Study: vegetables or fruit - which are healthier?


Stanford researchers say that eating both vegetables and fruits contributes to wellness and disease prevention but “most dietary health messages promote both together and position the word ‘fruits’ before ‘vegetables’” thus making fruit sound more healthy. However, according to their research:

  • commonly eaten vegetables are healthier than fruit – higher in both nutrients and fibre
  • daily intakes of both vegetables and fruits are lower than recommended
  • more so for vegetables
  • especially among children

Their conclusion:

"future health messages should mention vegetables and then fruit, in that order” (1)

This sounds like what Professor Tom Sanders, director of the Nutritional Sciences Division at King’s College London, was saying more than 10 years ago.

"It’s a myth that fruit is packed full of vitamins and minerals …The really sad thing is that we don't eat enough vegetables, such as cabbage …” (2)

In Australia, nutritionists recommend 2+5 per day

2 serves of fresh fruit
5 serves of vegetables  

But most mothers who contact us do it the other way around:

 – unlimited fruit, fruit juice, dried fruit, fruit flavoured products (eg muesli bars, fruit yoghurt)
 – and don't worry too much about vegies because “fruit's so healthy”

This can lead to a very high salicylate diet.

Food                           salicylate contents in mg/100g 

Low to moderate salicylates

Potato (white, no peel)                0.0
Cabbage (green)                         0.0
Lentils, nearly all dried beans      0.0
Banana                                     0.0 (contain amines)
Pears (peeled, ripe)                    0.0
Green beans                              0.11
Mangoes                                   0.11 (contain amines)
Butternut pumpkin                     0.12
Beetroot                                   0.18
Red delicious apples, peeled      0.19

Very high salicylates (and all contain amines)

Avocado                                    0.60
Eggplant                                   0.88
Oranges, fresh                          2.39
Tomato sauce (Heinz)                2.48
Raspberries, fresh                     5.14
Sultanas (dried grapes)              7.80

From Swain et al, 1985 Salicylates in foods

Failsafer comments

"I got your book and did what it said. We have seen a huge difference, you have changed our lives forever and we are very grateful. My son used to live on fruit, especially sultanas. We were one of those 2+5 reversal families" – from roadshow 2011

“I was amazed by your 2+5 reversals story. That’s exactly the way it is in our house. I’m going to have to look at this” – from roadshow 2015

“My 21 month old twin girl …was a typical 5&2 reversal child who loved and lived on blueberries and anything fruit. After three months on the diet she is almost completely free from eczema!!!“– Eleanor from story [1411]

“'I cut back my five year old daughter's intake of fruit to about a quarter of what she normally had. Within days we saw dramatic changes. Her behaviour evened out … she was more sensible and obliging, less aggressive and defiant - and altogether much more pleasant to live with”- from story [111]

A failsafer asks…I have recently put my nearly 4 yr old on the failsafe diet after he was diagnosed with ADHD/ODD. I can see such a massive change in such a short time… he loves fruit, but it seems as though the only fruit you recommend is pear?- Helen

Answer - This is true. Most fruits contain salicylates. Peeled ripe pears are the only fruit low in salicylates - other than bananas that contain amines. Peeled golden and red delicious apples and nashi pears are moderate, see the salicylate information in our Introduction to food intolerance

Response - THANKYOU SO MUCH SUE!!! … I can’t believe I didn’t look at diet long before now! I always thought sugar was the problem. Your diet has been an eye opener and a lifesaver! - Helen

More info

Introduction to food intolerance


1. Lisa C Offringa  et al,  Fruits and Vegetables Versus Vegetables and Fruits: Rhyme and Reason for Word Order in Health Messages,  Am J Lifestyle Med. 2018 May 2;13(3):224-234.

“…daily intakes of both vegetables and fruits are lower than recommended, but the discrepancy is larger for vegetables - especially among children - suggesting a greater imperative to promote vegetables. For these reasons, future health messages promoting both together should intentionally put "vegetables" first to promote intake and emphasize their importance regarding contribution to health.”

2. Myths of Fruit, Guardian 23/1/2008

3. A R Swain, S P Dutton, A S Truswell, Salicylates in foods ,J Am Diet Assoc. 1985 Aug;85(8):950-60.