4

votes

Convince me to eat vegetables

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 11, 2013 at 3:07 PM

Conventional nutritional wisdom states that vegetables are the healthiest things ever. Usually, the paleo pioneers, researchers and community have had no problem challenging the status quo, but they did seem to have picked up this particular bit about vegetables and also recommend many servings of vegetables per day. My question is: why?

Now, this is not a question of whether paleo people ate something which chemically and nutritionally resembled today's supermarket veggies. I believe that question has been sufficiently explored here, and based on the top-rated answer, the community consensus seems to be that yes, both ancient paleo peoples and modern hunter-gatherer tribes did and do eat starchy plant matter.

Instead, this question is about the usefulness of eating vegetables in the modern times, and whether there's any benefit to be gained by picking them for someone who currently doesn't eat them.

Sure, you can say that vegetables contain:

  • vitamins,
  • minerals,
  • phytonutrients and
  • fiber.

But still, to continue in the paleo spirit of not accepting nutritional claims without evidence, here are my two questions:

  1. Is there any evidence that eating vegetables truly does offer some health benefits?
  2. If so, could not very similar health benefits be achieved by popping a pill containing a concentrated vegetable extract?

I know that popping pills isn't very paleo, but I like to think that the convenience factor makes it superior.

EDIT: Here are a couple of studies I found.

Concerning cancer:

The possibility that fruit and vegetables may help to reduce the risk of cancer has been studied for over 30 years, but no protective effects have been firmly established.

Concerning coronary heart disease:

In conclusion, this analysis presents evidence of a beneficial association between fruit and vegetable consumption and CHD risk, supporting the recommendation to eat a sufficient amount of fruit and vegetables to lower CHD risk. The strength of this association, however, is still uncertain because of a possible publication or selection bias. Furthermore, because observational studies do not control for unmeasured confounders, the causal mechanisms remain to be established in randomized controlled trials. Finally, this study also points out the limited availability of cohort studies to analyze the relation between fruit and/or vegetable intake and CHD risk in Europe and Asia. (emphasis mine)

The most convincing argument seems to be for high blood pressure.

43873f3cea4f22f91653b0f5ec7ab9d9

(401)

on March 11, 2013
at 11:59 PM

Seriously low in zinc? Do you not eat much meat?

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on March 11, 2013
at 11:40 PM

Totally agree. I typed everything from my Paleo diet into fitday.com and found that I was pretty seriously low in magnesium, manganese, and zinc, three very important minerals and turns out they're hard to find on the Paleo diet. Eating a lot of certain vegetables and nuts helps a lot, but this is one of the few times I considered supplementing.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on March 11, 2013
at 10:43 PM

I don't make that conclusion, but I suspect that my body symptoms/sense of wellness is a better indicator (for ME) than some (often) random values based on preventing disease.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 11, 2013
at 07:26 PM

Well, it wouldn't make logical sense to conclude that all of them are completely wrong because one is. My research indicates that they tend to be in the right ballpark, and if anything, have a tendency toward being lower than optimal. As such, if you can't even hit the RDA, you have big problems if your actual need is higher.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on March 11, 2013
at 07:19 PM

Given the RDA for Vitamin D, I don't personally place much faith in them anymore.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on March 11, 2013
at 06:12 PM

https://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-you-should-eat-leafy-greens/

  • Aa5b3054fc8c2c6891dff180e956fe99

    asked by

    (23)
  • Views
    2.3K
  • Last Activity
    1344D AGO
Frontpage book

Get FREE instant access to our Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!

9 Answers

best answer

8
Medium avatar

on March 11, 2013
at 04:43 PM

I think a highly valuable exercise for anyone interested in improving their nutritional status is to look up a list of all 40+ essential nutrients and go one by one through them and ask yourself (assuming the RDAs are in the right ballpark) if you are anywhere near total nutrient sufficiency on a consistent basis. If so, and you have no perceptible symptoms of a problem, then proceed as you would. If not, then see if there are some foods you could add each day to address these.

Some are trying to lose weight and adding steamed vegetables is a way to do this with basically a negligible caloric addition.

Nutrition aside, I'm more satisfied after eating a meal with diverse tastes, textures and qualities.

As far as popping pills goes, I can say without hesitation that I'm exponentially more likely to react negatively to a supplement than to a whole food.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on March 11, 2013
at 07:26 PM

Well, it wouldn't make logical sense to conclude that all of them are completely wrong because one is. My research indicates that they tend to be in the right ballpark, and if anything, have a tendency toward being lower than optimal. As such, if you can't even hit the RDA, you have big problems if your actual need is higher.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on March 11, 2013
at 07:19 PM

Given the RDA for Vitamin D, I don't personally place much faith in them anymore.

9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

(15833)

on March 11, 2013
at 11:40 PM

Totally agree. I typed everything from my Paleo diet into fitday.com and found that I was pretty seriously low in magnesium, manganese, and zinc, three very important minerals and turns out they're hard to find on the Paleo diet. Eating a lot of certain vegetables and nuts helps a lot, but this is one of the few times I considered supplementing.

43873f3cea4f22f91653b0f5ec7ab9d9

(401)

on March 11, 2013
at 11:59 PM

Seriously low in zinc? Do you not eat much meat?

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on March 11, 2013
at 10:43 PM

I don't make that conclusion, but I suspect that my body symptoms/sense of wellness is a better indicator (for ME) than some (often) random values based on preventing disease.

12
Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 11, 2013
at 03:24 PM

Why?

Because they taste delicious - much more delicious than pills.

4
A2c38be4c54c91a15071f82f14cac0b3

(12682)

on March 11, 2013
at 05:53 PM

Certainly there are studies supporting the role of eating vegetables on markers of good health:

"Dietary Folate from Vegetables and Citrus Fruit Decreases Plasma Homocysteine Concentrations in Humans in a Dietary Controlled Trial" + "A Mixed Fruit and Vegetable Concentrate Increases Plasma Antioxidant Vitamins and Folate and Lowers Plasma Homocysteine in Men" + "Dietary counseling to increase natural folate intake: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial in free-living subjects to assess effects on serum folate and plasma total homocysteine"

"Consumption of vegetables reduces genetic damage in humans: first results of a human intervention trial with carotenoid-rich foods" + "Dietary fruit and vegetables protect against somatic mutation in vivo, but low or high intake of carotenoids does not" + "Reduced oxidative DNA damage by vegetable juice intake: a controlled trial"

"Flavonoid-rich apples and nitrate-rich spinach augment nitric oxide status and improve endothelial function in healthy men and women: a randomized controlled trial" + "Dietary Intake of Fruits and Vegetables Improves Microvascular Function in Hypertensive Subjects in a Dose-Dependent Manner"

"Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey"

There's also the long term diet trials like the Lyon Diet Heart Study and the Indo-Mediterranean Diet Heart Study which featured vegetables as prominent features of the diets and both reduced heart disease rates and, in the former, cancer. These seem difficult to fully explain without believing the idea that vegetables are healthy.

A common argument against these studies is that vegetables and fruits only seem good because they displace or protect against crap foods that the average person in these studies is eating. A fair claim I suppose.

For me, I eat vegetables (and fruits) primarily because they help me get carbohydrates, potassium, vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, vitamin K1, iodine, calcium, thiamine, folate, vitamin E, and numerous non essential compounds that I believe have benefits (I also enjoy eating vegetables). Yeah most of those nutrients I could get from animal foods but it would require work, eating a lot of protein, and spending more money than I care to. I could also supplement, but I think you can introduce (or fail to introduce) a lot of unforeseen variables when going that route that may make it not such a worthwhile option.

3
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32556)

on March 11, 2013
at 07:27 PM

I wouldn't try to convince you, but I would suggest eating real food rather than a pill.

I eat very few veggies those days (just spinach, tomatoes, and potatoes, mostly)and prefer to get my micronutrients through nose-to-tail eating of local grassfed ruminants, pastured pork, wild-caught seafood, and free range poultry.

I've posted these before, but they are worth another look:

http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2009/11/8/do-you-believe-in-magic.html

http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2009/11/10/plants-and-plant-compounds-are-not-essential-or-magic.html

http://www.archevore.com/panu-weblog/2011/2/28/william-munny-eats-his-vegetables.html

3
24c27817ad9ac518946dda4a131737b5

on March 11, 2013
at 03:51 PM

OP writes as though such a phytonutrient super pill exists.

If it does not, then he's answered himself.

2
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on March 11, 2013
at 11:43 PM

It's really hard to get a full array of vitamins and minerals without vegetables. Taking pills IMHO gives you a narrow range of certain nutrients, but they are a lot more "bioavailable" when eaten as food.

And you can't tell me that brussels sprouts roasted with bacon are not as delicious as anything else in the world. Or roasted beets, fresh crunchy snap peas or string beans (technically close to legumes), mushrooms roasted with garlic and butter, roasted sweet potatoes with butter... the list goes on. Vegetables are delicious but if you've only ever had them canned or poorly prepared you might not like them. When well prepared they are fantastic and round out any meal, and provide a lot more variety in terms of flavor, texture and appearance than boring old meat and eggs.

When I first went Paleo I loved indulging in steaks and such. But after a year I find that I like eating vegetables just as much if not more than the meat, I try to have at least 2 vegetables with 2 meals a day.

2
800e726cb5dff569fd8edf604c3e2793

on March 11, 2013
at 03:35 PM

If you're not doing very-low-carb, you need to get your carbs somewhere. Exclude grains, exclude industrial/processed carbs, minimize fruit (because of fructose) -- and vegetables remain your only reasonable source of carbs.

Another popular alternative (see Paul Jaminet) is to allow some "safe" grains, notably rice.

0
936235d66c729f133b855d7ff8996a90

(47)

on March 12, 2013
at 04:32 AM

Is there any evidence that eating vegetables truly does offer some health benefits? If so, could not very similar health benefits be achieved by popping a pill containing a concentrated vegetable extract?

I think if you really wanted to avoid veggies, then the best supplement would be spirulina, chlorella and other sea veggies taken in rotation, since they are whole foods that you can pill pop.

0
Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on March 11, 2013
at 03:32 PM

I asked this very question to Peter Attia: http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/what-i-actually-eat

'Mash
January 3, 2013

Morning Peter,

This is just a friendly poke to encourage you to write an article regarding your comment on vegetables.

“I eat vegetables, but primarily because they are a great way to get more fat (e.g., high-fat salad dressings, butter), not because I “need” them.”

I have personally ramped up my varied vegetable consumption after being inspired by Terry Wahls’ protocol[1] and would be interested in reading your take on this. For example I have made efforts to include more sulphurous vegetables regularly.

Also as a side note I have just received Paul Jaminet’s latest edition of The Perfect Health Diet. Looking forward to reading his editions/changes since the first book, have you read either copy?

For reasons Paul outlines[2] I basically eat a couple of sweet potatoes three times a week post-evening-workout, last meal of the day. Every morning I take around 30g of coconut oil and fast through to lunch except supplementing BCAAs on my fasted morning workouts. I am actually interested in getting a blood meter to see if I am actually in ketosis the rest of the time or not; and whether those potatoes are knocking me out full-time.

Many thanks, a really great site and I especially like your FAQ. It’s the kind of usefulness I would have loved to have written myself. Well done.

[1] Julianne Taylor (Julianne’s Paleo & Zone Nutrition): Dr Wahls’ super-nutrient paleo diet, 9 cups veggies a day:. http://bit.ly/KRAhDz

[2] http://perfecthealthdiet.com/category/zero-carb-dangers/

Peter Attia
January 3, 2013

I, too, eat leafy vegetables by the truckload. I would bet I eat more than 99% of the U.S. population. Why? I love them. They allow me to stay in NK. Great and convenient way to get more oils. But have I seen really convincing data that the pounds of salad I pound back are directly and specifically improving my health, beyond the possible substitution effect (i.e., replacing something else in my diet that may be less healthy)? I’m still looking for those data.

I like Terry a lot, and am a huge fan of her work and story. But I need more data to say her remarkable reversal is the resulting of adding X, rather than something else (like subtracting Y).

Answer Question


Get FREE instant access to our
Paleo For Beginners Guide & 15 FREE Recipes!