Q. I really like vegetables, but I don't each much fruit. Whenever I check my diet against the USDA pyramid recommendations I've had more vegetables than recommended, and less fruit. Does this really make a difference? Should I eat fewer vegetable?
A. No! You should not decrease your consumption of vegetables in order to eat more fruit! In fact, if we were absolutely forced to pick only one category of food here, we would pick vegetables over fruit every time. Although both of these food groups contain some fantastic antioxidant nutrients, fibers, vitamin C, and unique phytonutrients, you're not going to find significant protein, or diverse mineral sources, or diverse B vitamin sources, or many fat-soluble vitamin sources among the fruit. Alternatively, vegetables (as a group) can provide all of these nutrients in significant amounts. That being said, we would never want to choose only one of these food categories, because both can make such fantastic contributions to an optimal diet. In addition, when you compare fruits and vegetables to the other food groups, you'll find that they have many characteristics in common. Let's now take a closer look at some of the benefits that each of these food groups can provide.Both fruits and vegetables provide our body with the richest sources of water-soluble vitamins, which are required everyday. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin E, A and D), which our bodies can store for future use, the water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C and the B vitamins - B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, and folic acid), are needed every single day for our bodies to function optimally since they can't be stored, or can only be stored in very small amounts. Vitamins are called essential nutrients because our bodies cannot produce them, and the best way to obtain them is through the foods that you eat.
Both fruits and vegetables also provide a rich source of newly discovered health-promoting phytonutrients (plant nutrients), such as carotenoids, flavonoids and organic acids (such as ellagic acid), which act as powerful antioxidants and are responsible for much of their coloration. That being said, some may contain phytonutrients not found in vegetables. For example an orange has more than 170 phytonutrients in its color, skin, oil, pulp, and flavor, which may protect your health, some of which are unique to oranges.
Health-promoting flavonoid phytonutrients called anthocyanins provide fruits, as well as some vegetables, with their red and purple coloration. Blueberries, plums, strawberries, apples, oranges, pears all have lustrous shades of red and purple signifying their high anthocyanin content. These phytonutrients act as powerful antioxidants that help reduce the effects of harmful free radical activity and the risk of disease. Again, there may be some of these phytonutrients that are available only in particular fruits.
Fruits also contain special enzymes that can help with digestion, which are not found in any other type of food. Papaya, for example, provides the enzyme papain, while bromelain is the well-known enzyme we get from pineapple.
While fruits and vegetables contain some similar nutrients, there are ones found in each food group that are unique. Therefore, it would be optimal if you can find some fruits that you can enjoy. If you are generally healthy and are meeting your nutrient needs by your present day diet then concerning yourself over a few daily servings of fruit while you are enjoying an abundance of vegetables may not be necessary; should you have more specific concerns about the details of your diet, we would suggest you consult with a licensed healthcare practitioner skilled in nutrition who can provide you with insights on how to best meet your individual dietary and health goals.