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Fruits and vegetables
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llamattude posted:
I know this is going to sound like a dumb question. My son came in yesterday from school and said that his teacher told him that if a food has seeds then it is a fruit (corn, beans, peaches, etc.), if it doesn't have a seed it is a vegetable, (starfruit, potatoes, coconut, etc.), if it has leaves it is just a plant nothing more. This is not how I was taught fruits and vegetables. So, my question is if corn, beans, and stuff like that are fruit are we eating an unbalanced meal and our fruits and vegetables are all off because we have been labeling them wrong? I will say that I'm not actually sure what a coconut is, I would label in the nuts but anyway.
After all if the teacher says it she has got to be correct right? She said she got it from the internet so it can't be wrong.
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EricE_MA responded:
> She said she got it from the internet so it can't be wrong.

That is funny!

> After all if the teacher says it she has got to be correct right?

I still remember as a kid knowing several times when teachers were teaching me incorrect "facts."

The fruit/vegetable controversy is long standing. The difference is semantics. Botanically a fruit is the seed bearing part of a plant. The well known example of the controversy that this introduces is the tomato. It is somewhat common for people to talk about tomatoes really being a fruit. This does mean that cucumbers, peppers, summer squash are all fruit -- botanically.

But culinarily we make a different distinction. When we talk about fruits vs. vegetables in the kitchen, you'll find tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, summer squash in the vegetable section of your cook book. What we call "fruit" in the kitchen is generally sweet. Fruits are more likely to be eaten raw and vegetables more likely to be cooked, but obviously that distinction can go either way. Fruits are more likely to be served as stand alone snacks and vegetables more likely to be part of a meal, but again that can go either way. Fruits are more likely to be part of dessert than vegetables. The lines really are arbitrary.

Nutritionally, the characteristics of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, summer squash, etc align better with the culinary definition than the botanical definition. In general, fruits are higher in sugar and often higher in vitamin C while vegetables are often very low calorie (except starchy ones) and often higher in carotenoids like beta carotene. Tomatoes really do straddle both sides of that fence and I always tell people they can assign tomatoes to fruit or vegetable whichever suits their need. Mother nature is not at all confined by our arbitrary human classifications. Peppers are good sources of vitamin C. Apricots are good sources of carotenes. etc.

Coconuts, by the way, are not considered nuts. "Beans" as in "string beans" are seed bearing and therefore botanically fruit, though culinarily and nutritionally vegetables. But most other beans we eat, we are just eating the seed, not the fruit part of the plant. Corn is even trickier. The cob is the botanical fruit of the plant. When you cut the seeds off of sweet corn, we call it culinarily a vegetable. If it dries and we grind it into flour, we call it a grain.

Those who feel the need to have a clear answer to the fruit/vegetable question will cling to the botanical definition. But they'll have trouble communicating in the real world where that distinction is rarely used.
 
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EricE_MA replied to EricE_MA's response:
Oh, and I forgot avocados. Botanically, fruit. Culinarily, vegetable. Nutritionally, fat (with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals of vegetables).
 
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llamattude replied to EricE_MA's response:
Thanks. The teachers at the school where my son goes is really something to be desired. They think they are even smarter than all the doctors in the area. They did tell my special needs sons doctor to her face that she wasn't qualified to treat my son, that they were.

Thanks again.
 
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jis4judy replied to EricE_MA's response:
thats a great explaination Eric thank you for posting it I tend to smile a lot when people try to say whats a vegie and whats a fruit
thanks again Hugs Judy:)
 
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Elaine Magee, MPH, RD responded:
What a great discussion around this evergreen question. I just wrap it up by saying that it's complicated : )

If you go the "fruit goes on trees and vines" and "vegetables grow in and on the ground" route, there's going to be some exceptions as well. But at least trying to figure out how a food grows gets us thinking beyond how we buy it in the supermarket.

--Elaine


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