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The Debate Giving Veg Lovers The Pip: Are Tomatoes Really A Fruit?

Science claims to have settled the argument for good.

Are tomatoes fruit or vegetable? Many have questions regarding food classifications.

People often go back to their basic studies to establish the difference.

“The truth is that I use as a guide what my teachers taught me in elementary school, basic education. There is always the debate, but the correct answer will be, of course, what specialists determine,” said Rubén Ande, a university student.

On the Internet, users get hooked on discussing the topic. But experts know that certain aspects help us establish the difference between fruit and vegetable.

“People always have questions about this issue. There are even debates on social media, in family gatherings or among friends. Those involved end up resorting to the Internet,” said Eduardo Meléndez, a nutrition graduate from the Anahuac University at Xalapa. “But it gets easier once you know how to determine what is what.”

Fruits are abundant in water and sugars. Vegetables tend to have fewer carbohydrates. (Dan Cristian/Unsplash)

For example, “fruits are born from fertilized flowers, and it is this part that contains the seeds of the plant,” said Meléndez. “They are usually abundant in water and sugars, which is what makes them provide calories.”

However, fruits also contain vitamins and acids that provide nutritional value. Unlike many vegetables, people can enjoy raw fruits.

Conversely, vegetables are plants or parts of plants that may need to be cooked.

“It is uncommon to eat cauliflower or broccoli without first boiling it. This is one of the differences,” said Meléndez. “Unlike fruit, vegetables have large amounts of fiber, which is important for digestion.”

Regardless of the classifications, eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis is important for health. 

There are exceptional cases where the differences are unclear. Such is the case of the tomato, which comes from fertilized plants, but is not sweet. Besides, people can enjoy it raw in salads or as part of stews.

Another confusing case is the banana, considered a fruit even though it has no seeds.

“I can speak from the point of view of a nutritionist, from the academic side of it,” he said. “However, botanic studies are clear. Science is not wrong, and tomatoes are fruit. The banana distinction is long to explain. What we eat today is the result of several wild crosses that do have seeds.”

Botanists call fruits like bananas “parthenocarpic,” as they are developed through a method called parthenocarpy, which produces seedless fertilization.

(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos; edited by Fern Siegel)

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