We all know that eating plenty of fruit and veggies is good for health given that both of these are replete with vitamins and minerals while being generally low in fat. But can we eat fruit to the exclusion of vegetables or vice versa? In other words, will eating lots of fruit negate the need to eat vegetables and vice versa?
The short answer is no. Here’s why.
While the two categories offer similar vitamins and minerals, they have different nutrient and phytochemical profiles. There are some important nutrients found in vegetables that are just not present in the same amount in fruit. For example, leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of certain carotenoids associated with healthy brain ageing and a lower risk of cataracts and muscular degeneration. Carotenoids are also needed for healthy skin and immune function. In the same way, only cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower contain the anti-cancer phytochemicals called glucosinolates.
It is also important to note that fruit is higher in natural sugars and, as a result, has more calories per serving than non-starchy vegetables. This means that those with certain conditions such as diabetes will need to be mindful about the amount of fruit they consume.
This is why we need to consume a mix of both fruit and vegetables to ensure that we stay healthy.
Here are some examples of what combinations to eat to get the requisite nutrients.
Folate. This B vitamin makes and repairs DNA in cells and produces red blood cells. It’s especially abundant in spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, artichoke hearts, green peas, avocado and oranges.
Vitamin C. Needed for immune function, wound healing and to make collagen, good sources include sweet bell peppers (green, red and yellow), kiwi, citrus fruit, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and tomato juice.
Vitamin K. Critical for blood clotting and bone health, outstanding sources include leafy green vegetables such as collards, kale, spinach, beet greens, dandelion greens and leaf lettuce.
Potassium. All fruits and vegetables contain blood-pressure-regulating potassium, but exceptional sources include apricots, avocado, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, tomatoes, spinach, Swiss chard and sweet potato.
Beta-carotene. A higher dietary intake of this phytochemical is thought to guard against cardiovascular disease and prevent age-related memory loss. To add more to your diet, eat sweet potato, winter squash, spinach, collard greens, kale, carrots, mango and cantaloupe.
Lutein and zeaxanthin. Cousins of beta-carotene, research suggests that eating more of these carotenoids helps prevent cataract and macular degeneration and preserves cognitive function. Best sources include leafy green vegetables, green peas, winter squash, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and yellow corn.
Glucosinolates. Once consumed, these phytochemicals are broken down into isothiocyanates, compounds shown to have anti-cancer properties. Glucosinolates are found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, turnip, watercress and mustard greens.
Polyphenols. A higher intake of these potent antioxidants is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. You’ll find them in blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, prunes, plums, pomegranates seeds, red grapes and eggplant (especially the skin).
*This article is not a substitute for medical advice.