yourself how you’d describe this item to someone who hasn’t seen it before. You should have no trouble answering that question with confidence.
Here are three common items of food that might trip you up in trying to determine whether they’re a fruit or a veggie:
Carrots: Carrots look like big yellow daisies with long stems attached. They sometimes sprout leaves at the top during warm months but never flower. Because carrots are mostly eaten out-of-hand without cooking, many consider them a vegetable instead of a fruit. Even if you eat them raw, however, carrots are still quite nutritious so you probably won’t notice too much loss of nutritional value after removing the skin and chopping them up.
Bananas: Like bananas, avocados get more brown and wrinkly over time. This doesn’t mean they’re rotting away—just that they’re beginning to break down a little bit. Avocados are technically fruits, despite being popularly referred to as nuts. Their fleshy texture means they would likely feel mushier when bitten compared to banana peels.
Kiwi: These fuzzy citrus fruits resemble tiny oranges except smaller and rounder. While kiwis used to be commonly confused with grapes until recently, they now share their classification because they’re neither a true berry nor a grape. Kiwis are actually closer to lemons than they are to oranges.
What’s The Difference Between A Fruit And A Vegetable?
In general, fruits are consumed directly and consist primarily of sugars, water, acids, pectin, cellulose, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Many fruits will continue to ripen after harvesting, meaning the nutrients within them haven’t yet had a chance to fully develop. Other fruits stay firm long past their peak to give us a sweeter flavor and keep longer. Some are harvested before they reach full maturity and must undergo further processing such as juicing.
Vegetables, meanwhile, are often cooked first and are higher in carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals than fruits. They tend to lack the high sugar content found in fruits. Most of our nutrition comes from consuming vegetables rather than eating just the part that looks appealing. As such, it makes sense that they provide more calories per portion size.
While it may seem that vegetables require less preparation than fruits, they are susceptible to bruising, damage from cutting tools, and drying out during storage.
To ensure freshness, refrigerate or freeze veggies immediately after purchasing. It’s important to wash your hands thoroughly whenever handling leafy greens and avoid cross contamination.
A few notable exceptions include mushrooms, which are fungi and thus count as meat. Mushrooms are unique among fruits and vegetables because they offer both health benefits and delicious flavors.
Although it has fallen out of favor lately, eggs are also categorized as a fruit because they’re only available as whole units. Eggs are rich in calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, magnesium, folate, manganese, and riboflavin.
Are Sweet Potatoes Healthful Foods?
Sweet potatoes are a versatile root vegetable that pack a powerful punch nutritionally. Rich in beta carotene, vitamin B6, copper, folic acid, potassium, thiamine, and dietary fiber, sweet potatoes help fight disease and promote overall wellness. Studies show that people who consume 5-7 servings of starchy roots every week live healthier lives than those who eat very little of anything.
Even if you prefer white potatoes over yams, sweet potatoes are worth considering as a healthy side dish staple.
So why does everyone insist that sweet potatoes are bad for you? According to Dr. Walter Willet, author of Eat Your Way to Better Health: 150 Recipes & More Than 100 Tips, sweet potatoes rank third behind apples and onions in antioxidant capacity. He attributes the low rating to the fact that sweet potatoes absorb toxins through their skins, making them difficult to digest.
This effect is amplified when boiled, mashed, baked, fried, roasted, microwaved, or grated. Cooking destroys valuable enzymes and increases the glycemic index of starches. Sugar added to processed products also contributes to the problem. When combined with unhealthy oils and salts, sweeteners create dangerous combinations that make it harder for our bodies to maintain proper blood sugar levels.
To minimize nutrient loss, cook sweet potatoes using steaming methods rather than boiling, roasting, baking, frying, or microwave techniques. Steaming releases fewer carcinogens than boiling or oven heating, and grilling minimizes moisture loss. Microwaving, on the other hand, causes significant chemical changes in starch molecules. Although it’s convenient, it’s definitely not the healthiest option.
If you enjoy sweetening your dishes with natural ingredients such as honey, maple syrup, molasses, sorghum, rice maltodextrin, or cane sugar, choose organic versions where possible. Otherwise, you could end up adding unnecessary amounts of refined sugar to your diet.
When shopping for sweet potatoes, always check the label for ingredients including preservatives, emulsifiers, and colorings. Buy local varieties when possible to reduce shipping times. Store unprocessed sweet potatoes in a dark, dry place at room temperature for 6 weeks or in the fridge for 3 months. During cold weather, wrap stored ones loosely in plastic bags to prevent freezer burn.