Thankfully there is no either/or when it comes to deciding whether to eat fruits or vegetables – and we need both, however people often wonder whether they can substitute one for the other. Both fruits and vegetables come in varying sizes and all different colours and we can delight in the huge diversity we are able to enjoy. It’s impossible to imagine a meal without them.
George Mateljan who writes about the worlds healthiest foods says that when we compare fruits and vegetables there is no question that vegetables are more nutrient dense and contain a much wider variety of nutrients than fruits. He goes on to say that when we consider the lives of plants, this difference makes perfect sense. When we eat vegetables we eat many parts of the plant that grows very close to the soil like stems and stalks (celery and rhubarb come to mind) or like the root vegetables which grows beneath the ground. Because of this, plants come into contact with different soils and as a result they are often richer in minerals than fruits.
Fruit is different in that very often the tree has been cultivated for several years before the fruit actually appears and then the fruit is just a tiny part of the plant. I love George’s explanation where he says that unlike a root, which is in charge of nutrient delivery from the soil up into the rest of the plant, the fruits (like apples and oranges) are not nearly as active in supporting the life of the plant – although we know the seeds are dramatically important in producing future generations of apple and orange trees. Because the stems, stalks and roots are more involved in the plant’s life support, they also tend to have a greater variety of vitamins (especially B complex).
Most fruits have a concentrated amount of sugar, and for this reason, are higher-calorie and less nutrient dense than most vegetables. Starchy root vegetables like potatoes are closer to fruits in calorie content, but green leafy vegetables are enormously lower in calories and greater in nutrient density, which is why diabetics can have a large plate of vegetables to eat but must restrict themselves to smaller servings of fruits. From personal experience I have noticed that when I have been busy and think I will just have a piece of fruit to tide me over it actually doesn’t sustain me very long at all, however if I have a coleslaw or some carrots and celery I stay satiated much longer. Dr James Chestnut recommends that it is better to be eating most fruit earlier in the day and eating more vegetables later. This seems to make perfect sense too as we often need a quick burst of energy early on in the day and from lunch time onward we need something more substantial to take us through the afternoon. Eating more vegetable and less fruits also results in less calories consumed which is perfect for those considering eating from a weight loss perspective.
If we simply had to choose between fruits and vegetables as a foundation for health, there is no doubt we would do best to select vegetables because of their greater nutrient diversity and nutrient density. Luckily, however, it is not an either-or situation, and we can take pleasure in the delights of both with the health advantages of all.
Your comments and suggestions are welcome.
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