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Fruit or vegetable: Whats the difference?

Fruit or vegetable — what's the difference?

Updated: 2020-07-16

Answer Section

According to those who study plants, 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 plant parts — stems, leaves, roots and flower buds — are considered vegetables.

It may surprise you to learn that the following are technically fruits: avocado, beans, peapods, corn kernels, cucumbers, grains, nuts, olives, peppers, pumpkin, squash, sunflower seeds and tomatoes.

From a culinary standpoint, vegetables are less sweet — or more savory — and so are often served as part of the main dish. Fruits are more sweet and tart, and are most often served as a dessert or snack. However, both fruits and vegetables can be made into juice for a refreshing beverage.

Nutritionally speaking, fruits and vegetables are similar. Compared with animal products, they're generally lower in calories and fat, but higher in fiber. Fruits and vegetables also contain health-enhancing phytochemicals ("phyto" means plant), such as antioxidants, phytoestrogens and anti-inflammatory compounds. And they're loaded with vitamins and minerals.

One serving (1/2 cup) of most fruits has a bit more calories than one serving of vegetables. Exceptions would be dense, starchy vegetables such as potatoes or beets. The carbohydrate in most fruits is in a sugar form compared with the starchy form found in most vegetables.

Most people don't eat enough vegetables and fruits. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults aim for at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day.