If you were one of those kids that never ate fruits or vegetables, you hopefully have become an adult who does eat them. They’re part of a well-balanced diet and all that good stuff, after all. But you’ve probably never really been given an explanation for what the difference between them actually is. So let’s clear that up. What’s the difference between fruits and vegetables?
What’s the Difference Between Fruits and Vegetables?
Generally speaking, fruits and vegetables are often conflated because they’re actually nutritionally similar. Both are important sources for essential vitamins, minerals, and all that jazz. Granted, different fruits and different vegetables have different valuable things. You probably couldn’t get by on just lettuce, for example.
Given how prominent sodium is in the health discussion it’s no surprise that fruits and vegetables (considered very healthy) are low in sodium. It’s telling that the first thing that pops up when searching for sodium was “How to tame your salt habit” rather than the element on the periodic table.
Fruits are also generally higher in sugar concentration. Which makes sense, because fruits are pretty sweet. Animals probably agree that fruits taste good too–since fruits were evolutionarily designed to be eaten.
On average, vegetables are made more out of water than fruits. They sit around 85%-95% water, while fruits hover from 60%-90%. There’s a lot of overlap and deviation in that metric though, so it should be on the low end of your fruity comparisons.
Unfortunately for those who dislike fruits and vegetables, most research points us in favor of eating them. There is evidence to suggest links to lowering the risk of heart disease. There’s also a link with weight loss and the consumption of vegetables.
Side note; fruits and vegetables don’t absorb your fat. You’re eating them in lieu of that next McBurger. The fruits and vegetables that are high in starch or fiber can help absorb sugar, though.
You can go look at the CDC’s recommendation for fruits and veggies if you want here.
You probably knew that fruits and vegetables are both generally good for you. But what’s up with fruits and veggies in nature?
For starters, as we mentioned earlier, fruits are generally meant to be eaten–they come from the plant’s flower. They typically contain the seeds of their parent plant. Other animals eat the fruit, seeds and all, later passing the seeds in a location different from the parent plant.
That’s really it, there’s no big revelatory difference between the two. Except for those fruits people think are vegetables. You’re probably most familiar with tomatoes–many think tomatoes are a vegetable, despite it being, botanically, a fruit. You probably were, or had, that one friend who was super adamant about bringing it up anytime someone had a tomato slice in their burger. Other common confusions are avocados, zucchinis, peppers, pumpkins, and eggplants.
Further reading on the tomato fruit/vegetable debate: Is a Tomato a Fruit or Vegetable?
Why the Common Confusion?
When it comes to food, we separate things by taste; rather than a botanical definition. Most of the fruits people confuse with vegetables often fit the flavor profile of other vegetables. So as a result, fruits like tomatoes or zucchinis are often used like other vegetables when it comes to the culinary arts.
Related post: What Is Umami Flavor?
We’ve talked a lot about fruits and vegetables. Try separating the two into their subcategories here.