Vegetables are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, energy and phytochemicals. A balanced diet rich in vegetables reduces the risk of many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, various types of cancers and type 2 diabetes. (1, 2, 3)
There are two definitions of vegetable: the botanic definition and the culinary definition.
Botanical definition.A vegetable is not a botanical category such as fruit. The definition, depending on the source, varies from a general term describing a “plant”, or a more complete definition describing “a usually herbaceous plant grown for an edible part”. Some versions of the botanical definitions of vegetables also exclude the fruit part of plants. Others exclude cereal grains, nuts, seeds, tea, coffee, cacao, herbs and spices. (4, 5)
The culinary definition is dictated by a culinary custom rather by basing it on its anatomy. It considers the edible parts of plants, including stems, leaves, stalks, roots, tubers, bulbs, flowers and fruit. Depending on the country, it also includes mushrooms, seaweed and corn. Some countries consider corn to be cereals/grains. (4, 6)
Sometimes the botanical definition enters the culinary discussions and we hear arguments that tomatoes or avocadoes are fruit. From a culinary sense, these are considered vegetables since they are not as sweet as culinary fruit.
Some vegetables may be sweeter than others. For example, some tomato varieties can be sweeter, but since most are not they are used in the kitchen as vegetables.
Avocado is used in some parts of the world (e.g. some parts of Brazil) in desserts, mixed with sugar or made into a sweet smoothie, like in Morocco, but it is still considered as a vegetable in most countries.