What’s the Difference Between Fruits and Vegetables?
Fruits and vegetables (especially cruciferous vegetables) are an important part of a healthy diet, but not everyone is aware of their differences. There’s plenty you need to know about which produce items rank highest for vitamins or minerals like fiber with each type having its own unique benefits depending on your needs!
When it comes to nutritional value, taste and textures, there are considerable differences between the two groups, but they all have their place.
Let’s examine the many differences between fruits and vegetables and what each has to offer you.
Fruits and veggies are identified from a scientific and culinary point of view.
Science classifies fruits and vegetables according to the part of the host plant they grow from.
Technically, fruits develop from the flower of the plant and most everything else is classed as a vegetable. There are exceptions to every rule of course. Certain “fruits” site in a bit of a grey area. A tomato for instance is a fruit by scientific definition but, we call it a vegetable because of its taste profile.
While fruits contain seeds, vegetables usually have roots, stems and leaves.
When it comes to cooking or eating, fruits and vegetables fall into classes based on their taste profile. Sweet or tart fruits most often used in desserts etc while vegetables often have a more mild, less sweet taste that can be used as a main course for dinner or compliments a main course.
You probably have a pretty good concept of which foods are considered fruits and which are considered vegetables, at least in culinary terms.
As previously mentioned, certain “fruits” like tomatoes cross the boundaries at least as far as cooking goes but, tomatoes aren’t the only ones classed as a fruit because of their taste.
In the United States in 1893, the Supreme court passed a ruling based on its savory taste classifying the tomato as a vegetable for customs regulations. A fruit by technical definition but a vegetable by flavor.
Here’s a list of other “fruits” labelled as vegetables:
- Winter squash
- Pea pods
There are one or two vegetables that partially cross over in the other direction. While they are still classed as vegetables, they most definitely have a sweeter profile that easily lends itself to use in desserts and baking.
The sweet potato is a good example. Synonymous with Thanksgiving in the United States, it’s a root vegetable that lends itself nicely to sweeter dishes. Same for carrots and even beets, rutabagas and turnips.
There are definite similarities between the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.
They both contain high levels of dietary fiber and most have wonderful amounts of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and nutritional compounds we need for good health.
All fruits and vegetables are low in fat and salt but because of the sweet taste, some fruits do contain higher amounts of natural sugar and calories.
For example, a single cup of apple has 65 calories and 13 grams of sugar as compared to a cup of broccoli which has 31 calories and just 2 grams of sugar.
If we look at fiber content, certain fruits contain higher levels than some vegetables. Some fruits run 2-15 grams of fiber per 100 grams whilst leafy green veggies contain only 1.2 – 4 grams fiber per 100grams.
All fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water. While most fruits contain are 61 – 89% water a vegetable like spinach runs 84 – 95%.
Different classes of fruits and vegetables offer a wide nutritional range. Here are just a few:
- Tubers: high in fiber, vitamin C, beta-carotene, potassium and B vitamins
- Citrus fruits: High in vitamin C, beta-carotene, folate and antioxidants that could offer protection against degenerative disease.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Contain glucosinolates, a group of compounds that has been linked to the prevention of cancer. Generally high in fiber and nutritional value.
- Berries: Full of anthocyanins, anti-inflammatory compounds that have been studied for their ability to reduce oxidative stress and promote heart health.
- Leafy greens: A good source of carotenoids like lutein, which has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Including a good mix of fruits and vegetables in your diet can ensure you’re getting a diverse range of nutrients.
Packing as many of these into your daily diet gives you a wide range of health benefits.
There are literally textbooks worth of research and scientific study that list all the varied health benefits of fruits and vegetables.
For example, multiple research papers document the benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that lowers your risk of developing heart disease.
One particular paper discovered three or more serving everyday lowered your risk of heart disease by as much a 70%.
Being far lower in calories but still high in fiber, both fruits and vegetables can help you if you desire to lose weight.
One long-term study from a major university found that over a 24-year time period, the 133,000 people followed tended to lose weight over time while consistently eating a fruit and vegetable based diet.
There’s a reason why the saying “you are what you eat” is so true. Fiber can help reduce your risk of certain cancers, like colorectal cancer which research has shown increases with low fiber intake and decreases when people consume more fruits or vegetables.
There is evidence that supports the theory of fruit and vegetable intake maintaining blood sugar levels. The fiber from these foods slow down how quickly sugars are absorbed, which can help keep your body steady by keeping levels stable or even lowering them slightly in some cases!
One particular study demonstrated a link between fruit and vegetable consumption and a lowered development of diabetes.
It should be noted that these results apply to fruits and vegetables but not fruit juice. While fresh fruit juice does contain a rich serving of nutrients and should be enjoyed regularly, in this form you miss out on the fiber and the health benefits it brings to the table.
We now know fruits and vegetables are different in structure, taste and nutritional value. Some fruits are vegetables and some vegetables have a sweeter taste but the most important take away is this. Eating a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables is a health bonus for all of us.
Everyone should be eating many of them as we can daily. The tastes are amazing, you can literally do anything with them and they help us live a longer, healthier life.
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