a hand holding an orange pepper over baskets of peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes

Are peppers a fruit or a vegetable?

If you were to ask a group of people whether peppers are a fruit or a vegetable, you would probably get various completely different answers. Some might say peppers are a vegetable because they are typically used in savory dishes. Others might say that peppers are a fruit because they contain seeds. So, what is the truth?

Botanically, peppers are a fruit

Botanically speaking, a fruit is “the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants that is formed from the ovary after flowering” (Wikipedia, 2022). Peppers meet this definition because they form from a pollinated flower on a small bushy plant, and have seeds inside of them with a fleshy exterior. If you’re looking for the answer on a science test or in trivia night, this might be the answer you need.

However, there are various different things that people mean when they call something a “fruit” or a “vegetable”, so it really depends on who you ask and the deeper implication of what they are looking for.

In common language, peppers are a vegetable

In common language, “fruit” and “vegetable” have different meanings than the strict botanical or scientific definition.

When we talk about fruit, we usually mean the fleshy, edible part of a plant that tastes sweet or sour. Fruits are most commonly eaten raw, baked, or boiled into a jam or preserves. By this definition, peppers are not fruits.

Vegetables, on the other hand, are something that we know to be parts of a plant that we use for savory purposes. This might be in the form of leaves (spinach, kale), roots (potatoes, carrots), seeds (broccoli), or fruits (peppers, eggplants). By this definition, peppers are definitely vegetables.

Nutritionally, peppers are a vegetable

There is no strict dietetic definition of fruits vs. vegetables, but there are different categories that we may use to classify different plants. Both fruits and vegetables have fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

What we normally refer to as “fruits” tend to be higher in carbohydrates and sugars than most vegetables, giving them a sweeter flavor. On the other hand, most vegetables tend to be lower in carbohydrates, sugars, and sometimes fiber (Link, 2017).

Nutrient contents of peppers

Peppers contain a variety of macro and micronutrients including carbohydrates, iron, calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and Magnesium. For example, a medium-sized bell pepper (45g) contains 181% of your daily Vitamin C needs and 5% of your daily Vitamin B6 needs (US Department of Agriculture, 2018).

Their nutritional profile, along with their savory flavor, usually means that both hot and sweet peppers are considered a vegetable in the context of diet and nutrition.

So after all of that, are we any closer to a real answer? Are peppers a fruit or a vegetable? You’ll have to decide for yourself, understanding why the question is being asked.

Resources

Link, R. (2017, April 5). What’s the difference between fruits and vegetables? Healthline. Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fruits-vs-vegetables

US Department of Agriculture. (2018). Fooddata Central Search Results. FoodData Central. Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170427/nutrients

Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, September 23). Fruit. Wikipedia. Retrieved October 31, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit

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