Defining and classifying;
The general rule of thumb comes down to seeds: if an edible plant has seeds, it can be categorised as a fruit, if it's seedless, it's typically a vegetable. It may seem simple but our misconceptions may come down to HOW we eat these foods.
For example, a pea is technically a fruits, but it’s a staple part of a British dinner and not something you would add to a summer desert, but a hot bowl of rhubarb crumble is part of your vegetable intake with rhubarb actually classified as veg.
Salad favourites such as olives and tomatoes are also classed as fruits, this time matching the botanical definition of what a fruit is; the seed-bearing part of a flowering plant. Even the humble cucumber is part of the fruit bunch, with seeds running down the middle of the plant just like the avocado which houses its seed in the middle of the flesh.
Of course, sometimes it’s not that easy to work out which aisle you should be searching for your favourite snack. The potato is botanically part of the vegetable family but due to its high starch content they are not counted as one of our ‘ five a day’. Mushrooms are also exceptions to the rule as a vegetable is classed as an edible plant, but this breakfast staple belongs to the fungi family. Similarly, sweetcorn is actually a grain, just like wheat or barley, but can be classified as a fruit or a vegetable.
Understanding our food!
We spoke to Registered Dietitian, Patricia Redfern to answer some questions about the what we should be putting in our body and why we need certain nutrients.
A: We need a range of nutrients to keep us healthy. A small amount of fat is needed in our body cell walls, carbohydrate is an easy to use source of energy for the body and protein is needed to repair and build new cells. Fibre keeps our gut working properly and contributes to to our overall health. We also need a whole range of vitamins and minerals to allow these macro nutrients to work properly.
A: The term carbohydrates covers a range of foods like sugar and cakes as well as potatoes and whole meal bread. Foods like biscuits and cakes contain lots of calories but few vitamins and minerals so too much isn’t good. Unrefined carbohydrates can be a good source of calories - but you need to cut down even on these if you’re trying to lose weight.
A: Both do contain fat but different types. The fat in Avocados is mainly (mono)unsaturated* but coconut has a lot of saturated* fat. You don’t need to avoid either altogether but remember all fat has the same calorie content and too much saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease.
*Unsaturated fat is a type of fat comprising of a high proportion of fatty acid molecules with at least one double bond, considered to be healthier in the diet than saturated fat.
*Saturated fat is a type of fat containing a high proportion of fatty acid molecules without double bonds, considered to be less healthy in the diet than unsaturated fat
A: All these foods are ‘processed ’ in some way. Crisps and chips have fat added to them and fruit juice has the the sugar found in fruit, concentrated and the fibre taken out. So none of these foods have the same healthy balance of nutrients as the original food.
A: If you’re managing to eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day you’re doing pretty well and getting the vitamins and minerals you need. Make sure you eat as wide variety and as many colours of fruit and vegetables as possible and a few more portions will do no harm. Remember though that fruit contains sugar and too much can stop you losing weight and might effect your blood sugar levels.
A: Try dried fruit and nuts - just a small hand full each day. Vegetable sticks, bread sticks, 3-4 pieces of fruit each day, home made flap jack with mashed banana instead of sugar, toasted tea cakes, slice of toast or crumpet but just a little butter or spread.