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Diet & Nutrition

“Fruits and Vegetables” Isn’t One Thing

How many times have you heard someone say, “Eat your fruits and vegetables”, as if it is one single category of food?

Even the government has fruits and vegetables sharing a single level on their 4-level Food Guide Pyramid.

But are they really that similar, and seemingly interchangeable?

The answer? It depends.

How you serve it, its quality, and how much you consume does make a difference, as does your particular health condition. Are you pre-diabetic? Pregnant? Do you have fructose intolerance? Do you suffer from gastrointestinal issues such as constipation?

Here are some things you might want to consider the next time you grab for either that box of raisins, the handful of carrots, or that glass of apple juice. We’ve noted “Winner” and “Loser”, although in many cases it is a very close call.

Loaded with Healthy Folate – Winner: Vegetables

While both fruits and vegetables have folate, many vegetables are among the foods with the highest levels. Folate is,

  • Necessary for making new red blood cells.
  • Important in the healthy development of a fetus’s nervous system.
  • Important for older adults, as folate deficiency has been linked to increased bone fractures.

Asparagus, spinach and Brussel sprouts are the big folate winners here.

Insoluble Fiber – Winner: Vegetables

Your body needs insoluble fiber to cleanse out your bowel more quickly and keep your digestive system healthy. Insoluble fiber,

  • Adds bulk to digested food, helps move it quickly through your digestive tract.
  • Helps to eliminate substances produced by “bad” bacteria in your intestines.
  • Helps prevent diverticular disease (when your colon develops small pouches which can trap partially digested foods, resulting in discomfort, bleeding or infection), and can help lower the risk of hemorrhoids.

Vegetables lead the list of insoluble fiber sources, although some fruits also provide it. (Just make sure you eat the peel!). Top winners are legumes, zucchini, cabbage, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, and root vegetables.

Soluble Fiber – Winner: Fruit (Citrus and Berries)

Unlike insoluble fiber, soluble fiber’s job is to slow things down. Soluble fiber also plays a role in heart health. Soluble fiber,

  • Slows down the absorption of sugar, which helps moderate spikes in a person’s blood sugar and insulin levels. This is helpful if you are at risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease, or if you already have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. (And yes, fruit has sugar, but its Glycemic Index load is low. Just don’t overdo it).
  • Attaches to cholesterol and helps remove it from the body; this helps to reduce overall cholesterol levels as well as LDL (bad) levels, and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Slows down diarrhea. Soluble fiber actually soaks up excess water as it passes through your digestive system, which bulks up your stool and lessens diarrhea.