Is it a fruit or a vegetable? A closer look at food category craziness


Ever need a Band-Aid? What about a Kleenex? Of course you’ve probably asked for these items from time to time, but technically, you’re asking for a particular brand name, not the actual item itself.

It’s all thanks to really good branding folks and consumer acceptance of phrases. So, most people talk about wanting to relax in the Jacuzzi, which is the brand name for the more generic, “hot tub.” Really, we want a facial tissue, not a Kleenex and an adhesive bandage, not a Band-Aid. (I know, doesn’t have that certain je ne sais quois in the word world, right?)

What’s all this have to do with healthy foods? Ah, well, it’s all about the words we use to describe a certain food. For example, when the masses have been referring to a fruit as a vegetable, then gosh darn it, a vegetable it is. Yes, it’s that time: time to take a look at those long-held beliefs about what foods belong in what category and maybe settle it once and for all.

A look at some specific foods in the vegetable versus fruit debate

Let’s take a peek at top foods that get us thinking, “is it a fruit or a vegetable?”


This category of this nightshade has pretty much been going around in circles forever, from the longstanding “vegetable” status to today’s commonly accepted (for the most part) “fruit” status.

Then again, in the 1800s, the U.S. Supreme Court actually ruled that it is indeed a vegetable, although botanically, it’s really a fruit. The case came to be when an argument was made that tomatoes should not be taxed as a vegetable because, well, it isn’t one.

According to, “The case eventually ended up in the Supreme Court, which decided that while tomatoes are really botanically defined as fruit, consumers think of tomatoes as vegetables, and that is how they should be legally defined.”

So there you have it.


Is it a nut? A fruit? A seed? Part one thing and part something else? They’re in the nut section and in all kinds of articles about what nuts are best for us, so isn’t it obvious? Not necessarily.

Some say it’s a fruit. . . because that’s what the nut was attached to. But inside that nut is a seed/kernel, which is really what we eat. So it’s a . . . hmmmm. For more about this doozey, read this article.


Often referred to as a very nutritious “food” (gotta love generic wording; it’s great for those “I don’t know what category it’s in this week moments), the avocado is apparently a fruit.

That often sits in the vegetable section and is sometimes added to our vegetable salads. But it is really technically a single-seeded berry. Sigh. Want to know more about the avocado? Check out this story.

We’ll leave it at that. There are others out there swirling about, confused cruciferous “foods” with labels that don’t match the section they sit in at the health food store. Call ’em what you will, lots are nutritious “items” to eat, well-worth taking a seat on your dinner plate.


What’s your take on all this? Do you insist on going by what a food is botanically? Or is it fine to stick with popular belief?

Sources for this article include:

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