Fruits and vegetables… almost universally lauded as part of the path to healthier eating. But are all fruits and vegetables created equal? No.
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables means eating plants. There are other plant products, like seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts – all seeds, really. But usually, when a dietician tells you to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, she is referring to other parts of the plants – the root (carrot), the stock (celery), the flower (broccoli), the leaves (lettuce), the pod (green beans), and the fruit (apple). Obviously, pods and fruit contain seeds, so this gets a little blurry… bear with me.
Speaking of blurry, distinguishing between fruit and veggies can be tricky. Are olives vegetables? No. They grow on trees and have pits like cherries! So are olives fruit? Yes, but don’t put them in your fruit salad. What about tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash? They grow from flowers and have seeds inside like melons. So they are also fruit, although they go better with vegetables, don’t you think? Confusing, I know -- let’s just keep calling them veggies... Then, there are avocados. Vegetables? Nope. They grow on trees with a pit, like a mango or maybe even a peach, so they are fruit! Again, confusing.
In the overlapping world of fruits and vegetables, perhaps the main thing to ask yourself is, "Why am I eating this?" Are you looking for mostly vitamins and fiber – a healthy accompaniment to a meal? Are you looking for something green on which you can pour melted butter or olive oil to add variety and healthy fat to your meal? Or, maybe you are looking for energy (calories)? Or, perhaps you are looking for dessert or a treat? It is cheating if you are pounding bananas and skipping the lettuce all the time. I know – you love bananas – they taste sweet – of course you like them. But they do have a lot more sugar and starch than, say, a cucumber. If you are clear about what you are looking for, the choices should be easier.
Regardless of your choices, with all fruit and veggies, you will be getting micronutrients, fiber, and a much lower dose of sugar/starch than you would get from modern inventions like cookies or crackers. So eat your fruit and veggies – they’re vintage!
BUT, But, but… if you are insulin resistant, pre-diabetic, diabetic (more than half our adult population, people!)… and/or, if you are trying to lose weight (a whole lot of people, too) you may want to ease off on or even skip the last two categories (below the line).
Micronutrients and Fiber But NOT Many Calories
- Tart fruit – berries, limes, lemons, grapefruit
- Veggies that grow above the ground – greens, celery, cabbage, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprout, asparagus, etc.
- Fruit passing as veggies – tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers
- Fatty fruit -- olives, avocados, coconut (well, coconuts are nuts – the world’s largest seed, actually -- but let’s count it as a fruit!)
- Maybe we can sneak in cacao, too… yum!
- Root Vegetables – carrots, beets, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tubers
- Fruit passing as veggies – winter squash, pumpkins, plantains
- Grain passing as a veggie – yellow corn
- Legumes passing as veggies - peas, lima beans (vintage... does anyone still eat these?)
- Sweet fruit – pineapples, apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, pears, melons, mangos, peaches, plums, cherries, figs, dates, etc.