Jennifer Nelson, of the Mayo Clinic, enlightens us about the scientific difference between fruit and vegetables: “... a fruit is the part of the plant that develops from a flower. It’s also the section of the plant that contains the seeds. The other parts of plants are considered vegetables. These include the stems, leaves and roots — and even the flower bud.”
Nelson surprises us by listing “vegetables” that are technically fruit: avocado, beans, pea pods, corn kernels, cucumbers, grains, nuts, olives, peppers, pumpkin, squash, sunflower seeds and tomatoes. In contrast, vegetables include celery, lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, carrots and potatoes.
Fortunately produce departments, chefs, and the folks next door are more concerned about the practical use of produce. Thus, as Nelson points out: “From a culinary standpoint, vegetables are less sweet — or more savory — and served as part of the main dish. Fruits are more sweet and tart and are most often served as a dessert or snack.”
Most of us know fruits and vegetables are good for us. They fight cancer, provide fiber and are an amazing source of vitamins and minerals. We are likely to be healthier if we eat a generous amount of fruit and veggies, yet Americans are eating less of them. Nelson continues, “Between 1999 and 2008, the actual number of servings of fruit and vegetables declined by about 10 percent and 7 percent, respectively.” Ouch.
So what about grains? Grains are technically fruit, but nutritionally carbohydrate (and protein). Joe Pastry explains: “Grains are the seeds of grasses ... Given that corn’s wild ancestor, teosinte, is a grass, that makes corn a grain in the eyes of many people.”
See, I told you: Those TV dinner people were doing double carbohydrates! Bottom line: A balanced meal is one with protein, a carbohydrate and a non-starchy vegetable, even if that vegetable is technically a fruit.
Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.