Thursday, July 17, 2014

Guest Post: Newsflash! Fruits are NOT Vegetables.

Today's guest post comes from our office's own RD Rob Lazzinnaro and why he thinks it important to differentiate between fruit and vegetable.
The title of this post may seem like an obvious observation, yet a surprisingly important one. I’m not talking plant taxonomy, no, I want to explain why fruits and vegetables are essential to differentiate nutritionally.

How many times have we heard the saying “eat your fruits and vegetables!” They have become synonymous with one another, and often translated to mean they are one and the same. The idea is so entrenched that fruits, like vegetables, should be eaten in abundance that it is a common recommendation like “half your plate campaign” and Weight Watchers new fruit doesn't count (zero points) system. It started with Canada's Food Guide (CFG), and to be fair most every government food guide. Fruits and vegetable recommendations are provided as a single categorical entity without any serious distinction between the two.

It needs to stop, and here's why - most food guides recommend a minimum number of servings for the category of fruits and vegetables. CFG recommends 8-10 Fruits and veg for a male 19-50. They do not specify how to get this minimum recommendation in on the basic form, and on their detailed instructions simply recommend a minimum of one dark green vegetable every day.
Here are two scenarios:

Scenario 1
I eat 1 cup of cooked greens, 2 apples, 2 oranges, 1 banana, 1 pear.
= 8 servings of fruits and veg.
= ~700 calories (Potentially an underestimation considering I used large fruit while many of the Frankenfruit found in today's supermarkets actually way in far larger than large).

Scenario 2
I eat 1.5 cups of cooked greens, 2 cups of bell peppers, half a cup of carrots
= 8 servings of Fruits & veg
= ~100 Calories.

That is a potential difference of ~600 calories between two examples that would both allow me to meet the CFG recommendations. You might ask who in the heck is scarfing down all that fruit, and you might be correct in thinking not many are, however, it's easy to substitute four of those servings with two cups of say apple and/or orange juice (as many do) leaving a person thinking they were making healthful choices. Most Canadians do not follow food guides, but many have had its recommendations established in their thinking in some shape or form from institutions that use it as a guiding principle - primary/elementary/high school, hospitals, day care, etc.

Fruit or whole fruit anyway is certainly not “bad” or the crux of any major nutritional issue, but using it interchangeably with vegetables is nutritionally misleading and a serious error. An error that has been manipulated by advertisers for years; how?: 1. Fruit is much more palatable than vegetables 2. It comes with high recommendations by health professionals. Virtual gold for marketers! Gather round and get your 5-10 fruit or vegetable servings easily from “healthy” fruit muffins, juice, fruit gummies, fruit leather, fruit filling, fruit ice cream, fruit bars, dried sweetened fruit, fruit filled granola bars; hooray!

Here’s to an abundance of vegetables.