Fruits Versus Vegetables – A comparison of nutritional values

Which is better fruits or vegetables? A simple question to kick start this weeks investigation into the world of nutrition. I wonder if the answer will be as simple as the question. Here at SmoothFuel, I like to create recipes that contain both fruits and vegetables. We understand that the best diet is a varied diet that contains moderate amounts of good foods because we know that too much of something even if it is necessary for life like water is potentially fatal.

I’m sure that many people have grown up being told information or facts about food. Two very popular ones that spring to mind are the facts that oranges are a great source of vitamin C and that bananas have lots of potassium. Statements like this can be easily believable especially when you have heard it from many different people many times but what is the whole truth. How do these compare to other fruits and vegetables? What exactly is a high amount of potassium or vitamin C? To answer that question briefly we can take a look at the Recommended Daily Intakes (RDIs).

The investigation

So let’s take a look at 8 of the most common fruits and 8 of the most common vegetables and compare their nutritional values. For this investigation lets look at the macronutrient profiles, vitamin content, mineral content, and sugar content.

First lets analyse the calorie content.Table Showing Calories in Fruits and Vegetables

A look at the graph shows a tendency for fruits to contain more calories per 100 grams than vegetables. It is interesting to compare the calorie graph with the graph below which shows the number of total sugars per 100 grams. In general fruits and vegetables contain small amounts of protein and fat. As a result of this, the majority of the total amount of calories comes mainly from carbohydrates of which simple sugars form a part.

Table Showing Sugars in Fruits and Vegetables

1 gram of carbohydrates is roughly equivalent to 4 calories. The graph below shows the total amount of carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables. Carbohydrates include simple sugars, complex sugars (longer chain), dietary fiber and unavailable carbohydrates (carbohydrates that the body is not able to digest). What’s interesting is after comparing the graph below and the graph above we see that in fruits sugars tend to make up a larger proportion of the total amount of carbohydrates.

Table Showing Carbohydrates in Fruits and Vegetables

Fiber

Fiber has many positive qualities and is a macro nutrient that is often lacking in modern diets. The distribution of fruits and vegetables is more evenly spread than we saw with carbohydrates although there is a higher proportion of vegetables in the top half than the bottom half.

Graph showing fiber in fruits and vegetables

Vitamins

In the beginning of this post I mentioned the common statement that people make regarding oranges having lots of vitamin C. So let’s see how oranges compare to other fruits and vegetables.

Graph showing Vitamin C in fruits and Vegetables

In our selection of fruits and vegetables, we can see that in an analysis of vitamin C content oranges come in the 6th position being beaten by two other fruits, strawberries and kiwifruit and by 3 vegetables kale, broccoli, and bell peppers.

The table below (click to expand) shows the quantities of some of the most solicited vitamins. Red boxes indicate a top 3 ranking and a blue box a bottom 3 ranking.

Table showing vitamins in fruits and vegetables

You can see overall that if it were not for cucumber there would be no bottom 3 rankings for any vegetable for any vitamin. This general overlook shows that there is a general trend for vegetables to have higher amounts of vitamins than fruits.

Minerals

People say that bananas have lots of potassium so let’s have a look to see how they compare to other fruits and vegetables.

Graph showing potassium in fruits and vegetables

A quick glance at the graph shows that bananas have come in at a respectable third place in our rankings. Again we see a higher proportion of vegetables ranking in the top half of the graph with spinach and kale taking the number one and two spots.

The table below (click to expand) shows the mineral content in these fruits and vegetables. Again red is a top 3 ranking and blue is a bottom 3 ranking.

Table showing minerals in fruits and vegetables

The table tells a similar story to that of vitamins. It shows a strong performance of vegetables in ranking in a top 3 position although this could be debated as unfair as two vegetables kale and spinach have dominated this ranking. Having said that we can see that vegetables do not rank in a bottom 3 position part from one time (cucumber).

Conclusion

After looking at the data and graphs we can come to the conclusion that vegetables outperform fruits in every category that we have looked at. Fruits contain a significantly high amount of sugars than vegetables however they have a comparable amount of fiber. The generally poor performance of fruit throughout the investigation does not mean that fruit should be eliminated from our diet. Fruits should form a part of our diet and should always take precedence over junk food and high sugary snacks but their true nutritional values should be taken into account so as to make better nutritional choices.

For full disclosure, I should mention that I have not analyzed fat or protein. The amount of fat and protein in both fruits and vegetables is very low. Not only do these values make up a very small percentage of overall RDI values but the quantities within fruits and vegetables differ by a gram or two in general so the impact they have is insignificant.

Winner: Vegetables