Debate Continues Over Whether Potatoes Qualify as Vegetables in U.S. Dietary Guidelines

by Ella

The status of potatoes as vegetables within the U.S. dietary landscape is under scrutiny, sparking a discussion among nutrition experts about whether they should be categorized as such in the upcoming dietary guideline updates in 2025.

Americans rank among the highest consumers of potatoes, a vegetable rich in potassium and vitamin C. Despite their nutritional benefits, the debate over whether potatoes should be counted as vegetables stems from concerns about their high carbohydrate content, which has the potential to cause blood sugar spikes.


In the current dietary guidelines, white potatoes, along with corn, peas, and cassava, are classified as “starchy vegetables.” The inclusion of starchy vegetables in a well-rounded diet is considered a “core element” according to nutritional guidelines. The USDA’s MyPlate, a contemporary representation of the food pyramid, and federal nutrition programs, including school lunches, recognize potatoes as a vegetable.


However, speculations arise that potatoes may face reclassification as grains in the 2025 dietary guideline updates. Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council, has expressed concerns, calling such a decision a “chaotic outcome” during his testimony before the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.


Quarles emphasized the current classification of potatoes with other vegetables based on botanical and horticultural characteristics, asserting that reclassifying them as grains lacks scientific merit.


The nutritional profile of potatoes differs from typical vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots. While potatoes do not precisely align with the nutrient profile of grains, they contain starches that can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Caroline West Passerrello, a registered dietitian, notes that potatoes resemble whole grains like oats and brown rice in terms of protein, fiber, and mineral content. However, the starches in whole grains are digested more slowly, resulting in a slower increase in blood sugar levels.

Public health authorities, including the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the World Health Organization (WHO), have already excluded potatoes from the vegetable category. Lilian Cheung, Director of Health Promotion and Communication at Harvard’s department of nutrition, explains that the decision is grounded in associations with weight gain and diabetes, as potatoes contain carbohydrates that the body digests rapidly.

Despite these considerations, Cheung suggests that occasional inclusion of potatoes in a healthy diet, preferably prepared with the skin intact and minimal added saturated fat, can contribute to meal enjoyment and satisfaction.

As the debate over the categorization of potatoes continues, the upcoming dietary guideline updates in 2025 will play a pivotal role in determining the official status of potatoes within the vegetable category. The discussion reflects the ongoing efforts to align dietary recommendations with evolving nutritional understanding and public health considerations.



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