Apples & Oranges: Dietary Diversity

Apples & Oranges: Dietary Diversity
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In addition to quantity and quality, the variety of fruits and vegetables consumed matters, as many phytonutrients are not evenly distributed among the various families and parts of plants.

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When it comes to fruits and vegetables, it’s not only quality, and quantity, but also variety.
We know, for example, spinach is healthier than lettuce, and a big salad is better than small. But is it better to get the spring greens mesclun mix than even the straight spinach? Is it healthier to eat one apple, and one orange, than it is to eat three apples? Or three oranges?

An interesting pair of studies was recently released that looked at disease risk and the variety of fruit and vegetable consumption.

I think we’re used to some of the more generic plant compounds, like vitamin C, which is sprinkled throughout the plant kingdom, whereas there are specific phytonutrients, produced by specific plants to perform specific functions—both in their organs and ours—and we miss out on them if we’re stuck in a fruit and vegetable rut, even if every day we’re eating a lot.

There are tens of thousands of phytonutrients, but they’re not evenly distributed throughout the plant kingdom. Those wonderful glucosinolates I’ve talked about are found almost exclusively in the cabbage family. You don’t get lemonoids like lemonin and limonol or tangeretin in apples, for example. Comparing apples and oranges is like, comparing apples and oranges.

In a sense, though, all fruits are just fruits, whereas vegetables can be any other part of the plant. Roots harbor different nutrients than shoots. Carrots are roots; celery and rhubarb are stems; dark green leafies are leaves, peas are pods, and cauliflower is true to its name—a collection of flower buds. But all fruits are just fruits, so it may be even more important to get in a variety of vegetables so you can benefit from all parts of the plant—and that’s indeed what they found.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, it’s not only quality, and quantity, but also variety.
We know, for example, spinach is healthier than lettuce, and a big salad is better than small. But is it better to get the spring greens mesclun mix than even the straight spinach? Is it healthier to eat one apple, and one orange, than it is to eat three apples? Or three oranges?

An interesting pair of studies was recently released that looked at disease risk and the variety of fruit and vegetable consumption.

I think we’re used to some of the more generic plant compounds, like vitamin C, which is sprinkled throughout the plant kingdom, whereas there are specific phytonutrients, produced by specific plants to perform specific functions—both in their organs and ours—and we miss out on them if we’re stuck in a fruit and vegetable rut, even if every day we’re eating a lot.

There are tens of thousands of phytonutrients, but they’re not evenly distributed throughout the plant kingdom. Those wonderful glucosinolates I’ve talked about are found almost exclusively in the cabbage family. You don’t get lemonoids like lemonin and limonol or tangeretin in apples, for example. Comparing apples and oranges is like, comparing apples and oranges.

In a sense, though, all fruits are just fruits, whereas vegetables can be any other part of the plant. Roots harbor different nutrients than shoots. Carrots are roots; celery and rhubarb are stems; dark green leafies are leaves, peas are pods, and cauliflower is true to its name—a collection of flower buds. But all fruits are just fruits, so it may be even more important to get in a variety of vegetables so you can benefit from all parts of the plant—and that’s indeed what they found.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Neutrality, PD Photos.org , Bill Ebbesen and Fir0002 via Wikimedia Commons, and http://www.picture-newsletter.com/.

Doctor's Note

The pair of studies I refer to in the video is covered in Garden Variety Anti-Inflammation. This was more of a backgrounder to set them up. The Puerto Rican study is available open access, so you can download it by clicking on its link in the Sources Cited section above.  In terms of fruit and vegetable quality, berries are the healthiest fruits (see Best Berries) and greens are The Healthiest Vegetables. Be sure to check out my other videos on fruit as well as my other videos on vegetables.

Please also check out my associated blog posts: Fighting Inflammation With Food SynergyKiwi Fruit for Irritable Bowel Syndrome; and Anti-Cancer Nutrient Synergy in Cranberries.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

16 responses to “Apples & Oranges: Dietary Diversity

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  1. The pair of studies I refer to in the video are going to be covered in tomorrow’s video-of-the-day. This was more of a backgrounder to set them up. If you can’t wait, you’ll note that one of them is available open access, so you can download it by clicking on the link above in the Sources Cited section.  In terms of fruit and vegetable quality, berries are the healthiest fruits (see Best Berries) and greens are The Healthiest Vegetables. There are 139 more videos on fruits and vegetables and hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects.




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  2. Wow, I just ate lunch (which included a tri-color cabbage slaw white green red!) and now I am hungry again after watching this colorful presentation. Thanks Doc! Great job as always…keep on getting the word out!




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  3. Good to remember that we don’t know everything and we don’t have a formula for perfect health! The wider variety of healthy foods we eat, the better chance we have at living long healthy lives.




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  4. I try to ‘eat the rainbow’ when shopping, what colors haven’t I gotten lately?

    seems to keep my variety steady. tonights dinner…  artichokes steamed with daikon, a white and red sweet potato, red onion, burdock root, carrrot, and a turnip.

    nice! 

    -j




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  5. I believe that plant based diet is the best, though there is a lot of different information about it that confuses me. I have questions, should we eat fruits and vegetables in the same meal? What about food combination, acidic fruits and sweet fruits, sweet fruits and nuts, etc.etc. For years I had believed that we shouldn’t eat fruits and vegetables together because it doesn’t help with digestion. Few months ago I asked a Dietitian about it, and she said that it is a myth, so it doesn’t affect digestion. I don’t know what to think. Is there accurate information, proved facts, or scientific research about food combination, where I can learn more?




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    1. I would not worry about combining foods. I know of no credible scientific studies to support the practice of separating vegetables and fruits. There may be conditions such as allergies or difficulties with the absorption of fructose but the best guide is what works for you. Your body is very capable of handling vegetables, starches, fruits and legumes. It is helpful to chew your food well.




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  6. I started sprouting about two months ago. Sprouting is a fantastic way to get the diversity mentioned in the video. I get my seeds from sproutpeople.org. They offer mixtures with dozens of different seeds, enabling me to consume a much wider variety of vegetables than I would were I just selecting mature vegetables at the supermarket.




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