Most of us we know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, but are we sure we know the real difference between these two?
Fruits and vegetables can be classified both according to a botanical criteria and from a culinary point of view.
To make a botanical classification, it is necessary to consider from which part of the plant they originate.
One fruit, for example, develops from the flower of a plant, while the other parts of it are classified as vegetables.
Fruit contains seeds, while vegetables consist of roots, stems and leaves.
From a culinary point of view, fruits and vegetables are classified according to flavor.
Fruit is generally sweeter or tart, used most of the time in desserts, as a snack, in smoothies or juices, in salads and sometimes in hot soups.
Vegetables on the other hand have a less strong and more salty flavor.
They accompany the main dish and are rarely served alone, but instead serve as side dish, giving it character, flavor and uniqueness.
Let’s see a little bit more in detail the difference between a fruit and a vegetable.
Vegetable: what is it and what properties it has
Let’s clarify immediately that the term vegetable has no real scientific meaning. Its use is mainly linked to the world of gastronomy, therefore its meaning has often changed over the centuries.
The vegetable is low in fructose and has no seeds. From a botanical point of view, different elements of a vegetable can fall into this category: roots, leaves, bulbs and stems all belong to this group.
From a nutritional point of view, the first characteristic of vegetables is the very high percentage of water, which varies between 75 and 95%.
They are also rich in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, but very low in carbohydrates, calories, fats, or proteins.
They also have several beneficial properties for our body. First of all, they act in a decidedly positive way against the most common gastrointestinal disorders.
Furthermore, it has been shown that consuming vegetables continuously can lower the risk of colon cancer or even counter constipation, just to name a few of the many benefits.
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Classification of vegetables
Not all vegetables are the same, and although the classifications are not entirely rigorous from a botanical point of view, they can undoubtedly help us better understand the properties of these products.
- purple vegetables: vegetables such as radicchio (aubergines are often included in this classification but technically they are fruit and not vegetables), thanks to the properties of the pigments that color it, they have antioxidant properties;
- yellow-orange vegetables: such as carrots or peppers are rich in vitamin A, contained in the characteristic pigments;
- green vegetables: such as broccoli or lettuce, rich in iron and folate (from folium, leaf in fact);
- white vegetables: onions first of all, but also potatoes, garlic and cauliflower. Rich in fiber, they are excellent for counteracting some common intestinal problems;
- red vegetables: like red beets, they contain lycopene, considered a fundamental nutrient for humans, as it can prevent a large number of diseases. The tomato could fall into this category, but as we will see, it is not a vegetable, but a fruit.
Knowing these foods and their properties in a really adequate way is really important, especially for what concerns the nutrition of the kids.
Fruit: what is it and what properties it has
Fruit is everything that comes from a flower following its pollination and has seeds. Tomato is not a vegetable, but a fruit, as well as the eggplant and cucumber.
The confusion between fruit and vegetables is however quickly explained, as there are many common characteristics.
Fruit also has high percentages of water, contains many fibers and vitamins, as well as is generally low in fat and carbohydrates.
However, this is only partially true. There are different types of fruits, which can have unusual properties.
Let’s see a useful classification of the fruits to note how much the characteristics of the fruits may differ:
- Sour fruits;
- Semi-acidic fruits;
- Semi-sweet fruits;
- Sweet fruits;
- Fatty fruits;
- Dried fruit
As with vegetables, there are also some “false fruits”.
The apple is the first and most famous of them. In reality, the real fruit is the core and not the edible part.
Similar for the strawberry, the swollen part is not the fruit, but it is the achenes contained in it, or those that are commonly considered the “seeds”.
This only from a botanical point of view. If we look at the nutritional side, which is what really interests us, apples and strawberries have all the characteristics to be considered fruit without problems.
Fruits often mistaken for vegetables
I’m sure that you know very well which food is considered fruit and which vegetable, at least in culinary terms.
Despite this, there are numerous plants in nature that are technically fruits, although they are often classified as vegetables due to their flavor.
Tomatoes are definitely the most classic and controversial example. In fact, in 1893, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that tomatoes should be classified as a vegetable rather than a fruit, “according to US custom”.
From a botanical point of view, tomatoes are actually fruits, but it does not matter, as they have now fully entered common use as vegetables due to their flavor.
Other common examples of fruits mistaken for vegetables include: cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, olives, pumpkin, avocado, pea pods.
Vegetable with a sweet flavour
While there are many fruits that are mistaken for vegetables, there aren’t as many vegetables that are mistaken for fruits.
Despite this, there are many varieties of naturally sweet tasting vegetables that are used in a very similar way to fruit, in desserts, cakes, pastries and biscuits.
Sweet potato pie is the dessert par excellence during the traditional “Thanksgiving Day” in the USA. Despite the sugary flavor, sweet potatoes are tubers, not fruits.
Other examples are: classic carrots and red carrots, beets, turnips.
Sweet versus savoury
So now that we are all quite clear about the difference between vegetables or In culinary terms, those foods considered vegetables tend to have a more savory taste, while fruits are valued for their sweetness. But this sweet/savoury logic has some flaws.
Tomatoes make an excellent salsa, but also the mangoes. And how does one classify rhubarb by those standards, a plant that looks like celery, has no appreciable sweetness, and yet whose primary culinary claim to fame is in dessert?
Positive health effects of eating fruits and vegetables
A large number of studies have reported that eating more fruits and vegetables is associated with a decrease in heart risk. Even only one additional serving per day can lower it by 70%.
In addition, the fact that they are both high in fiber and low in calories helps you feel fuller, longer and thus keep your weight under control, without taking into account all the other benefits on diabetes, on blood sugar and in the fight against different types of cancer.
In reality, let’s face it, the classification of fruit and vegetables is not as important as making sure that fruit and vegetables are never missing from our table, as they are the cardinal point of a healthy and balanced diet.
Have you had your fruits and veggies today? What are your favourites?
Stay always healthy!