To what extent are vegetables overrated? Have we been brainwashed by the marketing of vegetables/fruits just as much as by anti-cholesterol/saturated fat propaganda?
When we read nutritional profiles, how do we know that the figures for produce haven't been doctored to make them more appealing to health-conscious individuals?
asked byzaitz (432)
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on November 04, 2012
at 05:53 PM
Here's a great study that ended up (inadvertently) being a study of a fruit-and-vegetable free diet.
The short version goes like this: A group of researchers wanted to test the effectiveness of green tea as an anti-oxidant, so they put 16 people on a diet they were absolutely positive would lead to oxidative damage: an all-meat, no-plant diet. Surely that would bring people to death's door, right? LOL. So half the people got green tea extract in their ground patties, and the other half didn't.
After ten weeks, they had two surprising (to them) results: First, there was no difference between the people who had GTE in their meat and the people who didn't. More surprisingly, not only was there no sign of increased oxidative damage from the all-meat diet, but everyone's oxidative damage DECREASED.
From the abstract: "Since no long-term effects of GTE were observed, the study essentially served as a fruit and vegetables depletion study. The overall effect of the 10-week period without dietary fruits and vegetables was a decrease in oxidative damage to DNA, blood proteins, and plasma lipids, concomitantly with marked changes in antioxidative defence."
on November 01, 2012
at 06:29 AM
Wheat, corn, canola, sunflower, and soy have by far the largest price markups of any food crops I can think of (a couple cents of grains can be turned into a $4 box of cereal, the same goes for vege oils, and so on) as well as relative ease in growing on a massive scale, and the ability to be stored and transported over a fairly long period of time without concern of spoilage. Also, as Monsanto re-perfects nature for us on a yearly basis, these crops are perpetually getting easier to grow and higher yielding.
By contrast, vegetables (organic especially) don't last very long and can't provide nearly the same profit margin. Not to mention they don't receive government subsidies as grains and vegetable oil crops do. I just honestly don't see anyone benefiting from such a deception.
That said, it doesn't mean you are incorrect about the facts, perhaps just in the motives (which are certainly subjective; take the above as my personal opinion based on what I know)...
As our soils become increasingly depleted, our seeds drift further and further from their origin heirloom states, our environment (soil microbiome, insects, weather) changes due to global warming, pollution, and all of the affects of modern society, and as monocrop agriculture becomes nearly ubiquitous - our crops that are grown in these environments, in these barren soils, simply don't have the available nutrients to uptake.
Sure we fertilize, but generally just the "macros" for plants: nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, perhaps some manure as well (from livestock fed an unnatural diet.) Without a well informed crop rotation (including livestock grazing) tailored to the specifics of the local soil, gradual depletion is inevitable.
Given that, yes one could argue nutritional figures to be overconfident, depending on the quality of the crop that was analyzed - anything large scale can probably be assumed to be lacking even in comparison to an already pale nutritional standard.
One could also argue nutritional figures to be insufficient, if comparing a heirloom tomato I grew in my garden that I rotate and let my chickens fertilize, to your average greenhouse roma tomato, grown with timely yield in mind: picked unripe, sprayed with pesticides, and irradiated to allow for shipping time.
My point being that it isn't true at all that a vegetable is a vegetable is a vegetable; we are capable of cultivating very nutritionally dense edible plants on our own, or obtaining them from local farms we can trust. I would say that the large scale food production system in American is what is utterly broken, not plant food itself.
And the final point I want to make is that there may be some propaganda that has been espoused as FDA-endorsed truth over the years that overlaps into the vegetable realm, that is indeed just flat out wrong.
Fiber is the first thing that comes to my mind here; I see the FDA stance on it as a misinterpretation of the studies regarding fiber and cholesterol, as well as perhaps a convenient endorsement for "heart-healthy whole grains". And it isn't vegetable's fault here, but they do happen to be a rich source of fiber as well.
The same could be said for the FDA's oversimplification of vitamin requirements and bioavailability. For example:
The recommended daily intake of Vitamin A is 5,000 IU.
A cup of carrots has 407% of your RDI, we'll call that 20,350 IU of beta-carotene.
A tsp of cod liver oil has around 4,500 IU, pure retinol.
Assume 15% bioavailability from beta-carotene due to the conversion process; perhaps 85% from retinol. That gives us 3052 IU from our carrots and 3825 IU from the CLO.
And yet you don't hear anything from the FDA about getting enough milk, cheese, eggs, and fish to ensure vitamin A needs - it's all about orange vegetables, because clearly there is "more vitamin A in carrots" - as I said: oversimplification, which feeds their recommendations of plant foods that may be questionably necessary, especially when poorly grown.
on November 01, 2012
at 07:37 AM
From my personal experience:
They're overrated sources of protein. I tried for too long to get sufficient protein from plant foods. It was ridiculous and I could never do it without killing my gut with WAY too much fiber and assaulting my blood sugar with WAY too many carbohydrates. And I'm not even insulin resistant!
Quinoa is touted as a high-protein "grain," but really, they're not really more than 1 gram more protein-dense than any other grain in a comparable 100g serving. They're pretty much on par with white rice and whole wheat. And the total protein content is still very low compared to a small piece of fish.
They're overrated sources of B-vitamins. Grains are touted as the best source of B-vitamins, but that's only because they're artificially fortified. Many animal foods are far more concentrated by nature. Liver anyone?
They're overrated sources of nutrients that typically pair with protein (zinc, iron, omega 3, B-12, and vitamin A). There's the problem of poor (or nonexistent) conversion of nutrients into something we can use (iron, omega 3s, B-12, and vitamin A) and the fact that we'd have to eat an uncomfortable amount of certain plant foods to get a reasonable dosage (zinc. 100g of pumpkin seeds. seriously?!).
on November 01, 2012
at 11:44 AM
Not speaking to your conspiracy theory that plants' nutritional data has been artificially inflated...
Overrated/overhyped, as a whole? No. I think the conventional wisdom push for more fruits and veggies in a diet (and even whole grains) is not misguided, processed food diets are really awful. Not to say that a paleo diet is so superior without fruits and veggies, it's superior because it already includes (or should include) sufficient plant matter.
I think some folks take Richard Nikoley's liver cage match, where a huge amount of liver has a huge number of nutritions that cannot be matched. Except you don't eat that huge amount of liver in a sitting, you eat a fraction of that. Eating almost any type of food in quantities to achieve 100% RDAs is a foolish endeavor.
In the end, plants compliment animals quite well. B vitamins, iron and zinc coming from animals in higher amounts. Vitamins A, C, E, K1, Mg, Mn coming from plants in high amounts.
on November 13, 2012
at 04:20 PM
I recently wrote a post about this, because I am learning that in some cases they may not just be overrated, but downright harmful.
on November 10, 2012
at 04:03 AM
I totally believe vegetables to be over rated and history/evolution tends to agree...Let me quote this from Guyenete
"There are a number of striking things about the data once you sum them up. First of all, diet composition varied widely. Many groups were almost totally carnivorous, with 46 getting over 85% of their calories from hunted foods. However, not a single group out of 229 was vegetarian or vegan. No group got less than 15% of their calories from hunted foods, and only 2 of 229 groups ate 76-85% of their calories from gathered foods (don't forget, "gathered foods" also includes small animals). On average, the hunter-gatherer groups analyzed got about 70% of their calories from hunted foods. This makes the case that meat-heavy omnivory is our preferred ecological niche. However, it also shows that we can thrive on a plant-rich diet containing modest amounts of quality animal foods.
The paper also discusses the nature of the plant foods hunter-gatherers ate. Although they ate a wide variety of plants occasionally, more typically they relied on a small number of staple foods with a high energy density. There's a table in the paper that lists the most commonly eaten plant foods. "Vegetables" are notably underrepresented. The most commonly eaten plant foods are fruit, underground storage organs (tubers, roots, corms, bulbs), nuts and other seeds. Leaves and other low-calorie plant parts were used much less frequently."
Fact is this came from data gathered through the "Ethnographic Atlas by Dr. George P. Murdock" Seems that vegetables are over rated.
on November 02, 2012
at 10:07 PM
For some reason this wouldn't post as a comment above, but I'll add it as an answer.
I've been to a few of PMA's monster trade shows due to involvement with agricultural packaging. These shows are the internal advertising of the fresh fruit & produce industry, moving the products from the big growers to the buyers. In general, the objective is to present products as flavorful and appealing to retail shoppers, with emphasis on free samples, cooking demos (I saw Bourdain do one a few years ago) and display presentation. Vendors range from family growers, to Big Agra (Dole, Sunkist, plus lots you've never heard of), to states and provinces, to nations. Consumers are mostly unaware of these shows, probably because the transfer of the produce to the retail chains doesn't affect them.
I've also been to similar trade shows for other food industry segments, including packaging equipment, pizza and meat. The industry is not driven by paleo or vegan or SAD or the food pyramid. It's driven by a need to move products.
on November 10, 2012
at 02:41 AM
I don't know if they're overrated, but are certainly not needed in the short or medium term. I have lived on meat, organs, eggs, and marrow for the past 3+ years. I do use some lemon juice to kill the taste of the liver, but that's it from the plant kingdom.
Health is the best I've been in the past 20 years.
Is it optimal? I'm not sure. Do I plan to mess with it? Not really. Am debating adding a bit of coconut oil, but that's it.
I also ran an N=1 3.5 month study on scurvy: only ate Costco rib roast, had melted grass fed beef tallow on it, and drank water. That's it. No liver, no vitamins or other supplement. No scurvy. So that, and other's experience, certainly suggests vitamin C is not essential with just animal products.
on November 09, 2012
at 10:20 PM
I don't eat many because they aren't anywhere near as cost effective as animal parts. Do I need them? Maybe. I eat spinach and broccoli. I'd rather have a mouth full of flesh. More bank for the buck.
on November 07, 2012
at 09:52 AM
Are you guys really saying that fruits and vegetables are unnecessary? Some on, that's ridiculous.
on November 10, 2012
at 02:03 AM
I eat 'em when I want 'em, in the amounts I want 'em and only eat the ones I enjoy the taste of.
Personally pretty tired of the Vegan+tiny-Meat crowd suggesting people choke down bitter, nasty foods that taste awful out of some Quixotic quest for health.
If you love 'em, eat 'em. But if you are a super-taster and don't like bitter greens or dark-leafy vegetable just eat a yam, or eat some extra cream, butter, lard etc... I don't think it is actually possible to be deficient in anything on an isocaloric whole food diet.